Brendan McLaughlin, 28, of Bergenfield, came down with what felt like a cold or sinus infection on March 6. He was congested, had a headache and felt a little bit weak, he said.
Things progressed the next day to a fever, chills and loss of appetite.
"I just felt terrible," said McLaughlin, a U.S. Army reservist. "It started feeling more like the flu."
He called out of work on March 10 and 11. On the 12th he went to the emergency room for testing.
McLaughlin tested positive for pneumonia and was sent home on antibiotics.
He woke up with a fever on Friday, March 13 -- but by that night it was gone and he was feeling better.
The following day, McLaughlin said, he felt "perfectly fine."
Then McLaughlin -- who at that point only had a minor cough -- got a call from health officials on March 16 saying he tested positive for coronavirus.
It startled him.
“I was in shock," McLaughlin said. "I didn’t know if I was around anyone who had it, I didn’t know how I got it or when I was exposed to it."
McLaughlin spent the next few weeks alone in his room. That, he says, was the most difficult part.
"What bothered me the most was being stuck in my room and not being able to go out, go to work, or be with my family even though I felt fine," he said.
"I was just in bed going crazy."
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Doctors on Tuesday cleared McLaughlin to return to work after what he said felt like eternity.
The first couple days back were tiring. Things at the hospital have "transformed" to include stricter safety measures, he said
As of Wednesday night, the hospital had 100 patients who had either tested positive for coronavirus or had pending test results. A quarter of those patients were on ventilators (New Jersey had more than 6,000 overall COVID-19 cases, including 81 deaths, as of Thursday).
"I lost some stamina," McLaughlin said. "But compared to other patients, what I had seems like just a minor cold.
"It's good to be back."
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