Six Months Post Covid: My Story

Six Months Post Covid: My Story

This post was first published September 2020. It has been updated with current CDC guidelines where noted. Please call your doctor if you suspect you have Covid

I am now six moths post 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. The post is real and raw, and details my frustrations with having difficulty getting answers.

Let’s Start with a Little Follow-Up

I didn’t know when I wrote my original post that I would become what is now dubbed “long hauler”. 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. 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 talking required so much effort. When you have three young children, you can’t be around them and just not speak. 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 straw. When I needed to take a deep breath, it would take me several tries to fill my lungs. Because my lungs were having to work so hard, my heart was also having to work hard. My pulse was often above 90bpm at rest. This is still within normal rage, but it is not my normal. Then there’s the 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. However, the fact that I could not participate in my normal life was crushing. It has given me increased empathy for those who suffer from chronic illness.

The Saga Continued

At the beginning of May, I contacted my doctor again to talk about the difficulties I was still having. He prescribed me a long acting steroid asthma inhaler. I use this inhaler each morning, and it lasts all day. He also sent me for a chest x-ray, which came back clear. In theory, it was nice to have a clear x-ray, but my symptoms were so significant that I also wanted validation. This is also when the antibody testing first became available. And you know what? My antibody test was negative.

It was crushing – completely devastating. My doctor couldn’t explain it, other than to say his other covid patients were seeing the same results. We now know that people don’t retain antibodies for long. I was really frustrated by this point, and I wanted more tests. I also craved simple things, like for the doctor to listen to my chest with a stethoscope (all of my appointments were tele-health).

About a month after starting the daily 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, cooking, and all the things my former healthy self enjoyed. But, ever so slowly, I began to have more good days than hard days. I started having three to four good days in a row. Also, 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. Because I had a good amount of energy that day, I decided to go for a jog. I had done this once before, and I was excited to exercise again. I drove to a park that had a nice flat track, and I proceeded to do a mix of jogging and walking for about 30 minutes. When I returned to my car, I had some slight tightness in my chest. The tightness increased as I drove home (less than 10 minutes away). 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 was a specific test I had been wanting. Everything was clear (again, nice in theory and I’m thankful, 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.

A Turning Point – Hopefully

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.

Furthermore, 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 us. After about two weeks of stomach pains, my oldest then started complaining of being out of breath. It didn’t effect her activity level, and she would just randomly mention it. Then, I had a few days of feeling very run down and extra tired. My legs were cramping at night, and I developed a cough…again.

I know, as of right now, there hasn’t been concrete documented research on being reinfected with the virus (UPDATE: We now know that people can contract the virus more than once, but this is rare), 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 who had been 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 my altered new normal. My kids improved as well, with no other hiccups.

Final Thoughts

This 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 so much rest. As of right now, I am still using my daily inhaler. Sometimes, I need the extra help of the albuterol inhaler (a short term steroid), but only about once a week.

Most days, I feel like my normal self, but it’s been a long road to get here. This is really 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. That matters. That is significant. There’s more to this virus 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. And if you want to continue to read about my journey, check out my one year update.

Sending My Child to Preschool

Sending My Child to Preschool

I will be 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.

What Led to This Decision?

There was a lot that went into this decision, and it wasn’t easy given the current state of the world. Some of the reasons I’m sending my child to preschool are acknowledging that what’s best for one child in our family might not be the best choice for another child. And that is okay. Our preschooler needs consistent 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.

Dealing with Doubt

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.

We’re All Just Doing Our Best

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, I have had several moms ask me about preparing for covid19. 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.

Prepare Your Children

Talk to you kids in a simple and 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.

Practical Steps in Preparing for Covid19

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 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.

Most importantly, REST if you start to feel ill. 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 when preparing for covid19.

My Experience with Covid

My Experience with Covid

I am sharing my experience with covid in the early days of the pandemic. That’s right. I was recently diagnosed with Covid, 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 two year old had a cold. What I thought was an obvious cold with a faucet of a runny nose and a cough. About four days into quarantine, my seven year old became slightly more tired. Not super surprising given that life had been turned upside-down, but she was still happy and playing.

We were all tired, actually. It was in the back of my head that she was probably catching the toddler’s cold. A few days later, she started coughing. Sometimes her cough was better than others, and sometimes she was more tired than others, but nothing too extreme. My two year old has a history of developing ear infections after getting a cold, and this time was no different. He ended up needing antibiotics.

My turn was next…

My experience with covid began 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. But, guys, this was such a slight symptom. I don’t think I would have noticed this if there wasn’t a contact cultural conversation about breathing happening all around me.

Furthermore, this was the same day a friend told me her father-in-law was being tested for Covid. We had been around him about 3 weeks before (his test was negative). 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. But then, I woke up on a Sunday and felt SO achy. I also had a low grade temperature. I checked the CDC’s symptom checker, and it told me to call my health officials.

Anxiety sinks in

At this point, I am mildly freaking out. I call the hotline our hospital system set up to funnel all Coronavirus questions. It was, honesty, pointless and frustrating. The person I spoke with was not helpful during my experience with covid. I realize that she was probably overworked and stretched thin. However, 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 Covid (UPDATE: This is no longer a recommendation, and ibuprofen is fine to take for symptom relief). 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.

Inconsistent Symptoms

Monday, I wake up feeling completely fine. I was 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 (UPDATE: Mucus can be present with Covid). Yep, this is definitely that cold. My cough stays minimal over the next few days, and I continue to cough up a little mucus here and there. Of course, the virus is in the back of my mind. However, I do not have a dry cough, and I am not having breathing difficulty 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 seven year old’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 Covid 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 a mild coronavirus infection. He mentions that the cough can have some mucus, and my stomach drops!

Confirmation

It’s now Friday night and my husband and I are talking about mine and my daughter’s symptoms. As if by divine appointment, his doctor calls him on his cell phone. You see, he had called his doctor almost a week before, when I had the day of aches and fever. The doctor was just now able to return his call. Oh how thankful we were for him!! Finally, I was able to talk about all the things – my symptoms and the time line – with someone who 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. Also, he told me I could 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 once I was symptom free for 72 hours, I could start getting out of the house again.

Where I am Right Now

I’m writing this on Sunday, 11 days after my symptoms began. Breathing has become mildly more difficult over the last 2 days. It is 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.

I’m resting as much as I can, while my sweet husband handles the rest of life. My seven year old has been cough free for a good two days now, which is so encouraging. I am about a week behind her progression of the virus. Health officials said this virus effects 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.

Conclusion

My feelings about my experience with covid are still raw. 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 primary care physician, 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. Also, 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 on My Experience with Covid

It’s been five days since I originally posted this, and I wanted to give an update. Like with most things Covid related, things change all the time. Since writing this, I have had harder days. I increasingly have more breathing difficulty, enough to where I couldn’t walk around my house. I was FINALLY able to speak with my primary care physician, 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.

Additionally, he suggested I get a pulse oximeter (you can buy these over the counter) to monitor my oxygen levels. That was so reassuring, because even when I was breathing hard, my oxygen levels are really good. My body’s hard work is effective! He also told me that my two year old (you know, the one with the “cold” that caused all the confusion in the first place) likely *did* have covid 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 this odd virus. 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 72 hours to be able to say I’ve completely recovered. Hopefully, that will happen by next week!

To continue reading about my journey, click here for my six month update.

You also might find this post about preparing for the virus helpful.

This post was first published March 30, 2020. It has been updated with current CDC guidelines where noted. Please call your doctor if you suspect you have Covid