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'I Don't Even Recognize Myself': Coloradans Share COVID-19 Survivor Stories

DENVER (CBS4) - As coronavirus cases rise in Colorado, Gov. Jared Polis provided an update on the state's response to the pandemic. This week he invited three COVID-19 survivors to share how the virus has impacted their lives.

Barbara Gould of Boulder was first to share her story on Tuesday. Wearing her oxygen, she expressed why she feels lucky to be alive.

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Barbara Gould (credit: CBS)

"I was in the hospital for 91 days. I was on a ventilator for 65 days... and I was on ECMO for 15 days of those 65 days," she said, adding ECMO is like a life-support machine.

Gould said she was hospitalized in early April, believing she got sick following a flight home from Atlanta before restrictions were in place. She said a passenger sitting behind her was coughing the entire flight. Her husband was the first to get the virus, she said, then she developed a cough.

"After three days it became clear I wasn't improving, and I had to be intubated," Gould said. "My lungs felt like concrete."

She eventually had to be airlifted UCHealth where she was put on an ECMO machine. Gould didn't think she would make it.

"My husband had to have my living will in front of him at all times," she said.

The coronavirus has taken a nasty toll on Gould. She said she was a healthy, active person pre-COVID, but now is struggling with scarred lungs, liver damage, weakened muscles, even significant hair loss.

"I don't even recognize myself," she said.

Watch Gould tell her full story in the video below:

Kim Powell, a young nurse practitioner in Denver, also shared how her COVID-19 diagnosis has changed her life.

"I was essentially plucked from life," she said. "It's affected every organ system in my body and every person in my life."

Powell explained she has always had excellent health, has never been a smoker and is an avid runner. But in late May that all changed -- she was hospitalized with the virus, unable to breathe.

"I was lucky I was only an inpatient for two nights," she said.

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Kim Powell (credit: CBS)

Continuing her care at home, Powell said she battled continuous headaches, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue and lost 20 pounds. She is still dealing with the side effects of coronavirus to this day.

"Today anything more than a slow walk to the mailbox requires oxygen, and I haven't been able to do many of the things that used to bring me joy," Powell said. "I can't run. I can't go to the mountains. I haven't regained the stamina or my grip, to be able to play my drums again."

It is a similar story for Clarence Troutman, a 59-year-old broadband technician. He first started showing symptoms at the end of March.

"At first I thought it was just a bad cold or flu. It got worse and worse and worse," he said. "So, by April 4, I had a fever and it just wouldn't go away, and I couldn't breathe. That's one of the worst feelings in the world."

He was taken by ambulance to a hospital where he said he recalls having to empty his pockets in the emergency room and staff talking to his wife.

"The next thing I can remember is waking up, I think it was 27 or 28 days later, in the ICU," Troutman explained, adding he'd been intubated for some time and was in a coma.

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Clarence Trougtman (credit: CBS)

"The nurses asked me, 'Do you know where you are and what's going on?' and I told her, 'Well, no,'" he said. "All I could see was a dark room with some windows shuttered and a bunch of people around me with them machines beeping. She told me, 'You're at UCHealth, been here for a month and tested positive for COVID-19.' I cried for maybe 10 minutes."

Troutman added he spent another week re-learning how to eat, walk and talk. He said he couldn't really speak for the first week to 10 days after he woke up, and was fortunately moved to a rehab center.

"They really worked wonders on me," he said. "I cannot commend the people at UCHealth enough."

All three survivors said they are extremely grateful for the doctors, nurses and medical staff who treated them and continue to face an uphill battle against coronavirus. Each also expressed their gratitude to be alive today and encouraged everyone to take the virus seriously.

"When I hear people say that this isn't real or it's just a bad cold or a flu or even that it's a hoax, I find that very disturbing," Troutman said. "It's 100% real and we can't do too much to be safe and protect ourselves and protect those around it. When you go through this, it's not just you. It's everyone around you that you love and love you."

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