There Is No Spoon
- Feb 7, 2020
Well, bloody hell.I posted scattered bits about this in other threads, but figured I'd collect it all in one. As usual, it's a long read, but if it helps anyone going through it or who might be thinking about the risks as they're trying to restart life, I guess it's worth it.
First, as many know, I'm originally from New York, but have lived in Philadelphia for the last 3 years. That's really only relevant to say that I was affected by the virus long before I actually got it. As of this writing, 18 people I know have tested positive and 3 have died. Many were "essential workers," and all but one were in New York City. Also, at least 11 other people I know have had family members get sick with 7 of those people now dead, all but 2 in NYC.
Bearing this in mind, I was hyper vigilant about not catching this thing. I went into lockdown on March 13 and didn't see anyone. I would go outside to smoke cigarettes, but I always wore gloves to open and close the front door of my building and stayed away from anyone walking by. I would also immediately wash my hands for 20 seconds when I went back upstairs following a strict protocol of remove gloves, take off shoes, wash hands then take off coat, hang up keys etc. I'm also a researcher, so I spent a good amount of time reading journals rather than media reports, which is how I learned about the dangers of surface contamination and other transmission pathways. I tried to stay home almost exclusively, but I went to the local Rite Aid (a retail pharmacy) to get supplies 3 times during the 6 week period before I got sick. The 3rd time I wore a mask after my city instructed everyone to do so.
Besides this, I had 5 food deliveries via GrubHub. In most cases the delivery people were masked or gloved, but a couple weren't. I also had 2 small item grocery deliveries and one my mom sent from Omaha steaks. No gloves or mask on those delivery persons and I didn't see the person who brought the Omaha order though there was someone outside leaning over and inspecting the package when I got there to try to figure out who to notify. Based on the timeline, I can only infer that one of these deliveries was the source of contamination. I should note my one vulnerability was that I had been slow to buy cleaning supplies so when this thing hit, I didn't have any Lysol or disinfecting wipes or even hand sanitizer. By my first trip to Rite Aid, all that stuff was gone and near impossible to find online as well. So I hadn't been wiping down any packages or food I'd been receiving.
I started showing light symptoms on the evening of the 23rd of April. I had a stuffy nose and sore throat inexplicably. By the 24th this had gotten worse so I took an antihistamine thinking it could be allergies, which I'd had occasionally, but it didn't work and this congestion was worse than any I'd had due to allergies. That night I ran a low grade fever of about 100 and was starting to get nervous because even if it was just a cold, where could I have gotten it? Over the next couple days, I started having serious fatigue, lost appetite, gastrointestinal problems, (not really new for me) and headaches, but these symptoms were mostly intermittent. This lasted until about the 29th when my stuffiness cleared up and I lost my sense of taste and smell, which freaked me the F out. I tested with garlic and mustard and other things and there was just nothing.
I had called my doctor earlier that day to talk through my symptoms. They said "it sounds like you have it" and they put me on a watch list to follow up with every couple days to see how I was doing. I emailed them when I lost taste and smell and they said that I should continue isolating, but I couldn't be tested because I didn't meet the criteria. Too young, not a healthcare worker, no comorbidities, and no verifiable exposure to someone with the virus. Also there was no treatment, so I just had to tough it out and guess I had it and stay away from others. Something else worth noting: of those 18 people who I said tested positive, about 15 of them lived with partners or family and in all cases, their family members also got sick, but none of them were tested. They were just told to stay home and come into the hospital only if they couldn't breathe. This shows you how testing numbers are mostly BS.
On about May 1st, my breathing started to get bad. I had quit smoking weed and cigarettes cold turkey after the 24th (which was emotionally brutal) in fear that I might get breathing trouble, but for the most part up until then I hadn't. Many of my friends who got sick had experienced bad cough, but I hadn't as yet though I had had at least one serious evening of dry coughing that was relieved with medicine. After the 1st though, I started to feel something weird in the back of my throat, not soreness exactly, but almost like a catch. I would find myself routinely getting short of breath as if I'd just been sprinting. Like most of the symptoms, it came and went, which often made me think I was recovering, but then night would come and I'd be gasping for air again. Also on the 1st, after a conversation with their mom, I video called my kids and told them I likely had the virus just on the off chance something bad happened. It was a tough call, but given the breathing problems, I didn't want to just suddenly disappear without explanation. I also was playing Fortnite with my son less and didn't want to make him think I was ducking him.
On May 3rd, after a day of headaches, but not much else, I really thought I was on the mend. But then at around 8 p.m. my breathing started to get really shallow. I couldn't quite catch my breath at all and was incredibly woozy. I tried and failed to get up from bed a number of times before finally forcing myself up and taking some deep, but labored breaths. I thought I could just push through it, but was so delirious and my breathing so unsteady that I finally just stopped trying to be a tough guy and called 911.
The trip to the hospital was weird because the paramedics arrived in their spacesuits looking obviously terrified and yelling at me to speak up even though I was wearing two masks (they gave me one to put over the one I had) and couldn't breathe well.
At the hospital, I got a chest x-ray and thankfully didn't have pneumonia. My breathing had returned to normal shortly after getting there leaving me feeling mostly stupid, but no regrets because I'm a dad and was not going to take the risk of leaving my kids without me.
They gave me the test while I was there, jamming the swab into both nostrils. Despite what you've seen in videos, it's really not so terrible. It's not pleasant by any stretch, but it's very quick and just leaves you with irritation for about a day. They told me they'd give me my results in about a day or so.
Later that night (about 2:30 am) I got an email with the results and I was positive, unsurprisingly. The hospital called the next day to enroll me in their text based surveillance program which basically consisted of twice daily texts asking if I felt better, the same, or worse. They also asked me about places I'd been or if I'd been in contact with anyone. I was instructed to move around as much as possible and take a lot of deep breaths, advice @Splinty also gave me, which I was thankful for. It felt like I had shards of glass in my throat and lungs whenever I took those breaths, but they definitely helped me feel less out of it when I started feeling woozy.
As of now, several weeks later, I'm happy to report I'm doing much better. My breathing is back to normal and really better than ever since I also have smoking completely behind me thankfully. I will say that my smell and taste, both of which were very strong before this, still are not all the way back. I'd say they're about 75% of what they once were as of now. I also have had this congestion I just can't seem to shake for the past week or so. It's almost like my ear-nose-throat system is rebooting or something, but doing so with errors. Last week, I'd wake up and my ears would feel very full, limiting my hearing, but now that's improved though there's definitely still some fluid there. I took a pseudoephedrine decongestant at the doctor's advice, which helped a bit, but not as aggressively as I'd hoped. I also have had some stomach issues lately, but not sure if that's related because I've never had the best stomach. I've lost 14 lbs total since this whole thing began, though about 6 of those were just from under-eating before I even got sick so I could stretch my food supply and avoid going shopping.
Today I feel better than I've felt in a long time and even the congestion seems just about gone. I'm nearly a month from when this all started and feel pretty close to myself again and definitely have a renewed sense of purpose. Even though I had some bad times, I'd still say my case was a fairly mild one, especially compared to others involving friends or of course those who didn't make it. This illness sucks and it's definitely nothing like the flu, which I've had a couple times in my life. If you can avoid getting it, I highly recommend it, because even when it's not lethal, it's debilitating and can have strange lingering consequences, to say nothing of how contagious it is and having to feel like a walking weapon of mass destruction when you have it.
I'm really looking forward to seeing my kids again and am also glad to report that in the last week I was able to turn in all the work to complete my graduate coursework so I'm officially an exam and a dissertation away from my PhD, so lots to look forward to. If there was one gift COVID-19 gave me, it was the knowledge that I really do want to live, which sounds trite and fairly basic, but there have definitely been times in my life where I've doubted it and behaved in a sort of cavalier way about it. I wish everyone health and safety and vigilance against those who would downplay the importance of either.
I thought surely there was a chance someone on here would wind up getting it.
Damn delivery people. I had one delivery done and never could see if they were gloved or masked or not as they left it at the door.
I just ran out of wipes, so no more deliveries for me.
Now we all know someone who's had it. Yikes.
I notice your story is similar to others who feel like they were getting better only to get worse.
Glad you're on the mend and made it through.