by Daisy Luther
A lot of folks are out there saying that COVID is a myth, that viruses don’t exist (wth?), or that the whole pandemic has been a scam. While I strongly disagree with the lockdowns and restrictions on our ability to make a living, there truly is a pretty bad virus out there. And I know this from personal experience.
I had Covid and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. It was brutal and I had what would be considered a “moderate” case. This article isn’t meant to be used as medical advice or political fodder. This isn’t a treatise about a magical cure being kept secret by Big Pharma nor is it about the Deep State, some villain who cooked up a bioweapon, or any other theory du jour. My medical and treatment choices may be different than yours. I’m simply relating my experiences.
This virus hits people very differently. If you were fortunate enough to have a mild case, don’t disregard your next door neighbor who ends up with permanent organ damage. Some people are asymptomatic, some have minor symptoms, some are moderately ill, and some die. This is definitely not “just the flu” for many people. I never had a case of influenza that took me down like this, particularly not for this length of time.
I don’t think that there is a “typical” case of Covid because there are so many variables.
The only thing notable about the week before I began to have symptoms was an insatiable thirst. This hasn’t been mentioned in any of the literature that I’ve read but anecdotally, several other people I spoke with who had a case lasting a few weeks agreed that they’d never had a thirst quite like it.
I generally drink 4 liters of water per day. I was up to 6 liters a day (that’s a gallon and a half of water!) as well as electrolyte beverages and still I felt parched. I was waking up in the middle of the night and guzzling a water bottle. It was a little weird but I didn’t think too much of the sudden dehydration.
How it started
First of all, to answer the inevitable question, I have no idea how I got Covid. I work from home. I have been following the local rules and staying on my property aside from trips to the grocery store. I haven’t been to any gatherings, I wear a mask as required by regulations in the city where I’m staying, and I wash my hands at the appropriate times.
As far as risk factors go, I have mild asthma, the cough variant kind, where instead of wheezing I sound like I’m dying of bronchitis. I’m pretty fit and active and walk 3-5 hilly miles most days, rain or shine, so my lung capacity is good and I don’t get winded going up hills or stairs, generally speaking. I’m 51 and could probably stand to lose about 20 pounds but I have no health issues for which I require regular medication. I rarely eat processed food, get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and limit caffeine to one (okay two) cups of coffee per day.
Day 1: On Monday, the 7th, I started feeling kind of “off” for lack of a better word. I was tired – very, very tired – and I went to bed ridiculously early, at 7 o’clock because I just couldn’t keep my eyes open.
Day 2: When I woke up on Tuesday, I realized that I was sick and brushed it off as the flu or a cold. I figured a day with chicken soup, peppermint tea, and a nip of Jack Daniels for a stubborn cough would have me right as rain in no time. At that point, my symptoms were a dry cough, body aches, a very mild sore throat, and an all-encompassing fatigue. Later in the day, I got so cold that no amount of blankets and heat could warm me up. I was running a high (for me) fever that kept going up during the night.
What it was like to have Covid
Days 3-5: Over the next three days, chills and fever were almost constant. My joints and muscles hurt. Getting up to go to the bathroom felt like an expedition up a mountain. I was tired and winded. I had very little appetite and even less of an inclination to cook food so I existed mostly on peanut butter and crackers and leftover soup. I was absolutely exhausted and so cold that I shivered violently when I got out from under my bed piled high with blankets. I had super-weird dreams. My cough worsened, my head hurt, and my throat was still mildly sore.
I drank lots of water and electrolyte beverages. My thirst remained unquenchable regardless of how much I drank. I took vitamins (C, D3) and took Zinc supplements. These are my regular supplements but I doubled that.
Days 6-9: The line to get a test at the local clinic was long and filled with people who were coughing up a lung. There was no way I’d be able to stand in that line for an hour, as sick as I felt. Besides, I figured if I didn’t have Covid, I’d get it standing in the line so I opted not to be tested.
This part made me think of the worst case of the flu I ever had, except intensified by about four times. It was terrible.
I usually let a fever run its course but by Saturday I felt so awful that I gave in and began treating symptoms. My normal temp is in the 96s and my temperature throughout these days stayed between 101-103. I staggered ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and I also used a mild muscle relaxant and my Ventilyn inhaler. The meds didn’t get rid of my fever but reduced the chills to a tolerable level. I slept almost around the clock, waking up for a couple of hours here and there to check on website stuff. Fortunately, I have a wonderful team who kept things running for us. One day blurred into the next and I considered going to the doctor again, but couldn’t muster the energy. I felt like if I just got a little more sleep I’d be okay.
My cough was getting far worse and now my ribs and abdominal muscles hurt. It was a deep painful cough that caused me to clutch my chest every single time inhaled deeply.
Day 10: I woke up feeling slightly better. My fever had finally completely broken and I was no longer feeling chilled to the bone. My cough, however, was even worse than before and I recognized the wheezing sound that meant I was headed for a bout of pneumonia. I’ve got mild asthma and quite often upper respiratory issues end up with pneumonia for me so I know the signs. I upped the vitamin C and hoped for the best.
Day 11: I hadn’t been drinking coffee, just peppermint tea and I was really looking forward to a delicious cup of coffee now that I was feeling better. Unfortunately, the Keurig at the rental where I’m staying seemed to be putting out tinted water. I was bummed that the coffee was bad but I just refilled my water bottle and went on with my morning.
My cough was horrible. I decided that I’d put it off for as long as was safe and that I was going to need a steroid inhaler to heal my lungs. I planned to visit the doctor as soon as I finished my morning work on the website. I made myself some toast with peanut butter to eat before I left because there’s nothing worse than going to the doctor hungry and grouchy. I was texting with my friend while eating and thought, “This tastes awful. Why is my toast so bland and sweet? Ohhhhhhhhhh…….”
I had lost my sense of taste. I could pick up slightly sweet or slightly salty flavors but that’s it. Eating only sweet or salty styrofoam is probably the most effective diet ever.
My doctor’s appointments and treatment
I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with Covid and pneumonia, just as I had expected. My blood oxygen saturation level was 92. She prescribed an aggressive regimen and scheduled appointments for the next 4 days to give me injections and check my vitals. There are more details on the treatment below.
Plot Twist: Did I mention I’m in Mexico right now?
I went to the walk-in clinic recommended by local friends. Since it was midday, during the week, there was just one patient ahead of me. I basically had the waiting room all to myself. I typed out my saga in Google Translate and pasted the Spanish version into a document in case I got a doctor who didn’t speak English. I speak some Spanish but not nearly enough to convey all this stuff.
The doctor spoke a little bit of English, which, when combined with my small amount of Spanish and our respective Google Translate apps, got us through the question and answer segment of the appointment. She was extremely thorough in her exam, and I was very satisfied with the care I received. She was concerned that my pulse oximeter reading was low and instructed me on what to look for with my oxygen levels.
She confirmed that I did indeed have both Covid and pneumonia and wrote prescriptions for the treatment of both. I was tested with a serology test as opposed to the PCR test.
The protocol was:
- 5 days of Ceftriaxone (Brand Name: Rocephin) injections (antibiotic)
- 3 days of Dexamethasone injections (corticosteroids)
- 4-8 grams per day of Vitamin C
- Salmeterol inhaler
- Loratadine and ambroxol cough syrup (a combined antihistamine and expectorant)
I received my first injection of antibiotics and steroids there at the clinic.
Day 11 continued: On the night of Day 11, I started perspiring heavily after having begun treatment earlier in the day. Kind of gross but I’m all about the TMI: I was sweating so much it looked like I’d been caught in a rainstorm. At the same time, I was cold and shivering, so I had to stay bundled up. My temperature was up and down constantly. Sometime around 2 am I fell into an exhausted sleep.
Day 12: I woke up on Day 12 with a pounding headache and some intestinal upset. I was expecting this because corticosteroids always affect me this way. I took some ibuprofen and an Immodium to manage the side effects because they were well worthwhile. My deep, uncontrollable cough was far less frequent, and no longer as brutally painful. As I wrote before, I’m very prone to pneumonia because of my asthma, and I’ve probably had it more than 30 times in my life. I’ve never responded to treatment as quickly as this, ever. I think the difference is that I was receiving steroids and antibiotics by injection instead of orally.
My ability to taste was beginning to return – I’d say I was about halfway back to normal. My internal thermostat was still wonky – one minute I was hot and the next I was cold, but at this point, I’d had no fever for 36 hours. I still had the heavy brain fog that makes tasks go a lot more slowly and the possibility of multitasking was completely out of the question. I hated the hazy, slow mental feeling I had been fighting through.
I felt like I had much more energy but that was until I tried to do a few things. It didn’t take long before my legs were wobbling, my hands were shaking, and I was feeling tired but not as thoroughly exhausted as before. I took a little nap then got up to go to my doctor’s appointment feeling more clear-headed.
The appointment went extremely well. My blood oxygen saturation level was up to 99% which thoroughly shocked the doctor given my condition the day before. I was deemed no longer contagious and given my second injection of antibiotics and steroids. The doctor asked me if I exercised a lot and I told him that I walked a few miles most days in the hilly area where I lived. I was told that my quick rebound in lung capacity was likely related to my good cardiovascular fitness.
Day 13: I always have difficulty sleeping when taking steroid medications so I slept in a bit on day 13. I woke up with that lovely corticosteroid headache again and a bit less energy than the day before. Today’s doctor’s appointment also went well with another 99% reading. Today was the last steroid injection, thank goodness. I just had two more injections of antibiotics to go.
My neighbor was beginning to show some symptoms so I stopped and picked up the vitamins that were recommended for me to give to him.
When I got back from my appointment I took my dogs on their first walk in almost two weeks that wasn’t just a quick pop-out-to-pee excursion. I was maybe a bit overly ambitious even though the total walk was less than half a mile. We went to the dog park where they could run around and I could sit. Walking back to the condo is uphill and I got pretty winded.
I got back and took a puff off my inhaler and sat down to rest for a bit but it didn’t help. It turned into a bit of an asthma attack that lasted for about an hour. I could still feel the heaviness in my chest three hours later and there was a wheeze to my cough.
It appears that recovery from this is not linear and there’ll be some good days and bad days. While it’s something I’ve heard others report, it’s discouraging.
I was able to finally get some dishes and a load of laundry done, and I called it an early evening.
Day 14: My improvement had ground to a halt.
The wheeze never left and got a whole lot worse. When I got to the doctor’s office for my checkup the next morning, they made me stay because my oxygen level was at 89%. I was given a medication to control bronchial spasms and a stronger inhaler. After a couple of hours, my levels were back up and I was allowed to leave.
Nobody really thinks about the oxygen saturation in their blood until they don’t have enough of it. Day 14 was terrible. I was so tired that walking to the bathroom and back to the couch felt like a trip up Mt. Everest. My oxygen levels were up and down all day, at one point dropping as low as 83%. My cognition was fuzzy and I felt terribly depressed.
The depression or change in mental status isn’t something that I’ve seen a lot written about in the mainstream media. But think about how much oxygen your brain uses to function and then cut off some of the supply. Science Daily reports that coronavirus infections can cause delirium and Medscape suggests that depression and anxiety in Covid patients could be indicators of the virus attacking the patient’s central nervous system.
Some of the causes of mood swings during Covid could be biological and related to the illness itself, but there’s also another factor.
People treat you very differently when you have this illness. The media-propelled fear justifying the lockdowns are every bit as infectious as the virus. You’re like a pariah. A leper. People you know wouldn’t even consider coming near you. I have a kindly neighbor who has dropped off supplies at the door for me, but aside from that, people locally who have done work for me in the past are hesitant to pick up my groceries or handle small errands.
Even some people who are long-distance friends who I talk to online on a daily basis completely disappeared. Some of them were so adamant that Covid is a “scamdemic” they didn’t want to hear about my experience. I didn’t expect emotional fallout from having Covid, but it was present, particularly as it seemed to go on and on. Two weeks feels like a really long time to be sick.
I didn’t have the energy to make food so I just ate some fruit that was in the refrigerator, followed by saltines. I drank water, took my drugs, and went to bed early to sleep it off.
Day 15: My oxygen levels were finally stabilizing a little bit. Today was to have been my last visit to the doctor but they asked me to return one more day because of the new medications for my lungs. The constant feeling of shortness of breath was still present, but the bronchial spasms had subsided.
Johns Hopkins reports that Covid can seriously damage the lungs of survivors.
COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, can cause lung complications such as pneumonia and, in the most severe cases, acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS. Sepsis, another possible complication of COVID-19, can also cause lasting harm to the lungs and other organs. (source)
This damage can be reversed with diligent effort and in severe cases, respiratory therapy may be required.
After a serious case of COVID-19, a patient’s lungs can recover, but not overnight. “Recovery from lung damage takes time,” Galiatsatos says. “There’s the initial injury to the lungs, followed by scarring. Over time, the tissue heals, but it can take three months to a year or more for a person’s lung function to return to pre-COVID-19 levels.”
He notes that doctors and patients alike should be prepared for continuing treatment and therapy.
“Once the pandemic is over, there will be a group of patients with new health needs: the survivors. Doctors, respiratory therapists and other health care providers will need to help these patients recover their lung function as much as possible.” (source)
I began to take my dogs on short walks today. Normally we move briskly, we run around at the park, we hike down to the water, and we climb back up. I am definitely not able to do that at this point, not unless I want another repeat of the recent asthma attack. So we began today taking short, slow walks. The dogs are overjoyed to be out of the condo, and frankly, so am I.
We managed to walk 1.28 miles over a period of 3 walks today. It took forever because unless I want to be gasping for air, I had to move slowly, taking a moment to rest on the inclines.
It felt so strange and so unlike me to walk at this snail’s pace. I felt like I was walking with someone’s elderly grandmother, but it was me – I was the “elderly” person. But it seems the important thing is the movement.
Doctors don’t yet know how long it will take patients to regain their pre-Covid strength and endurance. In the case of acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS, which has been caused by other viruses and has similarities to Covid-19, full recovery can take over a year, but there are no such statistics for Covid yet.
However, the earlier patients start their rehabilitation, the faster they begin to bounce back, which may be another reason for doctors to take them off ventilators sooner, Ms. Al Chikhanie said. That may be possible, especially as scientists understand how to manage the acute infection phase better. (source)
Day 16: On Day 16 the line at the clinic was long again, and I opted not to wait for a recheck. I felt better able to catch my breath and less tired, although I still needed a nap in the middle of the day. Miles walked: 1.5. I walked slowly, trying not to get overly winded.
My cough was far less frequent and not as deep when I did cough. I still didn’t really have my appetite back. I could taste food but it didn’t really taste good or flavorful.
Day 17: I finally woke up feeling almost normal. I awoke at 6:30, my usual time, without an alarm clock. I took the dogs out, grabbed some coffee, and got a bit of work done before my appointment.
I got into the doctor earlier and was the first patient in. He looked at me and said, “You are feeling much better, I can see it.”
All my stats checked out normally and I was released from Covid and pneumonia care. I am not under any kind of quarantine because of how long it had been since my symptoms began and since I’d run a fever. I have no other follow-up visits scheduled unless I run into complications.
While I no longer have Covid, the doctor said that it will take a while before my lung capacity is where it was before I became sick. He warned that post-Covid can be dangerous because I would be susceptible to other upper respiratory infections during this healing stage and to keep up with the high dose Vitamin C, D, and Zinc. I was to continue walking but not push myself to the point of getting winded for a couple of weeks to give my lungs more time to heal. My sense of taste has not fully returned.
I still have to take a bronchodilator for another week, as well as an inhaler that compares to Symbicort in the US twice a day for the next 3 weeks.
My treatment in Mexico – complete with 7 doctor’s visits, prescription medications, and supplements – cost well under $300. Because I happened to be here when I got sick, I don’t have to come up with thousands of dollars or become buried in debt to pay for my healthcare. I was fortunate. Despite all the talk about how Covid medical care and testing are covered by the government in the United States, many people are still facing enormous bills because it’s just not working out that way. People are getting bills they shouldn’t be getting and not being told the charges are covered. Others are discovering that not everything they were told would be covered, is.
I think that as awful as this illness is, there are other concerns that are falling through the cracks while all attention is focused on this one ailment. As a nation, our economy is suffering, our mental health is suffering, and our physical health is deteriorating as we lock ourselves away from others at the behest of the government and as care for other conditions remains nearly impossible to access.
There are a million opinions on this virus, the treatment thereof, the medical system, government restrictions, and other Covid-related minutae. I sincerely believe we as individuals should have choices about the medical treatment we do or do not receive and how we choose to protect ourselves. We should have both the right and responsibility to make these decisions.
What about you?
Have you or a loved one had Covid? What was it like? Share your experience in the comments.