‘You're Playing Russian Roulette,' Dallas Mother's Warning to People Who Don't Take COVID-19 Seriously

Erika Stilwell has no idea how she contracted COVID-19

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A Dallas mother is warning North Texans about COVID-19 as she continues to deal with the lingering effects of the virus months after becoming infected.

Erika Stilwell, a 47-year-old mother of three with no underlying health conditions, contracted COVID-19 in late July and told NBC 5 that after being sick for two weeks and struggling to breathe she ended up being hospitalized for three days.

"I don't remember a lot of it," she said, but added her husband told her stories of the shared look of fear on their faces. "He wasn't able to come in with me when they took me in. I do remember that -- [I was] just really afraid. I may not come back out. We've got three children, so it was a pretty scary time."

"You're playing Russian roulette."

Erika Stilwell, Dallas mother of three

Months later, Stilwell said she is still dealing with the effects of the virus to this day.

"I now have COPD and sleep apnea. I've had to do several sleep studies," she said. "I’m on tons of medications. Basically, my lungs just have not healed at all. And no energy. You name it, it's going on."

She said she hopes her story would encourage more people to take the virus seriously.

"I really don’t think it’s like the flu, and I get really frustrated when I hear people say that because it may be like the flu for someone, but you don’t know what it’s going to do long term," she said.

"They don't know if I'll have long-term damage, just because COVID hasn't been around long enough."

Erika Stilwell, Dallas mother of three

Stilwell said COVID-19 has changed her life and she's not the same mom she used to be.

"I almost have to pick and choose what I do each day because things wear me out so much. Just making the bed, I can’t. It takes my breath away," she said. "It's been tough."

For Stilwell and her family, Thanksgiving will look different. Her hope is that no one has to go through what she has gone through.

"You're playing Russian roulette. You just don't know," she said. "It's a hard decision for anybody whether or not to see your family, but then I think a way of showing them love, too, is to stay away."

Experts advise only spending time this holiday season with those in your immediate household. If you do plan to spend time with family members outside of your immediate household, people were advised to begin quarantining themselves two weeks prior to Thanksgiving.

Other recommendations remain in place, such as wearing masks, maintaining physical distancing and avoiding prolonged exposure to other people.

If you're considering a large gathering on Thanksgiving, consider having the meal outside. The Thanksgiving forecast from NBC 5's team of Weather Experts calls for a mostly sunny day with no precipitation and a high of 72 degrees.

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