'It Felt Like Somebody Took My Lungs Away From Me' — W.Va. Nurse Shares Her COVID-19 Experience


Letha Mullins lives in Logan County, West Virginia, and works as a registered travel nurse in Kentucky. In March, she was diagnosed with COVID-19 and spent more than two weeks in self-isolation. In this audio postcard recorded Tuesday, April 7, she talks about how the virus took a toll on her body and her spirit.

Mullins, who is 29 years old, first noticed feeling short of breath on her break at work in Lexington, Kentucky on March 20. She said at first, it wasn’t too bad.

“About three-and-a-half hours after I was home, I spiked the temperature of 102,” Mullins said. “And immediately it was instantaneous. I could not breathe; I developed a cough.”

By the time she made it to urgent care, she said she was in respiratory distress.

“I could not speak three or four words without having to gasp for air,” Mullins recalled. “It felt like there was pressure all around my lungs, preventing them from expanding the way they should. And it felt like I was inhaling and exhaling through dense cotton.”

Mullins said it took about a day to get the test results, which confirmed had COVID-19.

What followed was days of self-quarantine at home. Mullins said she felt isolated and was told there was little anyone could do for her unless she got worse and needed emergency care.

“To be alone and think this virus could kill me is one of the most mentally and emotionally strenuous things I have ever been through,” she said.

Mullins has recovered and returned to work as a travel nurse. She hopes sharing her experience offers insight into the toll this virus can take and bolsters the message we’re all hearing right now, which is to stay home.

“I am you. I’m not a celebrity. I’m not part of the CDC or the government. I am a 29 year old, lifelong resident of West Virginia, from one average person to another this is not a hoax,” she said. “I’m very proud to be from West Virginia and I’m very proud of my roots. But right now, isn’t the time for pride right now is the time for consideration and we should consider each other and how we are affecting each other.”