After multi-week battle against COVID-19, dentist speaks out
EDWARDSVILLE — When an email from the Illinois State Dental Society recommended for dental offices in the state to shut down for two weeks starting March 17, Glen Carbon dentist Dr. Briana Oller’s thoughts were on her patients at Simply Smiles.
“I was very scared. I was very nervous for my employees. I was nervous for my patients, who I wasn’t going to be able to serve. I was nervous for myself. How was I going to be able to make the bills of my business and the personal bills,” Oller said.
Those fears became secondary when Oller, 42 with no underlying issues, was diagnosed with coronavirus on March 30 after battling a headache, fever and loss of taste and smell. She was tested on March 26, nine days after a headache started.
“We don’t know where I got this. We have no clue,” said Oller, who hasn’t traveled outside the country. “We now know I’ve had my symptoms since March 17. We believe exposure occurred sometime around March 13 somewhere in the community because my mom is also positive for the coronavirus. She has followed a similar timeline but started a day later than me. The last time we were together was March 13. It is in our community and it has been this whole time.”
All of Oller’s patients and staff were made aware of the diagnosis and none have shown any symptoms. Her mom is also on the road to recovery.
Oller has been recovering from her home with her two daughters, who haven’t shown any symptoms.
All of Oller’s symptoms have subsided except the fever, which is hovering around 100.5 degrees. The highest it reached was 101.9 degrees.
“I’m getting stronger every day and it’s no longer up and down like it was. The breathing is so much better. I feel like the worst part is beyond me,” Oller said.
As of Sunday, Madison County was reporting 48 cases of coronavirus, including six females in their 40s, with 13 hospitalizations and 12 recoveries.
Late Thursday morning, Oller used a 10-minute Facebook video to share her emotions through the journey. As of Sunday afternoon, it has been viewed approximately 69,500 times and with over 2,800 shares.
“It actually was very hard for me to post because I’m a pretty private person, but I was compelled to tell my story to help spread awareness,” Oller said. “Besides my vulnerability and raw emotions, I worried about spreading fear. With that being said, I felt people knew me better that because I’m an extremely optimistic person. I can find positive in any situation.
“By posting the video, I could share my journey of emotions, symptoms and educate others. I felt that it might be more real to people by knowing someone who actually has it and they would truly take this seriously.”
Not one that typically watches the news, Oller said she became more aware of the virus when a supply company alerted her dentist office that it may run low on specialty masks and gloves.
Oller started to self-quarantine after seeing her last patient on the morning of March 17. She left the house just once that first week to “get essentials for my family.” Her daughters haven’t left the house since March 16 after Oller received the e-mail from the Illinois State Dental Society.
Oller said an intense headache started the afternoon of March 17 and continued for several days and was followed by fatigue and a low-grade fever. The fever lasted a day but the headache and fatigue stayed.
“I blamed it all on stress since I didn’t have any other symptoms,” Oller said.
On March 20, Oller lost all sense of taste and smell. “At the time, it wasn’t known these were symptoms of coronavirus,” Oller said.
The fever returned March 25, as the headache, fatigue and loss of taste and smell continued. It was also that day it was confirmed that the loss of taste and smell were symptoms of the virus.
Oller went through her primary doctor to set up a test with a private lab on March 26 and she received the results four days later.
“It’s such an evolving situation that testing availability differs between doctors, hospitals and counties based on their access to tests. With that, their policies change daily,” Oller said.
Though Oller is active by exercising five times per week, she wasn’t immune to the virus.
Oller said the shortness of breath was the scariest aspect of the virus.
“It’s not a shortness of breath with chest tightness. It’s a shortness of breath to where I can sit and still not be able to get in a full breath,” Oller said. “There’s been times where it has been scary and breathing has been getting out of control.
“It got to the point where I would have to sit down at the top of the stairs if I climbed the stairs. I either sat on the couch or in my bed to rest all the time.”
Once Oller’s fever subsides, she will have to wait 14 days before she can donate blood to be tested to help for a potential cure.
Through all this, Oller said there’s been a lot of community support from friends and strangers.
“I know I am one of the lucky ones and able to recover at home and not in the hospital,” Oller said. “I will get to the other side of this. With time, I know I will get there and I can’t wait to get to the other side of this.”