That’s right. I was recently diagnosed with what we’ve all been hiding from. Thankfully, I am not in a high risk category, and my symptoms have been relatively mild. In fact, I really didn’t think I had it over a week. I thought I had a cold. I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, what? With the constant chatter about this, how could you think you had a cold??”
Let’s go back about a month, shall we? Before all the closures and quarantines, my 2yo had a cold. An obvious cold with a faucet of a runny nose and a cough. About 4 days into quarantine, my 7yo seemed slightly more tired. Not super surprising given that life had been turned upside-down, but she was still happy and playing. And we were all tired. It was in the back of my head that she was probably catching the toddler’s cold. A few days later, she started coughing. Some days her cough was better than others, and some days she was more tired than others, but nothing too extreme. My 2yo has a history of developing ear infections after getting a cold, and this time was no different. He ended up needing antibiotics.
Then, about a week and a half ago, I started having some shortness of breath. I felt fine, but I found myself feeling the need to take a deep breath throughout the day. This was the same day a friend told me her father-in-law was being tested for Covid19. We had been around him about 3 weeks before this (his test ended up being negative). So, I assumed my shortness of breath was psychosomatic/anxiety. You know, like the time my kids had lice, and my head kept itching even though I never had it. This lasted about 3 days with no other symptoms. I really felt fine. Then, I woke up on a Sunday and felt SO achy. I also had a super low grade temperature of 99.0* but no cough. I used the cdc.gov symptom checker, and it told me to call my health officials.
So, at this point, I am mildly freaking out. So, I call the hotline our hospital system set up to funnel all Coronavirus questions. It was in all honesty, pointless and frustrating. The person I spoke with was not helpful. Now, I realize that she was probably overworked and stretched thin. But I was legitimately needing information and clarity, and I did not receive that. She started talking to me about cardiac disease (I guess because I mentioned chest discomfort?). When I told her I was concerned about the virus, she told me that only critical patients are being tested in our state, and that my only option is to go to the emergency room if I start having respiratory distress. She tells me to take ibuprofen for my chest tightness, which is in direct opposition to the WHO stating ibuprofen should be avoided for possible Covid19. No other help or information was offered. Looking back, I really wish she would have educated me on the progression of the virus. I hang up the phone, vent to my husband my frustrations, and I spend the rest of the day in bed binge watching Netflix.
Monday, I wake up feeling completely fine. I was completely shocked! I think, “Hmm…maybe I just have the kids’ cold.” Tuesday, I also feel fine. Tuesday night, I start coughing a little bit of mucus. I’m not worried because google tells me that coronavirus has a dry cough. “Yep, this is definitely that cold,” I think. My cough stays minimal over the next few days, and I continue to cough up a little mucus here and there. Of course, Covid19 is in the back of my mind. But my cough is not really dry, and I am not short of breath at this point. This has to be that cold.
Thursday night, about a week after my initial symptoms, I am up most of the night coughing. Throughout Friday, I’m really thinking hard about my 7yo’s symptoms and mine. That’s when I realize that she never actually had a runny nose. What if she didn’t catch my toddler’s cold? What if she’s had Covid19 this whole time? With the long incubation period, she could have caught it from school or anywhere. Later in the day, I come across a video on social media with a doctor actually talking about the timeline of mild coronavirus. He mentions that the cough can have some mucus, and my stomach drops. I can’t explain away my symptoms with a common cold virus any longer.
Friday night, my husband and I are talking about mine and my daughter’s symptoms, and as if by divine appointment, his doctor calls him on his cell phone. You see, he had called his doctor almost a week ago, when I had the day of aches and fever. The doctor was just now returning his call, and oh how thankful we were for him!! Finally, I was able to talk about all the things, all my symptoms, the time line and everything with someone was has been treating the virus. He confirmed it over the phone. He told me what I could possibly expect over the next couple of days. That I might have a return of breathing difficulty, and that I could, in fact, use my albuterol inhaler as needed (I have this because of a seasonal/environmental allergy that causes me to have throat and chest tightness…it’s Christmas trees, I’m allergic to Christmas). He told me that once I was without symptoms for 72 hours, I could start getting out of the house again.
I’m writing this on Sunday, 11 days after my symptoms began. Breathing has become mildly more difficult over the last 2 days. A little more shallow than my normal breathing, and it takes me a couple of tries to get a good deep breath. I am using my inhaler every 4 hours, and it really does help. Today is a little worse than yesterday, but I’m still ok. Resting as much as I can, while my sweet husband handles the rest of life. My 7yo has been cough free for a good two days now, which is so encouraging. I think I am about a week behind her progression of the virus. Health officials said this virus effected children less, and that has been the case for her. She’s barely skipped a beat. As for me, I fully believe that I will start to breathe more easily in the coming days. I do not foresee a need for supplemental oxygen or a need to go to the emergency room.
Final thoughts: My feelings are still kind of in the raw stage. I’m not past this beast yet. But, guys, I’m frustrated by the whole situation. I’m frustrated by the lack of available tests. I’m frustrated that we have less access to our doctors. I mean, I get it. I really do. They’re busy on the front lines taking care of the ones who need it most. But, man! I really wish I could have had an in office visit with my PCP, instead of being funneled to a hotline. I wish I had known that you don’t need to have all three red flag symptoms all at once to have the virus. I wish I had known that the cough doesn’t have to be a completely unproductive/dry cough. I wish I had known that you can feel bad initially, get better, then get worse. I wish the conversation for how to manage the virus at home was louder than it currently is.
Final final thoughts: My hope in writing this is that it can help someone else who is just having these slight symptoms. I haven’t really seen many accounts from people who have a mild case of the virus really talking about what it’s like. I think there is fear in telling others that you think you have it (I SO get that. We don’t want to panic others). Statistically speaking, no one can deny that most of the population will get the virus at some point. But most of the population will be able to self treat at home. We need more of a conversation around what that looks like. I hope this is helpful.
UPDATE: It’s been five days since I originally posted this, and I wanted to give an update. Like with most things Coronavirus related, things change all the time. Since writing this, I have had some harder days. I increasingly had more shortness of breath, enough to where I couldn’t walk around my house. I was FINALLY able to speak with my PCP, and he called me in a spacer for my Albuterol inhaler to help it be more effective. He gave me strict orders to stay in bed as to not put my body under any additional stress. He suggested I get a pulse oximeter (you can buy these over the counter, but for the love only buy one if you really need it) to monitor my oxygen levels. That was so reassuring, because even when I was breathing hard, my O2 levels were really good. My body’s hard work was effective! He also told me that my 2yo (you know, the one with the “cold” that caused all the confusion in the first place) likely *did* have covid19 despite the runny nose and ear infection given the time line of the rest of us getting infected. Information is still continually changing, and doctors are learning more and more about the odd virus that has SUCH varied symptoms that effect the entire body. It’s been 16 days since I had my first symptom, and I am finally starting to feel better. I still need my inhaler, but I can move about my house without getting winded. I will need to be symptom free for 72hrs to be able to say I’ve completely recovered. Hopefully, that will happen by next week!