Confessions of a COVID-19 Survivor
It sucks when you go to a friend’s wedding and it turns out that someone there happens to be Covid positive, frolicking around like world deserves to breathe in your viral droplets out of a sense of revenge. Or perhaps you simply didn’t know you were a carrier, right? That actually seemed more likely because no one coughed even a bit during the wedding. No one showed any signs of the virulent beast within their system… yet three of us from the wedding got it. My friend who came in from California for the wedding, my fiancé, and myself.
What a bummer, but luckily no one else was caught in the virulent crossfire of a Covid carrier’s breath. Two days after the wedding, I did notice a small, dry harshness to my breathing but I took it as a possible seasonal allergy in the middle of May in the Mid-West (Utah). It only lasted that Sunday afternoon, May 16th.
Tuesday, May 18th is when Covid ran me over like a cement truck. I ended up with a fever that kept me attached to my bed. I had no energy to walk even for the sake of not peeing in the bed. My skin hurt.
The feeling was akin to three nuns with scouring pads, washing away the sins of Covid from the first few layers of my skin.
And the feeling went deeper to my muscles. The aches were enough to believe that I ran a marathon with no prior training while I slept the night before. This went on until Thursday morning, the fever broke just a little and I was able to last the day without the need of bed rest all day. Little did I know, this was the calm before the storm….
The next day, Friday May 21st, the coughing began. It was an incessant cough that left me breathless at times. Sometimes I would see stars before my eyes as I coughed hard and deep, trying to get rid of the nasty mayhem that plagued me. With each passing day, I grew weaker and unable to do normal things. Going up the stairs was a long and dreadful task. I would have to count between 3-5 seconds of breathing after taking each step up the staircase. Those 3-5 seconds took forever, but at least it allowed me to reach the top without fainting.
The strength in my muscles had gone as well. It wasn’t just the need to rest for air, but also the need to rest for my muscles had no energy. Going down the stairs, it felt like my legs were flimsy and I was afraid to fall down. Luckily, I never did as I was always careful and sat when I needed to. But one morning I thought I was done for.
The night prior, I took a Mucinex DM for the first time. It was maximum strength for loosening phlegm and expectoration, but it was a damn horse pill! Huge and it left me nauseous. When I woke up in the morning, I felt like something was wrong in the world. I called out to my fiancé telling her that I was feeling unwell. I got up (maybe a little too fast) and I could feel the nausea well up. My heart beat slowly, thumping heavily in my chest. I got a cold sweat and I knew I would vomit. I walked over to the bathroom and in an instant, I gagged and blacked out. When I came too, I was caught in the bathroom doorway, my ribs against it. My blood pressure must have gone straight through the roof because I could only hear my fiancé’s voice in a far-off distance of a loud bout of tinnitus within my head.
Both my arms tingled with rage, my head rang like a bell and I answered her questions as she spoke to the woman on the emergency line.
I couldn’t move. I was in pain and dumbfounded. How the hell did I end up on the floor? I didn’t feel the fall, and yet there I was – no vomit in sight. Before the ambulance arrived, I was able to gain my composure and my fiancé helped me back to the bed as we waited for them to assess me.
They asked many questions, which I answered. Their oximeter showed that I was breathing at about 91-94%. My glucose was at 123 because my body was under obvious stress. Their EKG machine showed that my heart was beating as normally as possible. They helped me down to the first floor to see how my oxygen intake would react. All was normal, but they still recommended that I go to the hospital just in case if there was some other condition that their equipment couldn’t detect. We opted not to go.
However, that same day we decided to take a proper Covid test and found out the next day that we were both positive. We were already self-quarantining, but the results relieved the doubts from our minds.
I had no strength to go to my desk and work on my book or any other matters. All I could do was sulk on the living room couch, watching hour after hour of my old favorite tv show Stargate SG-1. But there was no comfort with any cushion. And throughout the weeks, there was very little sleep as the crackling in my lungs not only kept me cringing and awake, but the coughing itself stopped my every attempt at some shut eye. The days meshed together. I couldn’t grasp how much time was really passing and my body grew weaker. For days I had only slept an hour or two each night, and not consecutively.
I couldn’t take it anymore. My body was frail, and my soul cried to my fiancé with tiny breaths. I knew deeply that something was wrong with me. I needed professional help. She took me to the same urgent care we went to for the Covid test. The doctor in there said that for the time I had suffered, the symptoms I mentioned, and what he heard within my lungs, he wanted to take an x-ray.
As I stood in front of the x-ray plate, the technician asked me to take a deep breath so that they could take a proper image. That breath was excruciating. It was so painful, my eyes welled up in tears and my knees buckled under the weight of the Covid within my lungs. He turned me to the side for another image. When the doctor saw the results, it was clear that I had contracted pneumonia. He recommended that I go to the emergency room where they could make a proper assessment for the next steps. He was worried that if we waited any longer that blood clots could be the next step in the evolution of my Covid journey. The implications could lead to a pulmonary embolism or even a stroke.
They wheeled me off to the emergency room. I have always thought that I was a patient man, but this doctor that listened to my every word truly had the patience of a saint. By the time I spoke to him, breathing was a luxury. It took 20 minutes to explain to him what I went through, for every couple of sentences I had to take a break and catch my breath. He explained that they’d take various blood samples to check for any organ issues and other things and figure out why the fatigue was so great, especially when I was holding steady at 91% oxygen intake. A CT scan was also taken. Several medications were administered into my IV including some pills I had to swallow.
There was some cause for worry. He said that there was a result within my Creatinine and Kinase test that showed the breakdown of the proteins within my body and that this was the cause of my fatigue. However, it was not at an alarming level and it seemed related to Covid, not a separate finding due to some organ failure or anything like that. Nonetheless, the game plan consisted of sending me to the University of Utah Hospital up in Salt Lake City. There they would be able to keep me long term and make decisions based on long term observations, something that the emergency room was not equipped to do.
So, they transferred me 45 minutes North to spend the night in my own room. That night and the next day, I saw many doctors and nurses, even a physical therapist. After everything was said and done, I only spent about 17 hours in the hospital room. The logic was that I always maintained my oxygen intake above 91% and this proved I did not need an oxygen tank or breathing intervention.
Their other concern is that there is a very simple statistic. For every 24 hours a patient is in a hospital bed, it takes 72 hours’ worth of recuperation to discharge that patient. What ends up happening in a hospital room is that there is nothing for a patient to do except lay in bed, watch TV, and go to the bathroom when needed. They had all the info they needed to realize that with the meds they had given to me and upon the Physical Therapist’s recommendation, that I would be fine at home where I would have access to a staircase and a world full of things to do to keep me active.
They said that people’s misconception of the later stages of Covid, especially when pneumonia sets in, is that if they can “just get some rest” they’ll be fine. But it is actually far from the truth – in fact it’s the opposite. What is actually required is activity. You have to walk around, breath deep, get sunlight, and show your body that this is not the end by laying docile in bed. Movement is life and it is required to increase lung capacity and get the fluids flowing and help the body combat the pneumonia.
I kid you not, it worked like a charm. Simply walking around the house, standing more often, using the incentive spirometer, and getting sunlight all did the trick! Immediately, I had more energy and was able to sleep better at night for the past 2 nights. I still cough here and there, but the Tessalon Pearls and Tussin DM that I was prescribed has helped limit that.
I’ll tell you… all the time leading up to the emergency room made me think that I was done for. And although the meds I was given helped with the pain and coughing, the real healing began when I became active.
In a way, I guess it was partly my fault that I got to the point of contracting pneumonia. Had I followed the motto of my family crest, I may have been able to be less of a statistic in this matter.
The motto is Cogito - Dimoveo - Evolvo which translates to Think - Move/Do - Evolve.
I hope that upon reading this, you find some inspiration to ensure your survival from the horrors of Covid. Some people, like my fiancé, can get through this with just a few days of body aches. Others suffer greatly and lose their ability to breath by themselves. Whatever you or your family goes through during these odd times, please take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Be strong and mindful of the best courses of action to ensure full recovery.
I wish you well on this journey we call life. Take care, be safe, and may you be blessed in any way you prefer.