Surviving COVID: My One Year Journey
March 18, 2020 will forever stay in the memory portal where flashbacks, dreams and discussions will be pulled from. The top story was COVID-19. Little did I know that the top story was to become my own reality. It started as any cold would start on March 18 – my husband’s birthday. Symptoms were similar to that of the common cold. Runny nose, sneezing, head congestion...hmm? Sinus infection? Maybe. Thursday started with fever and chills and then the headache. This one was different. By Friday I was feeling sickly.
Things went downhill with a quickness. A well-controlled asthmatic, 48 hours later my cold just felt different. Friday, March 20, 2019 breathing changed and lungs were under attack. My exact words to Dr. Cilip was, “something has moved in and I really feel it in my left lung.” Telemedicine provided this discussion and check in, which led to the hubby making a trip to the pharmacy (one of many) to pick up the prescription medications.
The next several weeks became an exercise of survival. The rebound effect happened – you know the day or two that the virus convinces the body that it’s finally over. That was a lie. The fight for my life ensued. The decision to stay home and forgo the trip to the emergency room won. Prayers, another round of medications, some old-fashioned Vicks Vapo-Rub and a return to my childhood asthma attack breathing techniques took hold. Survival. This beast was not going to win. If it did, home was the place to be, with my husband, my rock.
The next couple of days passed. Alive, breathing but not better. Another chat with the doc. It was time to get tested. Doc decided that the symptoms were too much like those of COVID-19. Probably should have gone to the ER. The headache (completely convinced I was about to have a brain aneurism) the fever, the suffocation (so scared) and realizing that I could not smell or taste anything. My man was by my side.
The test will forever be known as the “Devil’s Test.” I can’t take credit for this namesake. A dear friend’s daughter coined this. Drive-thru testing. Drive up and the nurses come to the car. Okay this can’t be that bad, right? The nurse said “I have to swab both nostrils. I will know immediately when I hit the right spot.” Yeah, how will you know that. The answer was swift, jarring and left me feeling that I had been violated, not once but twice.
The nurse actually told my husband to hold my hands. What for? I’m a big girl. The nurse stuck the first swab into my first nostril. This was bad, very, very bad. The world went black. There was five to ten seconds that will remain a mystery. Fluid began flowing from my eyes, nose and mouth. Free hands would have knocked the nurse out. There was a brief pause and then the nurse did it again. Nostril number two was under assault and the same blackout, fluids flowing was underway.
The drive home from the testing site was spent staring, trying to understand what had occurred. Violated. No other word to describe the test other than violated. Those swabs touched a place that should never be touched. Touched unadulterated tender membranes that are so protected and safe. It was that sacred visceral space that interrupted my equilibrium, my homeostasis. Created a PTSD that lasted for quite some time. No way, not ever would I get that test again!
For the first time during this fight, my strength wavered. Tears replaced the fluids, so many unanswered questions. Fear. Results came back positive. The call came in from the Health Department. Fourteen-day quarantine for the immediate family. Daily temperature checks, daily call and then notified a personal check in. Now, a daily visit from the Health Department. Each interaction was a reminder that this virus had invaded personal space and life itself.
Our church, friends and family showed up and blessed us with water, soup, flowers, treats, calls, check-ins and just love. Both times, we were blessed and heard the concerns, felt the prayers. Thank you to all of you who were there.
Recovery started to become a possibility. Reaching for it, embracing it like those wishing to win the lottery became the new reality. So slow, fatigued, at times existing in the foggy bottom that is now known as COVID brain fog. Reading became a chore, listening and focusing was not happening and realizing there were moments during this illness that were in a place that could no longer be retrieved.
Another Telemedicine visit. “It will improve. It will take time. There is so much we don’t know so go slow.” These were the new words to live by. Three months had passed and it was time to get back into the flow. Those days were difficult. The exhaustion from a walk, a slow jog, even lifting light weights would result in a trip to the shower and directly to the bed. Something isn’t right. Right?
Late summer: COVID hit home. My ride or die, and youngest son became ill. Each had very different symptoms, my spouse after three tests (all positive) spent a little time in the hospital, our son recovered without any medical intervention. Like so many, 14-day quarantine was required. For me, another test. Worked through the shudders that still occur from the first test and realized that this test was different, only one nostril. The swab was inserted half-way for ten seconds. Okay. Not bad. Not at all like the first one. Another fourteen day quarantine but we were all healthy.
The summer came and went. Normal wasn’t quite normal. It was time to speak up and get some answers. A few tests later, blood work (no blood clots), Ecocardiogram (ECG), CT-Scan of lungs showed some scar tissue. Is this residual from years as an asthmatic or COVID related? Time will tell. One year later and finally feeling healthy and stronger. It took time.
The daily numbers of infections and death rate is mind numbing. To the survivors, congratulations and prayers for recovery. To those lives lost, and the families left behind: deepest and sincerest condolences. The individual experiences of COVID survivorship varies from asymptomatic to those who are still suffering the after effects. COVID PTSD? For many, it is real. Masks, no problem, crowds of people not ready for that. New strains. The vaccines represent hope. The fear is still real.