This is not a medical journal. I am not going to share the latest data or public health information. This is an account of my journey living with all the symptoms of Coronavirus or COVID-19 and how I managed. I will update this blog as soon as I get my test results to clarify if I’ve only been living with the symptoms or the confirmed infection.
Allow me to start with a little bit of backstory. I used to be a registered nurse but now I am a writer. I once worked in a cardiac hospital during the SARS outbreak but now I work in the communications department for a charity. I am a mother of four, but my two young-adult children live across the country. I am a generally healthy and fit individual, but I do have a history of asthma during to allergy season.
- Friday, March 20: sore throat
- Saturday, March 21: sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue. Temp 37.6
- Sunday, March 22: sore throat, tight chest, achy, extreme fatigued, Temp 38.4
- Monday, March 23: achy, very fatigued, asthma cough, Temp 37.6
- Tuesday, March 24: fatigue, asthma cough and tight chest, light-headed, Temp 38.1 to 37.6
- Wednesday, March 25: fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.6 to 38.4
- Thursday, March 26: fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.4
- Friday, March 27: Drive through test day! Fatigue, asthma and shortness of breath, Temp 37.9
First, I don’t know where I picked up the bug. Two of my co-workers had been out of the country, but I could have just as easily picked it up in the community as there is now documented community spread. Our office closed on Monday, March 16 and I have worked from home ever since. Besides my trip to the grocery store Wednesday the 18th and running to the kids’ school to pick up their textbooks on the morning of March 20th, I haven’t been in public.
I noticed the sore throat on Friday afternoon while walking our dog. It got increasingly painful over the course of the evening but not so bad as to compare it to strep throat. Just bad enough to be annoying.
Saturday’s weather was beautiful, and we had planned a nature walk as a family. Socially distant yet still out in the great wilderness with mountain views. I told my husband Rod to go ahead with the boys—without me. Anyone who knows me well knows I had to truly be sick to give up a day in the mountains. I felt like I had the beginning of the flu and spent the whole day in bed.
On Sunday I woke up with a fever of 38.4 C (101.1 F). My nursing background told me this was a viral temperature, not a bacterial one. My chest was tight, I had a slight cough. It felt like I had a flu mixed with an asthma flare up except it also felt like none of the flus or colds or allergies or anything I had experienced before. I called public health and they told me to self-isolate, not to cook for my children, not to share plates, cups, utensils or towels, cough in my sleeve, wash my hands, and that someone would call me back with an appointment to go get tested within 4 or 5 days. “Call back if your symptoms worsen or on Friday if you don’t hear from us. No one is to leave the house.” I forgot to ask for how long, but I assumed they’d get to that when I was scheduled for the test.
I continued to work from home. If I wasn’t moving around, the shortness of breath was tolerable enough to sit at my desk and write or do graphic design. I can see how people could easily go about their everyday routines out in public spreading the virus, pushing through the discomfort to avoid using sick days if they even get sick days paid. I didn’t know if this would get worse and I wanted to keep my sick days in case it did.
I am an introvert who has worked from home for fifteen years. Staying home was not an issue. No one really complained. The kids stayed in touch with their friends online, played video games, slept in as regular teens do. Rod and I managed to share our home office and stagger our conference calls. None of us realized that we were missing the real world until a package I had previously ordered was delivered. When the doorbell rang all 4 of us and the dog and cat all went to the front door. Something different to our day!
Since none of us could leave the house we had to depend on Instacart for our grocery order. What I hadn’t planned for was the three-day wait before they’d arrive. With a bare fridge, grocery delivery was certainly the highlight of our week.
Though being home wasn’t much of a bother, I was longing for the energy to tackle a few of the projects I saw others doing on my social media feed. But I had no reserves left, by the end of a workday all I could do was stare at HGTV.
Avoiding the hospital
Tuesday evening, my asthma-like symptoms got so bad I was starting to consider a trip to the hospital. I wished I had an Oxygen Saturation meter. That being said, the last thing I wanted was to end up in the hospital because I knew full well that I would be in isolation and I wouldn’t see Rod or the kids until I was fully recovered. I have been on the other side of the bed donned in mask, gloves, and gown. I know how little time nurses spend in an isolation room, how much they avoid going in and out. I did not want to be in the hospital. So, I took my inhalers (Thank God I had both prescriptions on hand) and did the breathing exercises I taught so many patients so long ago and prayed that sleep would make things better. That level of shortness of breath became my new normal.
However, we were scheduled for a different hospital visit. My calendar reminded me that my transgender son, Mitchell, was due for his hormone blockers shot. The public health nurse’s voice echoed in my ear, “No one is to leave the house.” I called the clinic to see if we could devise a plan to have the medication delivered to our home so I could give my son his quarterly intramuscular shot. A very good friend picked up the medication from the pharmacy and dropped it on our doorstep. This was the biggest inconvenience for our family. Not bad, right? Throughout this whole thing I have been eternally grateful I had once been a nurse.
Social media has been absolutely horrible. Suddenly everyone has their epidemiology degree and the rest of them are the 6-feet-apart police ready to shame you into eternity for not washing your hands for 20 seconds every 2 minutes. I am not saying the #StayHome advice isn’t the best advice. It is. It’s just incessant and loud and everywhere. Add to that the regular media. Needless to say, I didn’t want to share with anyone what I was feeling. I even took a long time to share with my older kids that I wasn’t well because I didn’t want them to worry. The news can make this sound like a death sentence. Besides, if I were to have shared this initially, I didn’t have the energy to answer the barrage of questions that would ensue. I also didn’t want to have to defend the fact that I have been socially and physically distant and not in fact a covidiot. I feared that I would be judged as if I don’t know how to wash my hands or cover a cough. I suddenly and sadly identified with lepers.
Why I am sharing this now
I am a memoirist. I am a writer. While I am not working the frontlines as the nurse I once was, the least I can do is share the record of my experience in case it helps someone else. My first lesson for you is that you can have Coronavirus and feel well enough to work and spread it to others. I trust why the experts are telling us to stay home. Stay home. You can also have Coronavirus and feel like you’ve run a marathon by climbing a flight of stairs. This virus is not just a walk in the park for some of us. You can live out the duration of the symptoms at home, not every case of COVID-19 will need to be hospitalized. I got the same non-existent treatment at home as I would have not gotten at the hospital. Lastly, be nice to people. You have no idea what struggles people are facing right now—physically, financially, emotionally. Loving kindness to everyone.