It would have been nice if the pandemic deniers were right, as it would have saved me a lot of pain and frustration. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is very, very real. I got it and I still haven’t recovered. There is no guarantee that I will ever be back to normal.
Since March 2020, I have teleworked and almost never left the house except for medical appointments. I did everything I could to avoid getting sick–handwashing, masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer, etc. Unfortunately, the virus must have hitched a ride on a a grocery delivery or something, after which it kicked me to the curb.
On Friday, December 18, I began to experience a cough, sore throat, chills, and an overall mental fog, which was enough to concern me but not enough to convince me that I had COVID-19. I certainly didn’t think it was bad enough to go to the hospital, so I waited over the weekend and on Monday the 21st, I called my doctor. I had a video appointment that same day, during which she made a clinical diagnosis of COVID. I was sent for a nasal swab COVID test, which came back positive, indicating that I was infected with the virus. The doctor had already prescribed steroids, which seemed to help a bit.
I isolated from the rest of the family to the best of my ability, primarily staying in my home office, in which I set up an old-fashioned cot. I slept a lot, coughed a lot and just felt terrible. Christmas was a bust and after Christmas, things did not get better. I didn’t exhibit a significant fever, but my oxygen saturation levels fell well below normal. My wife urged me to go to the hospital, but I had seen all the reports about hospitals being overwhelmed and wasn’t convinced that that was the best choice. I was worried they were full and couldn’t accommodate me.
Finally, on the afternoon of December 30, my wife put her foot down. Since everyone in the family had at least minor symptoms, she called 911 and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. The hospital was as busy as I feared, so I spent about 18 hours in the Emergency Department before they had a bed available for me on the floor. If I remember correctly, they had converted three hospital wings to COVID wards.
My continuing mental fogginess may interfere with my ability to report an accurate chain of events, so I apologize. I do remember being on oxygen for most of my hospital stay. I remember, receiving plasma with antibodies, although that memory is kind of jumbled. I know they gave me a five-day course of Remdesivir, as well as steroids, etc.
The absolute worst was early in my stay when I was not able to breathe. The respiratory therapists were pumping as much oxygen into me as they could, but I still couldn’t breathe. One side of my brain said to keep the oxygen mask on, while the other was trying to rip the mask off so I could catch my breath. This was scarier than anything else I’ve ever encountered.
They transferred me to ICU where they monitored my vital signs and continued the Remdesivir, steroids, and whatever else. Even while receiving oxygen around the clock, my oxygen saturation levels were below normal. Lab results indicated that blood clots were forming in at least one leg, so anticoagulants were added to the medical potpourri. A Doppler ultrasound demonstrated no clots; they followed this up with a CT scan of the lungs–COVID creates a “broken glass” appearance in the lungs. I was like Harry Potter under the Sorting Hat–“Not broken glass! Not broken glass!”
As you may have heard from others, nights are the worst. Mine have been filled with nightmares and flashbacks to my time in Afghanistan and Iraq. Of course, sleeping on a cot such as I used while deployed probably didn’t help. Even now, I still wake up every hour, so sleep is anything but restful. In the hospital I could pretend it was due to the staff taking vital signs, drawing blood, etc., but it’s just part of the syndrome.
My wife set up the master bedroom for me after I got out of the hospital so I had a place to sleep, a bathroom, and a door to separate me from everybody else. It works better than the office, but I still spend the majority of my time sleeping. Sleep, as they say, is the great healer.
That pretty much describes my experience. Please take this disease seriously and take every precaution.