Monday Musings: My COVID Experience
Tomorrow, Tuesday June 15, is scheduled as the day that California officially releases most state-mandated restrictions put in place to combat COVID-19 over a year ago. Local municipalities will still make their own decisions regarding how they choose to lift restrictions, and private businesses can continue to keep certain ones such as mask mandates or limits to indoor capacities. In looking forward to this day, I thought back to my battle with COVID-19. Almost 11 months ago to the day, I tested positive for COVID. Here is my story:
Day 0 - Sunday July 12 - Exposure day. I arrived early for my normal shift, and went into the back room to wait out the next 30 minutes until my shift started. There was talk of a co-worker who had called off with a fever on Thursday, and had returned to work on this day. I was told later he had been coughing terribly in the back room without a mask on and left just moments before I arrived.
Day 2 - Tuesday, July 14: I first felt extremely fatigued attempting to go for my usual walk with my son. Given the situation, and out of precaution, I began to isolate myself in my house to help protect my family, just in case it really was the virus.
Day 3 - Wednesday, July 14th: I began to feel shortness of breath and an intense pressure in my head. It was the combination of these symptoms that led me to schedule a COVID test at the first available date, three days later. While waiting for my test, I wore a mask every waking hour because my wife’s grandmother lives with us and we have small children and I didn’t want anyone else in my family to be exposed any further. At this point I was pretty sure I would test positive. That night was the start of feverish chills and cold sweats, but no actual fever yet.
Day 4 - Thursday, July 15th: A lot of the same, though it brought with it a high fever that ran from the evening into the early morning hours.
Day 5 - Friday, July 16: My fever broke in the early morning hours and it was test day at one of the mass testing sites, Hansen Dam Recreation Center at 8:30 am. The entire process was extremely well organized, from the entrance, to the winding set-up that allowed them to process the large number of vehicles entering, and also the actual testing process itself. The test at this location was an oral swab, and we were provided with a link to a video showing the best way to conduct the swab for accurate results. I am grateful for all the staff who made a choice to put themself at risk that day to help in whatever way they could. Once my test was complete, I returned home and continued to isolate. The fever returned that night, along with the cold sweats to join the fatigue, shortness of breath and intense pressure in my head.
Day 6 - Saturday, July 17: I spent Saturday in bed, the first day that I could not get up. I slept when I could but it was hard to sleep with all the symptoms, especially the pressure in my chest.
Day 7 - Sunday July 18: I received my positive result, and was not too alarmed and figured I was just another ten days or two weeks of isolation away from recovery. I thought I could tough it out and heal at home.
Day 8 & 9 - Monday, July 20 & Tuesday July 21: My fever broke Monday morning but I developed a cough that was worse than any other I have had in my life, and I was diagnosed with bronchitis as a child. I still had the cold sweats, fatigue and pressure in my head.. All of these symptoms continued on Tuesday, though cough medicine seemed to be helping somewhat.
Day 10 - Wednesday, July 22: I woke up and could not breathe. My shortness of breath had worsened, and cough medicine was not helping at all. There were moments I thought I was coughing up phlegm, but I only spit up water. I stubbornly tried to find over-the-counter ways to ease my symptoms, and it was some time after 5:00 pm that my wife finally told me to stop these attempts and to call my doctor.
I called the after hours line and left a message. Typically you receive a call back closer to the 15 minute-mark, as advised by the automated message, but I got a call back in less than 5 minutes. The on-call doctor immediately told me he did not finish my message because he did not need to. “I could hear your labored breathing very clearly,” he said, “you need to go to the hospital.” In total the conversation lasted less than 90 seconds, and during that time he told me to go to the hospital 5 times.
I had a family member drive me to Verdugo Hills Hospital, and I entered the Emergency Room to be evaluated. I was given a few of the normal entrance exams, and then I was taken for a chest x-ray. After walking to the x-ray room and back to my designated seat, I could not breathe. A check of my oxygen level showed I had dropped to 70%, and I was provided with oxygen. A few minutes later, I was presented with a video board and spoke with the head nurse remotely. She said I was going to be admitted and that they were going to do their best to get me back to normal. I was moved to a temporary room in the emergency area while a room was being prepared for me in the COVID ward. It was here I was told I had developed pneumonia, and I was going to be treated for both pneumonia and COVID. It was a scary next few days, as I did not know what was going to come next. Were my symptoms going to increase in severity to the point I needed a respirator? If that happens, what comes next? Can I survive that?
Thankfully, I had an attentive staff caring for me, that was also very reassuring. They spoke with me about my treatments and what options I had available to me; I never felt like I was in the dark about what was happening.
Day 14 - Sunday, July 26: I was feeling well enough that I tried to see how long I could go without the oxygen in my nose thinking I knew better than the staff; big mistake. My oxygen level dropped to the high 70s within moments, and the nursing staff came rushing in to make sure I was still alright. This result, however, was great to me; my body was healing. I had gone from an oxygen level in the high 60s the morning after I was admitted, all the way up to the high 70s in three days.
Day 15 & 16 - Monday, July 27 and Tuesday July 28: I was determined to see how much I had progressed. I removed my oxygen before going to sleep, and I made it through the night without incident. I actually told one of the night nurses that I had fallen asleep without my oxygen, and she was amazed that they had not received an alert about my oxygen level; it had stayed in the low 90s. Tuesday morning, I spoke with the attending physician, and she stated that she would like to keep me under observation for another 24 hours without oxygen because I had recovered so fast over the last 48 hours, and I agreed to stay.
Day 17 - Wednesday July 29: I was released from the hospital, because I was well enough to go home, but I was not truly symptom-free. I was still extremely fatigued, especially when walking more than a few feet at a time.
The Following Weeks and Months: I was not symptom free for another 2 months until late September. My breathing, though normalizing, was still labored for a few weeks after being released from the hospital, and the fatigue lasted for almost another 6 weeks.
My wife was a complete rock-star for the entire 10 weeks I battled to overcome COVID. An outsider would have no idea how hard it was to keep herself together as she implemented our emergency plan that we had hoped we would never need to use for COVID. She was sanitizing every surface during the week before I was hospitalized. Heck, she would spray herself down after leaving our isolation room. She did everything she could to keep COVID isolated to only me, because if grandma contracted it… I don’t even want to think of what could have happened.
Unfortunately, to date over 24,000* people in Los Angeles Countyhave not been so lucky and did not survive, while well over 1.2 million* people in the county have tested positive for COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. It was difficult for all involved, because families suffered as much as those who were sick. Children were away from their parents, and the littlest ones could not understand why or what was happening. Isolated away from loved ones, and for those who lost their lives to COVID, they never got to say goodbye.
It was an ordeal I will never forget, but even though I was isolated, I was not alone.Ultimately, as we stand at the precipice of reopening, we cannot forget that we are still among the lucky ones. India is still being ravaged, and is seeing a death rate that is larger than any other nation in the world. Doctors in Japan are begging the International Olympic Committee to cancel the Olympics because, though their infection rate is extremely low (another story for another time), their vaccination rate stands at less than 5%. These are just two examples from around the world. I will not stand on a pulpit and preach my beliefs, but I will leave you with this: Make educated decisions about how you choose to move forward in the coming days and weeks, and stay safe.
Do you have a COVID-19 story you’d like to share about yourself or a loved one? Contact us here.
*Case counts pulled June 13, 2021 from the Los Angeles County Department of Health