First Person

'I'm So Lucky': One Sarasotan's Tale of Recovering from Covid-19

Sheila Moore, owner of Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art, shares her story.

By Kay Kipling January 25, 2021

Sarasota art gallery owner Sheila Moore faced a long battle with the coronavirus.

Seven months after contracting the Covid-19 virus, Sheila Moore says she is feeling “just a little more tired than usual,” with no other apparent lingering symptoms of her illness.

That’s amazing, considering how long the Sarasota art gallery owner (Central Avenue’s Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art) was in Sarasota Memorial Hospital after coming down with Covid-19—three months, followed by rehab after release. Moore says she knows how lucky she is.

“Even when I was in the hospital, I could see messages on my cell phone, and I felt so loved and supported by the Sarasota community,” she says.

Moore first felt symptoms of her illness at the end of June, but they seemed minor. “I had a bit of a cough, a fever, and I thought I would get over it in five or six days,” she says. “But you don’t even know what it’s doing to your lungs. You can lose your breath and not realize it. A friend gave me an oximeter [a device that measures how well oxygen binds to red blood cells], and the numbers kept going down. When I called my doctor and told him what was going on, he told me to call an ambulance.”

Moore spent three months at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, most of that in the ICU.

Even after being admitted to the hospital, Moore expected to walk back out soon. Instead, as her breathing worsened despite administration of the antiviral medicine remdesivir and transfusions of antibody-laden blood plasma, she was rushed into the ICU. After 17 days, she was intubated—and for seven weeks after that, she was in a coma as a ventilator kept her alive.

“I was in dreamland,” she says of that time. “I had delirium—having adventures in different countries. For the people around me, it was horrible.”

When she finally woke, she says, “I thought I had been sedated for a week at most. I had a lot of questions. I was still breathing through a tube, had lost a lot of weight, and I couldn’t walk.” SMH staff very quickly had her taking her first step. And once moved to SMH’s new rehab center, more progress followed.

Through her recovery period inside, she was able to see and, eventually, speak with her daughter Vanessa via an iPad. “At first I couldn’t see her, because my eyes were closed, but I could hear her, and that was vital to me. She thought I was going to die.” Surprisingly, though, Moore says her own conviction that she would survive never wavered. “I had to know I was going to make it; I was able to link with my spiritual self, and that carried me through the experience.” When her daughter was allowed to first visit her just before she was released, it was an amazing reunion, Moore says.

Moore with daughter Vanessa, whom she was able to hear via iPad.

Moore recently had an X-ray that shows her lungs are clear, and the neuropathy she felt in her hands upon first coming home has cleared, too. She says she has antibodies for the virus still, but she has registered to receive the vaccine, because no one can be certain how long those antibodies will last.

In the meantime, she has reopened her art gallery, by appointment, and says it’s time for a new chapter in her life. “It’s so very good to survive all of this, and to have felt all the love coming through” from friends and others, she says. “And when I get in front of SMH, I still feel tears come up. When I see the nurses, I feel so much empathy for what they do and go through. All I can say is thank you.” Remember, she adds, “Just a couple of minutes of inattention can have huge consequences” with this virus. “Stay vigilant.”

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