(I struggled with how to present this information, and ultimately decided to go with the diary-type format, for the most part. With the exception of the last week of March and first week of April, when I was sickest, I usually managed to communicate with friends, either on Facebook, text, or emails. Sentence structure wasn’t a priority, so for the most part, I kept it that way. This is a lengthy post, but it is a pretty fast read. If you have the virus, or had it, you will find it interesting. If you’re interested in reading an account from someone who slugged it out at home, this could fill that bill.)
Thursday, March 12th: I wrote that I had been shopping all week, and had pretty much found everything I needed to make it through the stay-at-home situation, and possibly contracting SARS-CoV-2. I added that I felt like I had also picked up a virus, and that it felt different from the current symptoms I had with an ongoing sinus infection that was being treated by antibiotics. My sinuses were suddenly incredibly stuffy.
Backtracking: I picked up a bad cold the day after Christmas. That led to a sinus infection, which led to drainage into my lungs, and I required a round of antibiotics in January, then, again in February. It seemed my sinuses had been taken over by this, and weren’t letting go.
The first week of March had me in stores, along with the rest of America. At that time, there were no mask mandates, but we were all being careful to sanitize, wear gloves, and distance ourselves from others.
In March, not much was known about the virus’s symptoms, but there were three main symptoms that the medical field seemed to be relying on for diagnosis: fever, headache, and dry cough. I had the first two, but my cough was productive.
Monday, March 16: When I called my internist’s office on the following Monday, complaining of congestion, tightness in my chest, coughing, strangling, feeling like something was stuffed in the upper back part of my throat, joint (knee) pain, sore toes, headache, burning eyelids and eyes, low grade fever, difficulty breathing, felt like I needed a ten-hour nap, and a resting pulse of 126, the nurse who answered the phone excluded C-19 as the cause, since my cough was productive. Keep in mind that I was on an antibiotic, so in my opinion, the likelihood of this being an uptick in sinus infection symptoms was nil. I told a friend I was having trouble tasting things, but that was a symptom that was just beginning to make the rounds in the news, so I didn’t think to mention it, and she didn’t ask about it. She made an appointment for me to see the PA that day. I sat in the waiting room, which was divided according to those who didn't have a cough, and those who did. I was given a mask, and told to sit in the section for those with a cough. No one took my temperature, or asked any other questions.
I was taken to an exam room. My maskless PA entered the room, and approached the examination table where I was sitting, wearing a mask. After about fifteen seconds of my coughing, and trying to breathe, he left to get a mask; yet his diagnosis was “sinus infection”. I kidded him about us taking our masks off if that was the diagnosis. He said, "Well, we don't want to take any chances".
I still struggle with this. I told him that on March 12, I noticed I had picked up a bug, as my symptoms changed. I had a different feeling about what was going on, as it was worsening everything, plus causing the horrible cough and breathing difficulties. I also told him that the consistency and amount of mucus had changed. It not only increased, but became so thick, I would fall asleep, then awaken with the feeling I was drowning. It was literally suffocating. I struggled to cough a lot to clear it from the upper back area of my throat. When I slept, mucus would build up in my lungs, then I would have to cough furiously for a couple of hours to get minuscule amounts of mucus out. Even though I was forcing fluids, the mucus would not thin enough to allow for easy clearing of my breathing passages. On top of this, I had developed mild diarrhea.
I grew worse throughout that week, and the next.
March 18, 10:30 AM: I slept hard after waking around 4:00, then crashed at 6:00. Sinus congestion really hanging in there. My chest is congested. Breathing not all that easy. Chest feels tight. Coughing. Sore throat, but I assume it is from sinus drainage.
March 19: Cleared snow
March 20: Coughing
March 24: Tried to do mild work cutting up a few of last year’s rose trimmings. I only made it five minutes before having to come inside and rest.
Wednesday, March 25: Didn’t sleep at all the whole night. Awake 24 hours, coughing.
Thursday, March 26: Slept 2 hours, from 7-9AM.
Friday, March 27: I called my doctor’s office, and requested an inhaler. They called one in, but Walgreens was out of them, and would call me when they got them in.
Thursday, March 28, night: Slept almost 9 hours. (I found a sample bottle of a cough medicine with codeine, and it provided relief.)
Monday, March 30: Texting with a friend, said I was too tired to text. Couldn’t hold my hand up.
Tuesday, April 1: Feeling better. Made bacon and French toast for dinner. Coughing, and still sick. A little while later, “Too tired to text anymore. I feel like I need at least ten hours of good sleep”.
Thursday, April 2, 3:44 PM: I have a Doxy appointment at 11 tomorrow with my internist. Coughed until 3 this morning. Been coughing again. Losing ability to taste anything. Swollen glands in jaw and neck. Slept 4 hours. I’ve been coughing for a couple of hours now.
Friday, April 3: 11:00AM: Online visit with PA. He prescribed more meds, nebulizer,… all of which I had at home after bronchitis in 2017. (They didn’t seem to help.) If fever gets higher, call internist. He’ll order X-ray, but to get one requires a lot of Q/A to rule out C-19 possibility. If chest congestion worsens, go to ER. All I know is I sleep very little because of the darned cough, which worsens my headache. My eyes feel feverish. This morning, I coughed up yellow mucus, tinged with blood. My face is tender to the touch. He said my symptoms don’t mesh with the standard symptoms of the virus, but he said to watch it, as nothing is in stone. I’ll tell you this much: they don’t want me in their office. Right now, my fever is up. Comes and goes. I’m treating it as though bronchitis and upper respiratory infection, but those are symptoms of C-19 in some people. There are no standards with the virus, and that is scary. My neck glands are swollen. That comes and goes. Hopefully, this next round of antibiotics will help.
Sunday, April 5: Up 25 hours, coughing. Fever. Chest tight. Coughing so much. I coughed up strange-looking phlegm. It was yellow, but contained a lot of small (smaller than a pea) gold-colored spheres. I was curious about them, so I tried smashing them. The coating was like plastic, or glass, and very difficult to mash, but when I got one open, it contained yellow mucus. I’ve never seen anything like that. Much of Sunday through Monday were spent coughing up junk from my lungs. I could hear the wheezing prior to this, and feel the rattle. I literally pounded on my chest to loosen the phlegm. I was also sleeping with a humidifier, slathering Vicks Vaporub on my chest and throat area, and taking a cough medicine with codeine to help me sleep at night.
Tuesday, April 7: Called my internist’s office, and left voice message with her nurse. She called back, and told me to go to the ER. Clearly, on the message, you could hear me heaving for breath. I’m not talking about short bursts of trying to get air. I’m talking about huge struggling efforts to force air into my lungs. I would bend over at the waist and try to take in air. This was a constant struggle.
After that message, I was so tired, I laid down on the couch, and fell asleep. When I woke, I went to the ER.
ER Experience: First of all, I drove myself. Driving oneself to the ER is a kind of surreal experience. No one wanted to be in the car with me, and I couldn’t very well ask them, either.
After parking, I stood outside the entrance to the ER, following instructions on a poster. A security guard let me in, and showed me to the area where patients with COVID symptoms waited. He remarked about my gasping for air, and how when he has pollen allergies in the spring, he finds himself doing the same. The woman at the admitting desk shook her head, and said, “No, she has it. That’s the sound of someone with COVID coughing, and struggling to breathe.” My eyes teared up.
When a nurse came to escort me to an examination room, she was covered from head-to-toe. No skin was showing, except her forehead and eyes, which could be seen beneath her face shield. Even her shoes were covered.
Once in the exam room, I wasn’t allowed to remove my mask. No one looked at my nose, ears, or throat. They assumed I had the virus. My temperature was taken by a thermometer that was rolled across my forehead. That was because the infrared type were not charged. Even though I had a fever, no one gave me Tylenol. I was struggling to breathe, and constantly gasping for air. No one gave me oxygen. I was hooked up to a monitor, which, when I noticed, showed I was only getting 84% oxygen. But it would then go up to 98%. Even though it would drop to a low level, I guessed that because I had the capability of recovering, no one administered oxygen. Nonetheless, it was obvious that I was struggling for air. They did two blood draws, which showed no thrombosis. The PA told me I would be having a CT scan, but it was never done. A chest X-ray, done in the room, showed no pneumonia, and that was their criteria for hospital admission. They didn’t test for COVID, but I was told to assume I have it, and to quarantine myself, and to return to the ER if symptoms worsened.
And that was it.
(When I got my insurance records the next month, the ER had coded me as having, “Problem with significant threat to life or function”.
Yet, I had received nothing but tests. I even had to ask for a blanket. I guess they treated me as though they thought I was a high risk to them, but could make it on my own, so I was sent home – even though they reported me as having a problem with significant threat to life or function. Sigh…)
That evening, to a friend: Drinking hot tea, then hoping to sleep. Can hardly breathe. Headache, fever, eyes burn, coughing some, but not as much, unless I overdo it, or talk a lot. Miserable. Going to call early in the morning to see if there is a drive-through testing center that can test me. I don’t feel like doing anything. Just lie around coughing and trying to breathe.
Wednesday, April 8: I had a Doxy visit with my internist, who then said I’m highly suspicious for COVID. He said they had a limited number of test kits, but they would test me in their parking lot this afternoon, after most offices were closed. The nurse swabbed the back of my throat, rather than the standard swab into the back areas of the sinuses (where the virus is known to be found in the greatest quantities).
Two days later, the PA called me. “Good news! You tested negative for COVID!”
I cried. Then what the hell did I have?! He then said he had no idea, but to quarantine myself.
And I recalled all I had read on the subject, and wondered if he and I were living on the same planet, and whether he had read anything at all on it.
With a nearly 40% false negative results record, it was obvious I was among those false negative readings.
Friday, April 10: (Sent this to a family member): I knew I was improving yesterday, but today is much better. I slept decently night-before-last, but last night I had to get up after 3, and cough up more junk. My sinuses began to drain a lot. Mucus was so thick last week, and even the week before, that it was suffocating. I would have to work hard to breathe, as not only were my sinuses clogged, the upper back area of my throat was clogged, and prevented me from breathing good. Coughed out more mucus that had settled in my lungs. I just showered and am going to blow out my hair and do laundry. I’m so happy to feel the worst is truly over. I cannot tell you how horrible it was, and everyone is different. I still have all symptoms, but nowhere near the degree of last weekend, which I feel was the peak, even though last week was truly bad.
Can’t taste a thing.
Easter Sunday, April 12: Coughing and tightness in chest today. Trying to take it easy. Medicated and slathered on Vicks. It is not an exaggeration to say that I have spent several 24-25 hour time periods doing nothing but coughing and trying to breathe. No dozing. Nothing but struggling. I sleep very little, and in small doses. Coughing and trying to get a breath is all-time-consuming. No matter what positions I place my body, breathing is difficult.
Fever comes and goes. I freeze, and I sweat. Headaches come and lessen, but are never really gone. Entire head hurts. Eyes hurt and burn. No energy. And I feel incredibly sorry for myself.
Saturday, April 18: (To a friend) I’m not writing much in the way of personal emails and texts just yet. I wrote a long post on FB, but that’s because so many people were contacting me on the side. I decided to answer in one place.
I still can’t taste anything much. Coffee just tastes bitter. I can distinguish salty food, but that’s about all.
My cough is better, but my lungs are still twitchy at times, so I cough. I can usually take a deep breath, too, and I sleep better, and for longer periods of time.
Monday, April 20: Going outside to work in the yard. Still have some cough, and can’t taste very well, but I feel pretty good.
Tuesday, April 21: If the virus mutates, and I get another version, what the heck will that be like?! There were times I would close my eyes the first weekend in April, and doze off for a split second, then this horrible feeling like I was suffocating, and I was dying, would overtake me. My chest and throat felt like they were literally getting no air, but the strangest thing was the way my body felt; like life was drifting out of me. Like you would imagine your soul leaving your body. I couldn’t sleep at all. It was very scary. Several times, I thought about calling 911, or going to the ER, but the thought that perhaps I was making too much out of this kept me from doing so. I was on the couch, propped up by 6 pillows, so I was sitting up. It was safer to stay awake, than risk death (my thoughts).
I’m still not 100%, but moving in that direction. This is my third week (I think) of not being able to taste anything. It is coming and going now, so maybe I’m at the end of it. I’ve kind of gotten used to it, so eating is just something I do to satisfy hunger. There’s no relishing my food.
Thursday, April 23, 2:10 PM: Coughing again, and some chest tightness. Don’t know if it’s normal. Left message with my internist a bit ago. She ordered a serology test. It’s the symptoms coming back today that is scaring me, and making me feel uneasy. My symptoms are classic, and there’s no way I don’t/didn’t have it. I feel like I’ve either fallen through the cracks, or like I was pushed through.
Friday, April 24, 10:30 AM: I feel much of my problems yesterday (dark, foul-smelling urine) were attributable to dehydration. It is really hard to force yourself to drink when everything tastes awful. I sometimes pick up bitter notes at the back of my tongue. Mostly, I pick up nothing. I tire of water, but force myself to drink now, as I likely won’t have any desire to voluntarily drink anything. I get hungry, but food has no taste. If I see it, my brain tells me I taste it, but I really do not. Texture makes some foods unappealing. With guacamole, it had the texture, to my mouth, of mushed fish. I tried it with lots of salsa, but only got heat from that. It is discouraging. (I’ve since read that some patients with COVID develop kidney problems.)
Monday, April 27, 8:58 AM: Had Doxy visit this morning at 8:00. I’ll do antibody testing later this week, or next. Going to work in the yard. At least, I feel good enough to do a little something outside.
May 6: I saw my internist today, and she gave me a clean bill of health.
To sum it up, I was very sick. There were so many times I wanted help breathing, but no one seemed to want to do anything about it, except give me an inhaler. I felt more like a discard, than someone who was so sick. I told my doctor to not let any more of her patients feel that way. I hoped she shared this information with the PA, whom I never doubted before this illness. We talked for a good 45 minutes, and she checked me over, then proclaimed me clear of anything that needed treatment. I had typed an eight-page journal of my illness, and reviewed it with her. She made notes, and asked to keep it for her use.
I wish I had recorded myself when I was at my worst. Imagine a toddler with the croup. It’s kind of like that cough, plus the struggle to take in air, and performed by an adult body, so the sound is amplified multiple times. Huge, gasping intakes that take a lot of effort. All this, while enduring a bad headache, fever, sore throat, diarrhea, burning eyes, COVID fizz/tingle, painful toes and knees, body aches that weren’t like when I had influenza. They were somehow different feeling to me.
Everything that exited my body was foul-smelling. I had a horrible taste in my mouth, kind of like it was coated in metal. I thought I was smelling cigarette smoke all the time, even when my windows were closed, and even when I couldn’t smell a thing.
Sometime in May, after I had begun to feel like I was recovering from the lung issues, I began having problems with my colon. When I had diarrhea in March and April, my colon felt inflamed. Although the diarrhea subsided, the colon inflammation did not. I developed ulcerative proctitis and colitis, which was treated by my gastroenterologist this summer. He said he sees it all the time with patients who have had the virus.
SARS-CoV-2 is an inflammatory disease, unlike influenza, which brings on chills, body aches, fever, headache, and cough, which subside after a few days; unless a secondary infection, like bronchitis, develops. SARS-CoV-2, strikes various organs, therefore disguising its presence in the body.
I have a friend who had multiple strokes caused by the virus, and was unaware she was a carrier. A woman in the Denver area was hospitalized, but kept testing negative for the virus. She deteriorated to the point where she needed plasma from a patient who had previously had the disease. The immunologist would not authorize it, so her pulmonologist performed a lung biopsy, which revealed the presence of the virus in her lungs. She received the plasma, and recovered. The same thing has happened to people who present with cardiac blockage. They have no blockage, but they have C-19.
This is one lengthy post, but I felt I needed to point out how the virus affected me, in order to stress the need for patients to hear from someone who had to practically beg to be seen, treated, tested, and for medical personnel to realize that the virus acts differently in each body. There are no firm symptoms.
In my case, I had it early on, so medical personnel were going by the CDC’s list of three symptoms: dry cough, fever, headache. It wasn’t until June 1st that I felt pretty much normal again.
I never, to my knowledge, ran a fever over 101 degrees. I never had a dry cough.
When I visited my PA, and the ER, no one examined my ears, nose, or throat; and those were three areas that were listed among my complaints.
Even though my symptoms and age were listed by the CDC as meriting testing, I was not tested until (apparently) the virus had run its course in my body.
I have the feeling my case would be handled differently, some nine months later, than it was handled at the beginning of the outbreak in the Denver metro area. Between the unknown factors, fear of the disease, and lack of testing kits, I was pretty much left to my own devices. Even lab rats have more attention paid to their symptoms.
I guess that sounds excessively cruel, but that was my experience.
I went a total of sixty-six days without being able to taste normally. Even then, my taste buds were fickle. They still are, and I’m writing this on December 30th. I have also been dealing with what is commonly called COVID tingle, or fizz. When your arm falls asleep, and the feeling starts coming back, you have the sensation of pinpricks and tingling. Imagine that in your arms and legs, even your torso and head. Your nose and tongue. That’s my experience. On Christmas Eve, I woke with numb fingers. I know someone who had C-19 in October. She now deals with numb fingertips and toes.
No one knows how this virus works; how it lives in our bodies, and what effects it has on organs. I did everything I knew to protect myself, except wear a mask. At the time of my exposure, masks were not mandated, and they were not easy to find. According to the CDC, I was likely exposed anywhere from February 28 to March 10, if the 12th was the first day of my symptoms. During that time, I was in six zip codes from Lakewood to the west of Denver, to the Park Meadows area on the southeast side.
One common factor I’ve found when talking with friends who have had the virus is that we had ups and downs almost daily. We would feel fine, other than trying to breathe and coughing, so we could still cook, wash dishes, or do most anything at some point. Then, we would suddenly be too tired to hold our heads up. And maybe a couple of hours later, feel pretty good again. I know it sounds like maybe we would overdo things, then pay for it, but I don’t think that’s what happened. I never had the strength to overdo anything. For me, it felt like my body was in a state of flux, regardless of anything I did.
My doctor now says I likely had a milder case. My beef with that is that I’ve had friends who have had mild cases, and their symptoms were maybe a headache, or tiredness; maybe a fever and some coughing. If my case was mild, then what the heck does it take to be considered serious? I think mine was deemed mild because no one took proper care of me. It felt like a label that excused the lack of proper care.
Had I called for an ambulance the times I felt I was dying, I wonder if I would have been viewed as a mild case, with a dose of hysteria. You think?! When you can’t get air, you tend to lean towards hysteria.
Do masks help? I wouldn’t know. I know what I’m comfortable doing. Wearing a mask after going through all I went through, brought on panic attacks at first. I still have them when I feel I can’t breathe, like in my dentist’s office while having a rubber dam in my mouth during a crown procedure. Or when I’m drinking out of a bottle. It could be that my nose was stopped up already, so by closing off my mouth, that shut off my access to air. Whatever the reason, it causes me to panic. But when indoors, I’m more comfortable wearing a mask as a precaution. Outdoors, I’m mask-free.
I take long walks, even run, but never with a mask. When I’m with my family, we don’t wear masks. And I’m comfortable with that.
I still take these supplements. Quercetin, zinc, D3, turmeric, vitamin C, and melatonin.
When I was at my sickest, I also took the following:
Mucinex 12-hour time-release tablets
Sudafed 12-hour tablets during the day (and at night if I needed the extra decongestant, since I slept when I wanted/could)
Chlorphenamine or Benadryl tablets (antihistamine), per instructions
Tylenol regular strength, per package instructions, for headache and fever. I had both for almost six weeks.
Afrin nasal spray, severe congestion formula, but only if nothing else was working. Follow package directions.
Vicks Vaporub on my chest and throat area. I inhaled it to help unstop nasal passages.
Ocean moisturizer for sinuses. The name brand, as opposed to other brands, has a tip that is more comfortable to use.
I slept with a cold air humidifier. I’ve heard that warm air humidifiers are recommended, but I have never been able to use one. Hot showers help, but for sleeping, I used the cold air humidifier with distilled water.
People were, and probably still are, recommending tonic water, because of the quinine it contains. I like gin and tonic, with extra lime, so I’m used to the taste of tonic water. When my sense of taste was trying to come back in, I had problems with the quinine taste, so backed off. Frankly, my sense of taste and smell often dictated what I ate and drank. There came a time when nothing, not even water, was palatable. I drank water because my body required it, and not because I craved it.
I found that I could sort of taste sugar. For about two weeks, my favorite food were chocolate crinkles, which I made. I couldn’t taste the chocolate, but there was something about the cookies that satisfied my perceived sense of taste. Everything else was just something to eat or drink. My taste buds kicked in at different times, then would not function at all, or partially, so every time I ate or drank, was a new experience. For some unknown reason, texture factored in whether I would be able to tolerate certain foods. Certain textures were doable, while others were not tolerated at all. As I said earlier, guacamole felt and tasted like mushy fish, even though I couldn’t actually taste anything. There must have been some chemical element in it that set off the negative reaction.
I also joined an online COVID group. I like this particular one because it is run by women who had the virus, it is monitored, and it is on Slack. You have to request to join, then set up an account, but topics are on different channels, so you don’t have to scroll to find something that concerns you, and you don’t have to put up with repeated questions and answers from the general public, like those on Facebook. They also have input from doctors, psychologists, and exercise instructors who help with recovery. You can find it at bodypolitic.slack.com.