Nothing in my experiences prepared me for what the last three weeks threw at me.
Prior to going to the hospital I was unwell for about 9 days. I was self-medicating for the flu because all the symptoms felt like the flu except for the constant headache.
Thankfully I’m working from home. During a zoom staff meeting colleagues commented on how sick I sounded. That was Monday three weeks ago. I kept working, pushing through. The headache was a constant and I lost my appetite. By the following Monday in the staff meeting colleagues again commented on how sick I sounded in my voice. I was starting to feel as sick as I was sounding but still pushed through. By about 2:00 pm I was spent. I stopped, slept for about 2 hours got up and returned to working. Around 6:00 pm I physically could do no more and informed my office I would be on sick leave starting Tuesday.
The rapidity from feeling unwell to feeling sick made me realize this was not the flu. But how could it be Covid-19? I worked from home. I only went out for grocery. When I jogged it’s never in close proximity to anyone and I always wore a mask. I took all the precautions. Groceries were cleaned off before they’re packed away. Mail was opened in the garage. I always wore my mask. I have hand sanitizer everywhere and use it all the time. I’m the one customer who will walk down an aisle I need nothing from to follow the grocery store directional markings. I was that deliberate in following the rules.
On Tuesday I emailed the medical unit of my organization to request the Covid test which they administered and the result was negative. Yet by Wednesday my body started to feel foreign to me. My temperature was spiking. If it’s not Covid and it doesn’t feel like the flu, what could this be? By Thursday my energy level is low. My head hurts so much it’s tender to the touch. I’ve completely lost my appetite. Now I haven’t eaten anything substantial for 3 days. Though on sick leave I was still monitoring emails and listening in on meetings.
By Friday I was too sick to stay home. I went to the hospital. Another Covid test and this time the result is positive.
The ER doctor is kind. In her consult she was deliberate to touch my hand. The humanity of just that one gesture in the midst of the worst pains I’ve experienced and coming to terms with knowing I’m the carrier of an infectious disease, being touched made the difference.
What followed were 4 hellish days which spiraled downward so quickly I still cannot distinguish one day from the other. Day flowed into night and night into day and I suffered under a fog—a fever between 102 and 103.5. Fatigue. Complete loss of energy, appetite and the ability to swallow. I would chew but my throat wouldn’t open up to allow me to swallow. My breathing was shallow. Every joint in my body ached. I had an acute and constant head pain. I couldn’t touch my own head, it felt like a ton on my shoulders, I couldn’t keep it upright for more than a few minutes at a time. My stomach was queasy. The best way to describe it: it’s as if a truck drove across my body, stopped at every joint then parked on the top of my head and just hung out there. Then there’s that debilitating dry cough—if I’m standing when it comes I have to bend over or if it comes while I’m lying down I have to get in the fetal position.
I live alone so all of this I experienced alone except for family members and a couple of friends on the phone. I was scared. I was besides myself with worry. The worse possible scenarios passed through my mind.
In the height of a delirious moment I was on the phone with my brother, a respiratory therapist (who lives in Florida), I’m in pain, I’m crying and hysteria is setting in. And my brother switches from family to medical professional and he calms me and coaxes me with affirmations and actions I needed to take for my own care and told me if I couldn’t he’d need to call 9-1-1.
I dug deep. Prior to getting sick I exercised regularly—yoga or running or walking. And I practiced daily devotion and meditation time with God. My faith kicked in—I took control of my mind. I prayed. I willed myself out of bed and forced myself up and down stairs, one painful step at a time. I sat up more than I lay down and propped up my head when it became too difficult to keep it upright. I practiced breathing exercises even when it felt impossible to hold my breath for even a second or to exhale from my mouth. I forced myself to swallow and slowly started eating. By day 6 the fever broke.
Today is Thanksgiving and I’m now 4 days fever free. My energy level is getting back up. I’m able to breathe deeper. My appetite is slowly returning, I’m able to eat (not a lot) and to taste a bit. The head pain remains but I can hold my head up. And the cough is still severe. My voice is strong but after a bout of coughing I’ll be hoarse again.
My lifestyle has been one of gratitude. Everyday that I wake up I routinely thank God for the gift of life. And on this Thanksgiving, having survived a disease that’s killed so many, I’m especially grateful for:
- The medical team that cared for me at NY Presbyterian Lawrence Hospital.
- My family who kept me grounded through phone calls and care packages and especially my mom who I knew was extremely stressed and worried but was my tower of strength.
- My friends who delivered food with such love, care and attention.
- My partner who sat outside my window, hand-to-hand separated by windowpane connected by cell, so he could console me.
- Medical professionals, who are now friends, who provided daily advice and care.
- Faithful family and friends who prayed with me and for me, who entered into fasting periods to stand in the gap for me when I couldn’t stand for myself.
- My faith in God that kept me especially during those valleys of the “shadow of death” moments and gave me bouncebackability.
My GP asks a lot of questions and I know doctors and researchers are doing their best to find answers. In the spirit of gratitude I’m already researching how to donate plasma and to contribute to the fight against this virus.
If I can share a couple insights from this ordeal:
- Be a kind human. It’s possible to do all the right things and still get the virus. Nonetheless wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. Be gentle. Be kind. Don’t judge.
- Healthcare professionals are truly superheroes. From the time I got to the ER to the time I was discharged, I felt cared for. I was in so much pain, I was in tears, I needed to be held. The ER doctor touched my hand and I knew she did it deliberately. My brother and a friend activated their health networks and got help to me including a pulse oximeter and an incentive breathing exerciser.
- Don’t let your guard down, take care of your immune health as a routine. Prior to Covid this was my immune building routine: vitamins D3 and C, zinc, iron, krill oil, oregano oil, elderberry. When I knew it was Covid I kept my routine but increased the Vitamin C. Tylenol was included to help manage the pain and reduce the fever. I also added natural remedies—an elixir of honey, onion, garlic; nightly diffuser with eucalyptus oil; and fever grass and vervine teas (thanks to my mom who expressed the two plants from Florida).
- Manage your emotional capital. Getting well is more of a mental and a willpower “game” than it is anything else. You will need all your mental fortitude. For this reason I had to be selective in sharing my diagnosis. I activated my I.C.E (In Case of Emergency) system. I know my friends love me and from that place of love I know they would call, text, give advice and share the stories/experiences of others etc. in their efforts to help me. I knew I didn’t have the emotional capital to care for myself and receive all my friends would offer. I prioritized me and my care.
- Be grateful. Stay grateful. Live in an attitude of gratitude.
Thanks for reading. You can interact with this post/me by hitting any of the “share this” icons below or the “like” star or “leave a comment” or “follow”.Gratefully, Dee