Covid: One Year Update

Covid: One Year Update

Wow. I can’t believe it’s been one year since I had covid. It really doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. I think because it has consumed me. What I mean by that is that the effects of having covid are at the forefront of my thoughts often. I am constantly checking in with my breathing. Is it normal. Does my chest feel heavy? I need to take some deep breaths. Oh no, I don’t have my disposable mask. This means I will need my albuterol inhaler because breathing through cloth masks is much harder. These are some of the thoughts that run through my head all day long.

Covid Changed Me

The term “long hauler” is more well known now. I have read a lot of really good news articles detailing and validating, not only mine, but so many other’s experiences. These articles bring me solace. I spent much of last year feeling so alone in my journey. While I don’t know anyone else personally who has walked this same path, I find it comforting to see long term covid included in the national conversation. But the thing I want you to know most is this virus has changed me. It took something from me, and I don’t know if I will ever get it back.

What My Life is Like Now

In my six month update, I talked a lot about different medications I was on. I still need those inhalers to help with my breathing. I still need my recuse inhaler as well. Honestly, I have gotten used to needing those things. What I mean by that is that I have come to a level of acceptance. It is what it is. While I am hoping my upcoming appointment with a specialist will give way to more effective medication, I accept that my body needs this help now. Do I now have asthma? Maybe. We will see. What is incredibly interesting about my breathing situation, is that I am able to exercise regularly. I felt like my fitness level had returned to pre-civid status by December 2020. I have even improved my fitness beyond that. But talking through a mask for a long period of time will almost certainly cause me to need my rescue inhaler. It doesn’t make sense to me, but much of this journey has been baffling to everyone.

Fatigue and Brain Fog

Friend. The fatigue is rough. I will be going about my day, and it will hit me so hard and fast. I will get this overwhelming feeling that I have to go to sleep right away or I won’t make it. It deal with this, I will usually take a twenty minute nap around lunch time (that’s usually when this sudden fatigue hits). Thankfully, my children are old enough to where I can do this. But I need this power nap almost daily. On top of that, once my husband gets home from work in the afternoon, I will have to go lay down and rest again before dinner. This is now my normal daily routine. I have to continually remind myself that I am not being lazy. But mentally, it is hard. I don’t want my kids remembering mommy in bed so much. Recently, my six year old asked my why I sleep the most out of anyone in our family. That brought on the tears.

Secondly, there is the brain fog. Google defines brain fog as “a term used for certain symptoms that can affect your ability to think. You may feel confused or disorganized or find it hard to focus or put your thoughts into words.” It’s sneaky. I will just randomly not be able to complete a thought. Or more noticeably, my short term memory is unpredictable. There is a good chance that I will forget anything that is not part of my weekly routine. For example, that extra errand I was supposed to run. Yep, I forgot about it. Or there was the time that I was supposed to book our summer vacation, then remembered three weeks later. The reason I say that this brain fog is sneaky is that I can’t predict it. It feels like it creeps up out of no where, usually when I finally remember that thing that I forgot.

Perspective

So, where am I one year after this virus? Though my symptoms are actively present in my life, I have been able to come to some sort of acceptance. I don’t feel that daily angst and disappointment that was so intense months ago. I have days when frustration and weariness overtake me, but I always have the support of my AMAZING husband to talk me through the difficult moments. Overall, from the outside, most people do not realize how much covid has changed me. The fact that I am still struggling is often a surprise to others. I think there is good and bad to this. It shows from the outside, I function pretty normally in the world. I homeschool my children, do laundry, run errands, see friends, work at my part time job. But on the flip side, I am often having breathing difficulty during these activities. I will always need a nap after an outing, and I will have a random day that is spent mostly in bed. Long haul covid is often a hidden struggle. I hope to continue to improve. Maybe one day there will be a magic solution to all of this.

I want to close with this. If you know someone who is struggling with long haul covid. Check on them. Ask them how they are doing. They might seem fine, but they could be struggling behind closed doors. Also, please…hear me on this….do not offer them advice on what they should try to get better unless they ask you. Just don’t. You do not know what they have tried. There are thousands of people struggling still one year later. If it was as simple as needing extra this or less that, we would know. Because those of us who are in this battle have tried it all. Instead, offer to bring your friend or family member dinner. Or cupcakes. Offer to baby-sit so they can have a quiet house for a few hours. Those are the things that are helpful.

I hope my story over this past year has impacted you. If it has, I would love to hear from you in the comments below and for you to share this post with your friends.

How to Love Your Neighbor in 2021

How to Love Your Neighbor in 2021

How to love your neighbor well in 2021 can be tricky. I mean, we are still in a pandemic and the country is so divided over so many things. February is a great time to focus on others. There’s Valentine’s Day on the 14th, and a few days later is World Kindness Day on February 17th. I know I can speak for all of us when I say we can all appreciate a little extra love in this crazy world. Here are some simple and easy ways to love your neighbor this month.

Send Some Happy Mail

Don’t you just love getting something in the mail besides bills? We ALL do! Send a letter (vintage style, ha) or a postcard to a friend or loved one. Let it be a surprise. This past week, my kids made postcards (we used this kit) to mail to their friends. They had so much fun and talked about sweet memories they have with those whom they were creating for. I plan to mail my own little notes of encouragement too. Parenting is hard. Parenting during a pandemic is hard. Parenting during the winter during a pandemic is ridiculous. Send some unexpected love. It will fill your heart as well!

Everyone Loves Coffee

You know coffee is basically life for moms. Show a friend or even a stranger some love by paying for their Starbucks. The Starbucks app makes it really easy to send someone a gift card. Also, paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru line has the potential to make someone’s day or even week! When you pay for someone’s coffee order in the drive-thru, it will often set off basically a coffee love chain where people continue to pay for the person behind them for quite some time. That’s pretty cool!

Your Actual Neighbor

Loving those in our closest sphere of influence can be so powerful. That includes people who actually live next to us. I know I have been guilty of not knowing my neighbors before. Falling into that isolation really doesn’t benefit anyone. If that is you, it’s okay! Now is the perfect time to reach out. Shovel your neighbor’s driveway one morning, make them some banana bread (or the star of the pandemic – sourdough bread), bring their newspaper to their front door so they don’t have to walk to go get it, or offer to take their dog on a walk. There are so many little things we can do to make a difference in someone’s day.

I think so many of us had such high expectations for 2021. Like we thought the end of 2020 would just cause all the big things to just evaporate. Well maybe not quite so dramatic, but we hoped to at least to have turned a corner. For some people, things have gotten better. But for many, things are mostly the same. Pandemic fatigue is strong. Moms are all struggling. I know I definitely have hard days.

I know none of the things listed above are super revolutionary. But sometimes we just need to be reminded of the simple every day things that can make such a difference for others. I think the middle of winter during the month of love is perfect time to show friends and strangers alike a little extra love, kindness, and grace in a tangible way. How are you going to love your neighbor this Valentine’s Day? Let me know in the comments. And, as always, please like, share, and subscribe if you enjoyed this post.

Covid: Six Month Update

Covid: Six Month Update

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

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. 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. That 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. I felt like I needed more tests. I also wanted simple things, like for the doctor to listen to my chest with a stethoscope (all of my appointments were telehealth).

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. I missed cooking. I missed my former healthy self. 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. 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 did this once before, and I was excited. I drove to a park that had a nice flat track. I did a mix of jogging and walking for about 30 minutes. I had some slight tightness in my chest when I got back to my car. 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. 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.

My Experience with Covid

My Experience with Covid

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

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. 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…

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 Covid. We had been around him about 3 weeks before this (his test ended up being 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. 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 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.

But then

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.

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

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 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. 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 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. 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.

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