Monday, May 18, 2020

My Fight Against Covid 19

I wrote this blog over several weeks as I dealt with the illness so forgive the original date shown for publishing.

So by now you have probably heard I had Coronavirus Sars 2 - Covid 19, I shit you not. After everything we have been through I don't know why I didn't just assume it would strike my house. Sometimes I know my family feels I put our life on display but now that I am recovered I felt the need to share my story to help others. 

On or around 3/11/20 my work placed all employees on a work at home basis to avoid physical contact and to keep our workers and clients safe. Prior to leaving our office I had a dry cough for about 2 weeks and I chalked it up to allergies. This dry cough continued and my co-workers even poked fun at me on our zoom meetings that I had the virus (it was truly all in fun). On 4/18/20 I started feeling very tired and I had a sore throat in the base of my throat. The next day I remember watching my husband plant some flowers and I could barely move. I wanted to help him plant but I just sat there and watched him. By Monday things were bad and my symptoms were increasing rapidly. On Tuesday 4/21 I decided to put a call into my doctor and I found out I needed to do a telemedicine visit. I didn't get my personal doctor but did reach a doctor within Baylor. I went through my symptoms, 

*Dry Cough
*Body Aches
*Sore Throat
*Shortness of breath
*Pretty sure I was hit by a train. Like an express train going 190mph that didn't stop. 

I thought I had an upper respiratory infection and that I would just be placed on some antibiotics.  I was surprised when I heard the doctor state she suspected I had Covid. It did all make sense though because the virus was unlike anything I had felt before. So she sent me to downtown Dallas to have a nasal swab which I am pretty sure pierced my brain cavity. You pull up to a private location and nurses come to you dressed head to toe in zombie fighting gear. They have you sit on your hands while they shove this long swab up your nose. It only lasted a few seconds with mine (hence the future issue you will read) and then it was over. I went home feeling like death and waiting on my results and at this point I was still nursing myself without medication. On Friday my results were in and the nasal swab said negative. My family was free to go back to work and I was left feeling like death and left in limbo without any definitive answers as to why I felt so horrible. 

Friday night I began experiencing what I labeled as oxygen attacks.  I would begin to feel winded if I was walking around and when I used my pulse oximeter my oxygen was floating around 89-90, whoa. That's no bueno! However, when I sat down the oxygen would rise so I waited a bit but the night grew worse so I went to a local Urgent care/ER. The facility listened to my story, checked my vitals, tested for strep - negative, tested for flu - negative, and mentioned doing a rapid Covid test but they decided against it. They sent me home with antibiotics and a diagnosis of Acute Respiratory Illness. Days later I was back on with the regular doctor and at this point I cannot even describe how ill I was. She prescribed a whole host of medications and advised me to rest and if it got worse go to the ER. I then had a follow up care date and I began to feel like I was getting better. My voice began to switch from a sultry Darth Vader to a more normal scratchy and a bit shaky voice. The headaches, upset stomach, and low oxygen would come and go. Then I began to notice that the symptoms would seem to start all over again which is unlike any virus I have ever dealt with. Also, I would feel terrible in the mornings, okay in the afternoon, and horrible at night. Finally at a follow up I had a blood test and on day 20 I tested positive for active Covid.

The doctors said they believe I already had a virus which weakened my immune system and I then caught Covid, sorry but we will agree to disagree here. It was Covid from the start.  The symptoms never varied and although I am not a doctor I do believe my levels for testing were just not functional at the beginning. When you test positive things switch into high gear. My personal doctor called later in the day to do a follow up based on the testing information and were truly so kind and understanding. They were concerned about my lungs and wanted a chest X-ray but they didn't have a machine at their office and their urgent care was closed. So it was suggested I go back to the facility I was at prior that diagnosed me with an acute respiratory illness. They had full machines and a prior X ray on file. So I called ahead to let them know what had been requested and explained I had active Covid.  When I arrived I found that the door was locked or at least the sliding feature was turned off and no one was in the lobby to be seen.  So after knocking a bit they answered the door and asked if I was the one that called and I advised I was. I realized at that point the door was a deterrent for me as they panicked. An initial nurse came out asking me what I wanted and I explained the situation. Then another nurse came out asking me the same thing and then pointing out she had negative cases in the back. The attendant in the front asked me to wait outside around the corner while they checked in other patients. So I quietly made my way outside and shed a few tears.  I understand but it was like walking into a clinic in 1980 and telling them you may have HIV. Finally, a nurse came out in full zombie gear and led me down the walk of shame towards the back of the building where everyone stared as I was escorted into a zippered room. They did a chest X-Ray from outside the room........interesting. Thankfully it was clear and then the doctor came and spoke to me. He was very nice and explained I 100% had Covid and he was prescribing some additional medications to ease my symptoms. The nurse in the room with me apologized for everything that happened at their clinic and while listening to her words I made a realization. I look at her curiously and asked, "Wait am I your first case of Covid?" She looked down and then back at me and said, "Yes our first positive case." I replied, "Well no wonder I bet you guys were like oh shit!" She said, "Pretty much!" I mean in all honesty they should have been better prepared but I guess these are unprecedented times. So I went home with another sheet of paper to add to my growing stack.

Later that day my doctor's office called again after communicating with the facility I went to. The PA was concerned about my inflammation and how long I had been sick. She was really recommending and pushing me to go to Baylor Hospital. When you are sick with Covid it is hard to know exactly what you should do because everyone around you is affected. My family was placed on quarantine and then let go when my swab was negative. We now know the swab was probably not performed right and that is why you got a false negative. I felt my family was embarrassed that I had the virus and worried that people would treat us differently, I can't say that I blame them but at this point they were well beyond their window for illness. So since I had been stable at home I decided to nix the hospital. I am well trained on respiratory illnesses due to Jude and I know when things turn worse. I also know it can be quickly turn for the worse but I felt comfortable enough staying home.

Skip to Monday 5/11 now 24 days into misery and I was dealing with burning pain in my legs and my bones felt like they were breaking. It had lasted about 4-5 days and this was a symptom I had at the second urgent care/ER visit. Ironically my phone rang and it was an RN case manager in Dallas that has been assigned to my case. I guess she gets updates twice daily on how I am doing and was reaching out. I told her about the leg issue and they were checking into possible rhabdomyolysis. Don't google it. So they got that information to my doctor who was again okay with me monitoring for signs and symptoms at home. The primary goal is to keep you out of the hospital so you don't spread the virus and you don't catch anything else to further complicate your healing. 

Thankfully, I was directed to a Covid support group on Facebook and they were such a lifeline or hope and support for me. I felt so incredibly alone during this fight and after 20 plus days of illness everyone has pretty much reached their max with me. So let me put some rumors to rest for you. 

1. If you catch the serious version of Covid (Cornavirus) then you are not generally better in a ten day time period. My doctor was very upfront that this could be a lengthy recovery. Thankfully I was never in the critical category.  Some with the mild to moderate cases luckily recover quicker. Within my support group it doesn't seem to matter if you have underlying symptoms for the expected duration. I healed (mostly) in 25 days when there are others much healthier than I am that are on day 90+. I find those in New York seem to post more often that they or a loved one are seriously ill. It makes me wonder about strains but I am not a scientist, I just simply lived this.

2. This virus doesn't just attack the elderly or those with underlying issues. My group is full of young and healthy people that are truly suffering. Luckily most conquer the illness. 

3. Covid is a menagerie of symptoms that are not standard and the virus is ever mutating with more symptoms. 

4. It's not the flu! It's not anywhere near the flu. If you say flu to me you will get punched (not really but I will say, Oh bless your heart). Telling someone it's just a flu or not a death sentence is not helpful 
what-so-ever when they're dealing with it and you are healthy. I understand any illness can have complications but when someone is trying to relay to you a lengthy list of symptoms that do no fall in line with seasonal flu it's worth listening. 

5. Swab tests can be wrong. If you have symptoms I believe treat the symptoms and that seems to be the route the doctors are now turning to. I did feel a bit scared but relieved when the blood test showed positive, only because I couldn't understand why I was so sick. However, as stated many many people in my group are being treated for symptoms and not being required to test. 

6. The symptoms can drag out lasting days, weeks, or even months even after positive antibodies show and you are no longer contagious. 

7. You don't always run a fever with Covid. I laugh a bit at the facilities installing temperature monitors.  My temp is generally 97.4 and my temp was ranging 98.1 - 99. The doctor said that with Covid that's a fever. So throw what you have always learned out the window. There is no longer the mentality of "rub a little dirt on it and you will be okay"  with a mild temperature increase. 

8. There is no "big brother" watching your every move in Texas but they do in some states. At this point the medical staff informs you that they have to tell you the CDC guidelines for quarantining but no one enforces it. I simply had a case manager that would call to see how I was doing.  I stayed home because I felt it was responsible and I didn't want to spread the illness. I am still indoors and will not be venturing out until this weekend. This virus is just so new and is full of so much unknown. However, there are many cases out there that are positive and people are just unaware.  People walking around you everyday. I tend to believe we are all going to be exposed at some point. 

9. Covid can rapidly change and become deadly so please get to an ER if you believe you have Covid and experience breathing issues. 

Watching people debate politics on social media and discuss whether the virus is a hoax is incredibly frustrating when you are battling it. You tend to just scroll past those posts but sometimes we as a human race should stop and think about how we can be kind versus how we can argue. Also all social media seems to be is a debate between the maskers and non maskers lately. My cousin told me that she has an opinion but she chooses not to share it because she doesn't have an ego that needs to justify being heard. That can sound a bit harsh but it makes you take a step back and realize that no matter what we think our only job is to give others grace and support. Many people in my support forum are from outside the US and they remark frequently on how odd it is that our country is so divided against each other. My husband constantly tells me that the powers that be set in place motions to divide the red ants from the black ants. It's those that participate in the division and fuel the fire on social media that let those powers that be win. I thought that was rather enlightening.

It's a slow healing process and I am not sure if there will be lasting effects or if I can catch it again. I am praying for no on both of those items and promising data suggests once you have antibodies you cannot get infected again. This scenario seems to change daily but it's still promising. However I can say I am getting better and stronger each and every day. I have what's called "Post Viral Fatigue" which is not contagious it just means the illness took a huge toll on my body. I get winded and tired easily and I take that into consideration with work and other activities. Point of this long blog is to share with the world the misconceptions, what it's like, what we need to learn, and how we need to care for those with the illness. I hope it helps someone because this virus isn't going anywhere. Patients with Covid19 are not lepers and they are still the same people you care about. It's not their fault they caught the virus and they just need your support. My favorite was when our bank couldn't fix their deposit app so Mike had to run his check to deposit. He did this from his vehicle, outside the glass, and 20 feet away. Our banker basically griped me out that he came to their facility. I explained he is outside his window and they should be using hand sanitizer, especially while handling money. Her reply was, "that gets tedious". Um how is that my fault? Insert me turning my head to the side with squinty eyes.  

The most asked question I get it, "How in the world did you catch it?" I believe I brought it home when I was first house-bound. My doctor believes Mike had a very mild version and brought it to me from his work. Emily then got a very mild version as well but they were rapidly better. The next question or statement I always get is, I think I had it back in so and so. So far every person that has told me that that follows through on the antibody test has been negative. I am sure that will change but if you get the serious version of this there is zero doubt what you have! However, if you do have the antibodies then maybe you're a candidate to donate plasma.

In closing I want to say how grateful I am for the people in my life. Thank you for all the business referrals for insurance as I battled this illness from home. Thank you to my aunts both checked on me every single day, my friends would listen to me complain to NO END, my work was so attentive and patient, and Emily/Mike who were extremely helpful. I am very thankful to all those that prayed and helped. Without you I don't think I would have kept pushing through this. I was so tired of life tribulations and health issues that I was just ready to give up. You turned my thinking around. People say 2020 is a year we won't want to remember. I say it's the year I beat the odds, Emily will graduate, she will achieve her goals (more to come later), and our family yet again become stronger!! We still miss our little Jude every single day but at my most sick point I could feel him holding my hand. He is always there.

I hope that everyone I know stays healthy and safe but if you do get it have hope it will clear up and there is support out there for you. 

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