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How One Nurse is Using Her Personal COVID-19 Experience to Advance Clinical Research

Photo: Courtesy of Alexander L Taylor

Katie Klatt, a pediatric intensive care nurse who started a public health program at the Harvard Chan School in January, got sick during the early days of the pandemic. She is still not sure how she contracted the coronavirus.

“Lockdown happened a few days before I got symptoms, so I could have literally gotten it from anywhere, because I was still doing all the normal things in the community before everything closed,” she says. 

Her systems included a bad headache, light-sensitivity, and body aches. She also had a body rash and a fever of 103° for 10 days.

At first, Klatt saw her doctor via virtual appointments. But a week into her illness, her doctor advised her to go to the hospital. She did not have a car, so she walked 40 minutes to the emergency room. She did not want to expose anyone on public transportation or in a car service.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with COVID-19, a sinus infection, and possibly pneumonia. They gave her a prescription for an antibiotic to treat the sinus infection and sent her home. She isolated herself from her roommates and four days later, she started to feel better. Slowly, the former Australian and Gaelic football leagues athlete started to gain her strength back.

Research

Next, she wanted to help further the medical understanding of the coronavirus. She connected with researchers who had started studying COVID-19. 

“The only way that the COVID-19 pandemic will get better is if we know more about it and know how to handle it,” says Klatt.  “What’s a better way to figure it out than being able to study how it works in your body?”

Klatt has been a patient participant in a COVID-19 antibody clinical study since April. She does monthly blood draws to check her antibody levels. Klatt also signed up for a COVID-19 dermatology study since she had that full body rash.

Participating in the research studies has been easy for Klatt, and she encourages other people who’ve had COVID-19 to participate in research, too.

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“There’s so much misinformation out there about COVID-19, and there’s so much we don’t know,” she says. “The more people that join studies, the better the knowledge is going to be, and the more accurate we can be when we’re making estimates.”

After beginning her participation in these studies, Klatt then contacted Boston Emergency Medical Service and started working as a nurse on their COVID-19 infection control team. She and the team of doctors and fellow nurses connected with EMTs and paramedics.

“I found it was helpful having had COVID-19. I could talk to the employees who had gotten it, and we kind of commiserated together and understood what each other had gone through. It just gave me a better appreciation for the importance of a better understanding COVID-19,” she says.

Readiness

Klatt says the pandemic underscores the need for research and readiness to understand changing health situations as best as possible. 

“This experience made me realize the importance of preparedness and planning for emergencies,” says Klatt, who will graduate in the spring and plans to work in healthcare management.

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