Lyndsey Gough of Savannah was on top of the world as her birthday approached in June.
The University of Kentucky graduate was working in a job she loved as a news reporter and weekend sports anchor for WTOC-TV. She was on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, covering the RBC Heritage golf tournament — one of the first sports events in the country held since COVID-19 had shut things down in March. She celebrated her 27th birthday having a drink with friends on June 19, the second day of the event.
Almost a month later, Gough’s life has been turned upside down.
Gough tested positive for COVID-19 on June 30 and seemed to be recovering well in isolation at home, when she began experiencing severe abdominal pain about a week later.
“I was getting the chills and couldn’t sleep; I’d wake up drenched in sweat,” Gough said in a phone interview Friday from Candler Hospital. “The pain was so bad, I couldn’t sit up or lay down. I was walking my dog and had to sit down on the sidewalk.”
A call to her primary care doctor referred her to urgent care and then to the emergency room on July 9. She was run through a plethora of tests beginning at 5 p.m., and underwent surgery around midnight to have her appendix removed, along with part of her colon.
“The doctor said the COVID hit my abdomen like a lightning strike,” Gough said. “There was a lot of infection and my appendix was the size of a baseball.”
She said the doctors aren’t sure if COVID-19, a disease they are still learning about, caused appendicitis.
Gough said she doesn’t like visiting the doctor on a good day as she gets really queasy when having to give blood, or even get a shot.
“This was the sickest I have ever been, even before I got to the hospital,” said Gough, who hasn’t been able to eat solid food and has lost significant weight. “And when it comes to this kind of thing, I’m like a toddler. Having to be alone without my mom to hold my hand has been the hardest part. But I’m trying to be brave and take it as it comes.
“The doctors and nurses have been great. One nurse was rubbing my head like my mom does to calm me down before the surgery, and they covered up the IV I have next to my bed with an Ace bandage, because I don’t like looking at that.”
Another difficult part of the ordeal is being separated from her beloved female Shichon, Scout, a dog that has a following of her own thanks to Gough’s social media presence.
Her stepfather made a 4.5-hour drive to pick up Scout, and she is staying at Gough’s mother’s house until Gough is released, which she hopes is a day coming soon.
“My mom has five other dogs, so Scout is living her best life,” Gough said. “She’s running around with the wolf pack right now. But I do miss her; she kept me sane during my quarantine. I wouldn’t have survived without my little girl.”
She said she might have contracted COVID-19 talking to a golf fan who had rented a house at Harbour Town to watch the RBC Heritage. The woman followed Gough on Instagram and let her know she had COVID-19 after reading about Gough’s situation.
After finishing his third round at the RBC Heritage, Justin Thomas said he didn’t see residents and visitors on Hilton Head Island adhering to social distancing guidelines.
“I mean, no offense to Hilton Head, but they’re seeming to not take it very seriously. It’s an absolute zoo around here,” Thomas said. “There’s people everywhere. The beaches are absolutely packed. Every restaurant, from what I’ve seen when I’ve been driving by, is absolutely crowded. So I would say it’s still coincidence that there’s got to be a lot of stuff going on around here.”
Gough said that as a millennial, she lives on Twitter and calls it one of her favorite forms of entertainment. And with the COVID-19 crisis making visits impossible, she has been able to stay in touch with family and friends through social media.
With nearly 5,000 followers on Twitter, Gough has a substantial audience. She has been vocal about the need to wear face masks and has tried to get her message across that COVID-19 isn’t a condition that only affects the elderly.
“As a journalist, I’ve asked COVID-19 patients to tell me their story,” Gough said. “And for transparency, I thought it was only fair that I do the same. I’ve had a lot of people asking me questions about the symptoms I had and different aspects of COVID.
“I’ve been trying to make it very clear that I was a generally healthy 27-year-old when all this happened. I was even guilty of not worrying about it before I got it. I thought if I got it, I would be sick for like two weeks and be right back. But now it’s been a month, and it’s like there’s no clear end in sight.”
She has had great support online with friends and followers communicating and offering their prayers, but there is still an occasional troll who questions her condition while downplaying the coronavirus.“Some might say the death tolls are going down, and my heart goes out to the families of those who have died from this,” Gough said. “But there are other ways this impacts patients. I have to look at the whole picture. When I get discharged, I’m not going to have an appendix and part of my colon, and I don’t know how that will affect me in the future. Everything isn’t going to be A-OK.“So I’m telling people even if you don’t believe in wearing masks, there’s a chance wearing one can help prevent what happened to me. So just be kind and wear one, because I wouldn’t wish what has happened to me on anyone.”
Gough was finally released from the hospital on July 20, but she has something important she wants people to know.
“Basically my message is: COVID-19 is not a hoax.”
To help Lyndsey Gough
A close friend of Gough has set up a GoFundme account to help her with what will be substantial medical bills. To donate, visit this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-lyndsey-with-covid-hospital-bill