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/