Intensive Care Doctor Diagnosed With Coronavirus Says It Felt Like 'Drowning in My Lungs,' Made Video to Say Goodbye to Family

Dr. Julie John, an intensive care doctor, described her experience with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as feeling as if she was "drowning" in her own lungs.

John, 38, spoke to CNN about her symptoms and the stress the infection has placed on her and her family. She noted that at one point, she made a video to say farewell to her young children, believing that she might not survive.

"Today is Day 14," she said, speaking via video link from quarantine. "I can walk up to three minutes," she added, noting that the disease made her feel as if she was far older than she is.

The doctor explained that when she first fell ill, she was reluctant to call paramedics because she didn't want her children to see her in that state.

"I had a lot of difficulty breathing, and my daughter was sleeping nearby, my 6-year-old son was nearby, and I couldn't catch my breath," John explained with audible and visible emotion. "I was drowning in my lungs, and I was breathing faster," she said.

“I was so scared of [my children] seeing me leaving my house intubated.”
An intensive care doctor with coronavirus says she didn’t want to call 911 even when she was finding it difficult to breathe because her children were nearby.https://t.co/9mVuK1LdO0 pic.twitter.com/JutUbsRpuR

— New Day (@NewDay) April 6, 2020

"I knew if I called 911 what EMTs would want to do to somebody like me who was working this hard to breathe, so I got down on my knees and I put my forehead to the ground and I prayed to God," the doctor explained.

"I was so scared of [my children] seeing me leaving my house intubated and like one of my patients," she said. John added that she then made a video for her children "to say goodbye."

"I was so short of breath and I couldn't breathe, and I just wanted to tell my kids that they are the most important thing in the world to me," the doctor said through tears. John said that she has since shown the video to her children and that "by God's grace" she is still alive.

As of Monday morning, nearly 338,000 people in the U.S. were confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Of those, more than 9,600 have died, while more than 17,500 have recovered. Globally, about 1.29 million people have been confirmed to be infected with the novel virus, and over 70,000 have died. Over 270,000 have recovered from the infection around the world.

New York hospital
A hearse leaves with a body from Wyckoff Hospital in Brooklyn amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 4 in New York BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty

In the U.S., medical professionals and public health experts have repeatedly warned over the past few weeks about a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect doctors and nurses as they treat patients with the virus. As the pandemic continues to grow, some hospitals have begun running low on masks and other gear that help prevent medical practitioners from contracting the coronavirus.

Kious Jordan Kelly, a nursing manager at Mount Sinai West hospital in New York City, died in March after falling sick with COVID-19. Staffers at Kelly's hospital had warned of a lack of PPE as the outbreak grew, and Kelly's family has said they believe this contributed to his death.