Covid19: Six Months Later

Covid19: Six Months Later

It’s been six months since I contracted Covid. March 19, 2020 was the first day of symptoms, and here we are mid-September. It’s been a surreal and crazy experience, and I thought I would give an update on how things are going. For a little background context, you can read about my initial experience here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/03/29/my-experience-with-covid19/. The post is real and raw, and details my frustrations with having difficulty getting answers.

However, what I didn’t know when I wrote my original post, was that I would become what is now dubbed “long termer”. This term, which wasn’t really a term when I was in the thick of it, means that my life and my health have suffered long term effects from having the virus. The virus caused severe inflammation in my lungs. Thankfully, I never needed supplemental oxygen, but I had to spend weeks and weeks in bed. I could only be around my family for short periods of time, because simply talking required so much effort. And when you have three young children, you can’t be around them and just not talk. They don’t understand that. Breathing felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, or that I was trying to inhale through a tiny coffee stirrer straw. If I needed to take a deep breath, it would take me several tries to fill my lungs. Because my lungs were having to work harder, my heart was also having to work harder. My pulse was often above 90bpm at rest. Yes, this is still within normal rage, but it is not normal for my typical healthy body. These things coupled would then cause me extreme fatigue. Think first trimester pregnancy fatigue. You just can’t shake it. The fatigue and the shortness of breath were not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging as well. I don’t think there has been a lot of talk about the mental challenges of dealing with Covid. You see, by this point, it had been well over a month since I had the active virus. I felt fine. I didn’t have a fever or cough or anything like that. But the fact that I could not participate in my life in a normal way was crushing. It gave me new empathy for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. There were simple things I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t.

At the beginning of May, I contacted my doctor again to talk about the difficulties I was having with doing simple things and still getting so winded. He prescribed me a long acting steroid asthma inhaler. I use this inhaler each morning, and it last all day long. He also sent me for a chest x-ray, which came back clear. Yes, in theory, it was nice to have a clear x-ray, but my symptoms were so significant that I was wanting some validation. This is also when the antibody testing first became available. And you know what? My antibody test was negative. It was crushing. Like completely devastating. My doctor couldn’t explain it, other than to say his other covid patients were seeing the same results. Now, we know that people don’t retain antibodies for long. I was honestly really frustrated at this point. I felt like I needed more tests. I also wanted simple things, like for the doctor to listen to my chest with a stethoscope. I was so fed up with tele-health appointments.

After starting the asthma inhaler, I started seeing some slight improvement. I began to have more good days, where I could do typical things like talk to my family without getting winded. Some days, I would regress back. It wasn’t a linear recovery process. Just because I had one good day didn’t mean that the next day would also be a good day. It was a surprise each morning. This back and forth nonsense was mentally challenging. I couldn’t make plans. I missed spending time with my family. I missed cooking. I missed my former healthy self. But, ever so slowly, I began to have more good days than hard days. Like three to four good days in a row. I started trying to push myself a little. I would sing in the car or go for walks to strengthen my lungs. Then came a set back.

It was a really good day at the beginning of June. I had a lot of energy that day, so I decided to go for a jog. I had done this once before, and I was excited. I drove to a park that had a nice flat track, and I did a mix of jogging and walking for about 30 minutes. When I got back to my car, I had some slight tightness in my chest. As I drove home (less than 10 minutes away), the tightness increased, and by the time I walked through my door I couldn’t talk because breathing had become too difficult. I immediately went upstairs, did my albuterol inhaler, put my pulse oximeter on my finger and laid down. After about 30 minutes, my oxygen was still below 94%. I was still having a lot of tightness in my chest, and my pulse was 130bpm. I decided to go to the emergency room. The doctors and nurses there were so wonderful. They ran all the tests. All of them. I even got a lung CT, which is a specific test I had been wanting. Everything was clear (again, nice in theory and I’m thankful in hinds sight, but I was still wanting some validation for my troubles). My heart rate and oxygen slowly returned to normal, and I was sent home. The whole experience was like an asthma attack, but I do not have asthma. Now, I use my albuterol inhaler before exercise just in case, and I haven’t had anything like this happen since.

As June and July passed, I had great days. Things finally felt like they were returning to normal. I was even back to regular exercise. Then, my seven year old came to me one day at the end of July complaining of her stomach hurting. She had no other symptoms, but complained off and on for about two weeks. During this time, my two year old was a little extra fussy, and his diapers were slightly off. If you read my previous Covid post, you’ll know that my kids also were presumed positive for the virus in March. So, these symptoms were confusing. Covid testing labs were very backed up. We decided to not put them through the test, when others in our community were needing those resources more than we were. After about two weeks of stomach pains, my oldest then started complaining of being out of breath off and on. It didn’t effect her activity level,, and she would just randomly mention it off handedly. Then, I had a few days of feeling run down and extra tired. My legs were cramping at night, and I developed a ever so slight cough…again.

I know, as of right now, there hasn’t been concrete documented research on being reinfected with the virus, but I really think we got Covid again. However this time, it was about 10% as far as severity as to what I went through in March. Thankfully, I listened to doctors educating about how the immune system is so much more complex than just antibodies. I was confident that my body would be able to handle the virus more effectively this time. And it did. After about a week, I was back to normal. My kids improved as well, with no other hiccups.

As you can see, this whole pandemic has been quite the rollercoaster for me and my family. I can’t go any further without giving my husband the biggest shout out. He has taken such good care of me over the past six (!) months, never once making me feel guilty about needing rest. So, as of right now, I am still using my daily inhaler. Sometimes, I need the extra help of the albuterol, but maybe only like once a week or so. Most days, I feel back to my normal self, but it’s been a long road to get here. And that is really one of my main purposes for sharing my story. Yes, most people handle the virus just fine and only feel sick for a week or two. But some people will be effected like me. People, like me, with no pre-existing conditions will have long term health consequences. I didn’t die. I didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital, but my life and the life of my family has been changed. And that matters. That is significant. There’s more to this thing than just the death rates (which matter greatly). Take it seriously. Love each other and be kind.

Read about how to prepare for the the possibility of catching the virus and how to talk to your kids about it here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/04/05/preparing-for-covid19-and-talking-to-your-kids-about-it/

Sending My Child to Preschool

Sending My Child to Preschool

But wait a minute….Didn’t I just write a whole post about our decision to homeschool? Yes. Yes, I did. We are homeschooling are kindergartener and second grader. However, we decided that our almost three year old will still attend his preschool this year. He will be going to school two mornings a week starting mid-August.

There was a lot that went into this decision, and it wasn’t easy given the current state of the world. Some of the main points in choosing this route were acknowledging that what’s best for one child in our family might not be what’s best for another child, and that is okay. Our preschooler needs some more opportunities to be around a group of peers. He needs to learn that he can have fun with other people rather than just mommy and daddy and sisters. He needs some more practice in following rules in a more structured environment like a classroom. Are you catching a theme? We really feel that the social skills he will gain in preschool this year will be a huge benefit for him. Teaching those types of social skills at home can be really difficult (although, definitely not impossible). He also has a minor speech delay. We are confident that preschool will continue to propel his speech forward. And lastly, he LOVES his preschool. He loves circle time and singing songs and dancing and all the things. He thrived last year in his little class, and I have no doubt he will do the same this year.

Now, what about the Big C? The Corona? This is where I am just going to have to trust and rely on God. I have His peace right now. If something changes, then we can always reevaluate. The school is putting procedures in place to keep staff and the kids safe, without being too over the top. Kids will still be able to be kids. Our family has already had Covid19. And even though the whole immunity situation is still a big question mark, we are confident that if/when we are exposed again, that our bodies will know how to fight the virus.

There are no easy or clear answers for anything these days. We are all doing the best we can with the information we have. And that is okay. Our kids are going to be okay. Mama, your kids are going to be okay! What is best for us this year might not be what we choose for the following year. Just like everyone else, we will take things day by day, week by week, and month by month. Tell me more about how your kids will do school this year. Are all of your kids on the same path? Or are different kids doing different things? Do you have peace about your decisions?

Preparing for Covid19 and Talking to your kids about it

Preparing for Covid19 and Talking to your kids about it

After sharing my story on social media, I have had several moms ask what they can do to prepare for the virus to hit their family. Experts all agree that most Americans will get this virus at some point. But, that’s ok! Most of us will be able to self manage symptoms at home. I do not want to down play that this disease is serious for some, but this post is meant to help families who will experience the virus in its mild/moderate form.

First, talk to you kids in a matter of fact way about what is going on in the world. My kids are seven, five, and two. The two year old obviously doesn’t have a clue, but my other kids had some questions. When schools first started closing, we very plainly told them that there was a new virus going around that can be very serious for people who are older and who are already sick (that is how we defined preexisting conditions for them in this context), and some people will have to go to the hospital. We told them that the virus was not really dangerous for our family – that even if we got sick, we would be ok. But, we explained how everything was closing to help keep people safe and healthy. My husband and I chose not to talk about news headlines in front of the kids or our fears and anxieties. When the virus was confirmed to be making its way through our own family, we were able to simply say, “Yes, mommy has coronavirus, and two of you have already had it. Remember your cough? That was the virus, but now you are all better.” In fact, just this morning, my 5yo complained of a stomachache and has a low grade temperature. I told her that it was her turn to have the virus, and she just said ok and went back to playing. All along, we have validated their feelings about things being different and hard with social distancing and quarantine. But we have always always reiterated that this is what we need to do to help keep people safe and healthy.

Secondly, as far as what actions to take, here are a few ideas of things to do (and hoarding things is NOT one of them). If your time and budget allows, making some freezer meals will help. The fatigue and aches are real. They also come and go day by day. Having quick and easy meals that are already prepared will help conserve your energy. Honey was also something that was nice to have on hand. It is helpful for soothing a cough and a sore throat. For the body aches, we have been using Tylenol. There is mixed information about the use of ibuprofen, so speak to your own doctor about that. Taking a warm bath with 2 cups of epsom salts also helped with the body aches that would come on in the evening.

Thirdly, REST! This is so hard for moms, especially if your children are little. But please, this is NOT the time to try to push through. Covid19 is such a strange disease. The symptoms come and go for a while. Some people, like me, will take a turn for the worse around days 7-9. I really thought I was over it, then I started to really have breathing difficulty. Do not push yourself. Do not put your body under any additional stress. Turn the TV on for the kids, order them a few new toys, do what ever you need to do to be able to rest just do it.

Lastly, don’t panic. This is a hard one. I know it is. How can we not panic when we are getting daily death toll updates and news conferences? It’s all so incredibly heartbreaking. But, when you or someone in your family starts having symptoms, just take it day by day. Call your doctor for advice and care instructions. Do your best to not focus on all the what ifs. If that means you need to turn off the news and really guard what you see and hear, then do it. Protecting your mental health is just as important as protecting your physical health.