MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Nearly 16,000 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19.

WCCO wanted to look at what life is like after COVID-19, especially for those who were hospitalized.

As we first told you in May, Karen Rabe Schmidt and her partner Mike of Hastings got back from Florida in March.

Karen started feeling ill first, then Mike — both ended up critically ill with COVID-19.

“We are so fortunate. We are so fortunate in life and I think we knew it before, but I think this really reiterates how lucky we are,” she reflects.

Karen Rabe Schmidt and her partner Mike, healthy and in their early 60s, ended up in United Hospital’s COVID-19 ICU in April.

Although they survived — they almost died.

Karen says she’s not the same person she was before COVID-19. She says she’a at about 75% of what she was before, Mike says he is at 90%, roughly.

Three months out from COVID-19, the couple still feels the effects.

“Coordination is an issue. I’m forever tripping over holes on the side walk,” Mike says.

“I still get very winded and have a hard time catching my breath,” Karen says. “The cognitive too, when I can’t come up with a word to save my soul and it’s discouraging.”

“I’m just so glad to be where we are but we don’t know how long this will last because everybody has different experiences with it,” she says.

Karen says her heart hurts when people take the virus that caused them the heaviest of times lightly.

“I think we just need to realize this is real and it’s here to stay,” she says. “I pray you don’t get as sick as we do if you get it, thank God there’s Natalie’s there to be with us and take care of us because it’s terrible.”

Natalie Whalen is the ICU nurse who held Karen’s hand the night she thought she was going to die.

We asked Natalie to interrupt our interview to surprise her former patient. Karen screamed in joy when she saw her, “Oh Natalie, I pray for you every morning, every night.”

Because of the circumstance, the two shared a quick hug.

Karen says even amidst the hell that is COVID-19, there are angels like Natalie.

“We need to remind ourselves especially on the hard days that we are doing good things,” Natalie said.

“You’re doing fabulous things,” Karen responded.

So with a new friend in town, Karen is pressing on. She and Mike just decided to buy a Mustang convertible. Because they now know life is short and they’ve got places to go.

Mike and Karen say they plan to donate plasma in hopes of helping other COVID-19 patients.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

Comments (2)