(CNN)A woman in Oklahoma with worsening cold-like symptoms tested negative for Covid-19 three times before receiving a positive test. Now, she wants others to know to not solely rely on test results if they are feeling sick.
Oklahoma woman with Covid-19 received 3 false negative tests before being diagnosed. Now she's warning people to remain vigilant
"Just like everything this year it was a perfect storm of just awful coincidences," Lesley Shollmier, of Tulsa, told CNN. "I started feeling sick a few days before Thanksgiving and took a test. I assumed I was negative, like the test said."
The 42-year-old said she woke up a couple days before Thanksgiving feeling like she was coming down with a cold. Just to be on the safe side, she decided to get a rapid Covid-19 test on November 24 before being around family.
The test came back negative. So, Shollmier decided to continue her plans to host Thanksgiving dinner. This year, she and her husband had a smaller holiday gathering, with just her mother, brother and sister-in-law in attendance.
All of them have been around each other during the pandemic, Shollmier said. They have been mostly working from home and taking precautions.
The holiday marked a time that the family was still grieving the loss of their own, her father, Roger, who died from cancer in April. Shollmier, who works as a kitchen designer, said she didn't want her mother to be alone, especially after losing her husband of 50 years.
After taking her first test, she said her symptoms remained the same. She felt like she had a cold, but attributed her fatigue to cooking and preparing the family's Thanksgiving dinner.
On the morning of November 27, she made a cup of tea and cut a slice of pumpkin pie to have for breakfast when she realized she could no longer smell or taste. She said she knew then that she had to have the virus since losing sense of taste an smell was a telltale sign.
A research study, published in August, examined false-negative test results of people who actually had Covid-19. It showed that on the day people started showing symptoms, the average false-negative rate was up to 38%. Three days after symptoms started, the false-negative rate dropped to 20%.
People infected with Covid-19 have experienced a variety of different symptoms ranging from chest congestion to nausea to fever, with some even showing no symptoms at all. In a new medical study published last month, researchers determined that the loss of smell and taste is a 'highly reliable indicator' that someone is infected with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
"I just worried I infected my whole family," Shollmier said. "The fear of losing my mom after my dad in this pandemic has been so stressful. I realize in this moment I was the one who could have potentially exposed her. That thought scared me to death."
She went that day to a different testing facility this time to take a PCR test, her second covid test.
Molecular tests, such as PCR tests, look for the virus' genetic material. Most of these tests are performed with nasal swabs or throat swabs, though some can be done using saliva, the US Food and Drug Administration says. These tests generally take a few days to get results back but they are typically highly accurate, according to the FDA.
The next day, those results also came back negative. With her symptoms getting worse and congestion moving to her chest, Shollmier took another PCR test on November 30, which also came back negative.
Still, Shollmier self-quarantined in her house, staying upstairs and away from her husband.
Her symptoms progressed to having severe back aches, shortness of breath, congestion and fatigue, she said. However, she said she never had a fever, and regularly monitored her oxygen levels.
"At this point, I'm really confused I have all the symptoms and my tests are coming back negative," she said. "I just assumed 100% I had Covid and the last thing I wanted to do was infect someone."
On December 2, she said she consulted with her primary care physician and set up a test through the doctor's office.
It took 12 days and four different tests to confirm what she suspected: she was positive for Covid-19.
"It's really important for people to be aware of the false negatives," Shollmier said. "You really need to be mindful of symptoms, where you have been and if you have to go out wear a mask."
Shollmier is still dealing with lingering symptoms including a cough, fatigue and no sense of taste or smell.
Her family has since been tested two different times, she said, and have all received negative results. Fortunately, she said, no one has reported any symptoms.