By RYAN KING
ST. GEORGE’S – Contracting COVID-19 can be a harrowing experience. The disease can have severe physical impact on the body, but it also carries with it some degree of social stigma. Sharon O’Neill-Parsons is seeking to combat that stigma by taking to social media to inform friends and neighbors in St. George’s that she has contracted COVID-19. Cases in the area are on the rise, and she believes that putting the information out there will help the community.
In turn, O’Neill-Parsons says that the response from the community has been overwhelming as people have been not only supportive, but generous.
“I got good reactions from almost everyone in the community,” she says. “Drop off food, everything, anything I ever want. Do shopping, anything.”
O’Neill-Parsons made her initial post on Oct. 16, and what largely inspired it was keeping the community informed and safe.
“This is new to me, and it’s just that if you hear that somebody has COVID you’re always wondering like, ‘Well who is it?’ You know? So I just wanted people to be aware that it is in the town. It’s not something to be ashamed of that you got. It’s just that this is happening, and people should be aware,” says O’Neill-Parsons.
She began experiencing symptoms just after getting her first vaccination shot on Oct. 7. The vaccines take time to be fully effective, and people are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their second shot.
“Well, that’s when I started getting sick – the night after. How it came about I don’t know. I don’t know how I got it or where it came from actually. But you know, I put what I thought (online), and I thought the best way to reach you – to my friends was through my Facebook page.”
Another concern was that other than being advised to isolate and continue to take Tylenol, O’Neill-Parsons was not told what else to do to help herself recover or what she might face. She believes if more information about contracting the virus is out there, it will help people to face it.
“I went to the hospital because I figured I had the flu for a long time, so I wanted to find out what was going on and when I was tested – you’re just sent home. Like what do I do? So we take some Tylenol but there’s no instructions. I don’t know what to expect out of it or anything else, so people should be aware if they do get it, because everybody is afraid of the unknown,” said O’Neill-Parsons.
The good news is that she is currently recovering, although she is not completely back to her old self yet.
“Actually I’m pretty good,” says O’Neill-Parsons. “My temp is gone and my cold chills and my headache, and I’m still resting a lot. And I didn’t have to take Tylenol the last couple of days, but overall, I mean, I’m probably 80 per cent. You know I’m a little bit unsteady when I stand and stuff, that’s only because I’m lying down a lot. But it’s just that I just wanted to make people aware and know what’s going on and what it’s about. Because I didn’t know anything.”
O’Neill-Parsons had gathered from news reports that she could be facing something like a terrible flu, so she decided to take preventative measures.
“I just didn’t know what COVID entailed. The only thing is – from watching TV and stuff – I thought, ‘Well I better brace myself for the worst flu ever.’ So I doubled up on my medication and I took precaution medication in case of a cough or congestion or something. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last few days.”
Efforts by the local community to help her following the social media post was also a big help in getting O’Neill-Parsons through the ordeal.
“I’ve got to say that the community – I’m overwhelmed with all the comments and everything else that they put out.”
Just getting the information out that the virus is in the community was important to O’Neill-Parsons because if she had been vaccinated earlier, she would likely not know it was in the community.
“Nobody knows what it’s all about. And it’s just that I wasn’t vaccinated and that’s how I picked it up. So that’s how we found out that it is here. If I would’ve been vaccinated, we wouldn’t be no wiser that it’s here.”
O’Neill-Parsons sees posting her personal medical status to social media more as an act of compassion and caring for her community, but there are plenty who see it as an act of courage also.
“That’s what everyone is saying, but well, that’s it,” says O-Neill-Parsons. “That’s my belief.”