In my life, I have grown very accustomed to experiencing things differently than most people. Is it a blessing or a curse? Is it because I am a nurse practitioner, trained to pick up on subtle changes in order to formulate a diagnosis? Is it because I am so attuned to my own body that I can quickly detect the abnormal?
For whatever reason, my experiences in the last few weeks, have been interesting. I have been led to devouring new information regarding Covid-19, especially the current mutations known as the “UK” and “African” variants. How better to spend my time, while in quarantine, right?
First, and foremost, I am not intending to change anyone’s mind about this virus. We are all doing the best we can, moving through a world where information can change on a daily basis. What are we to believe? What are our sources of information? What are the local mandates requiring? We must all remain vigilant.
I am not a person who lives in fear. I have seen real fear, and I have seen what it can do to damage lives. That being said, I also respect the fears of others. My person would not want to make anyone else uncomfortable or fearful. I live alone. If I had not been able to get out of the house during this pandemic, and interact with at least a select group of friends that are my “adopted family”, then I would have succumbed to a very deep depression in the past year….a deep depression that is enhanced by trying to heal from PTSD. That, too, could have proven to be a “death sentence”.
I know from my medical training, that masks are, at best, minimally useful in containing a virus. I also know that masking is mandated, and that it makes some people feel more comfortable, so, yes, I have worn, and will continue to wear a mask. I find it very unhelpful to continually hear that we need to wear a mask, wash our hands, and not touch our face. If there is anyone on the face of the earth who has not heard this a million times, then they must be on some remote island somewhere. Let’s start to focus on other things. It is to that end, that I would like to share my “atypical” experience with Covid.
In all, I have been significantly exposed to the virus nine times. At each exposure, I immediately self-quarantined for the required ten days. I am fortunate to have type O+ blood, which medical studies have shown to be a population less likely to contract the virus, or upon contracting the virus, seem to have much milder symptoms. On my ninth exposure, I did contract the virus.
Do I know where I contracted the virus? Absolutely. I got it from someone who is in my “inner-inner circle” of friends that I have allowed to visit my home during the past year. At the time of exposure, he was completely symptom free, and had not known that he had previously been exposed.
This is something that I need to emphasize…….asymptomatic means nothing. If you have knowingly been exposed, you need to quarantine for ten full days. Just because you remain asymptomatic, does not mean that you are not shedding virus that could harm someone else.
My symptoms began on day ten, after exposure. It was only then that I learned that the person that I contracted the virus from, had started showing symptoms only two days before I did.
Just for the record, neither my friend, or myself have ever had an elevated temperature, or lost our sense of smell or taste. In fact, my own sense of smell was heightened.
My first symptom was the dreaded tiredness and muscle aches that everyone seems to experience. At first I just thought I was being uncharacteristically lazy. I did not want to do anything. I started sleeping a lot. I am normally a very active person, so this did not go unnoticed by me. The tiredness persists even now, but it is decreasing.
A few days later was the first sign that things were truly not good. Diarrhea. An ugly word. An even uglier experience. Not the kind of diarrhea that one has maybe had experience with…but instead the kind of diarrhea that is immediate, frightening, and one that you can only remove from your person by frequent showering. Enough said.
Next came headaches that are on the scale of “am I about to have a stroke”? The headaches persist, even now.
Then there was the mucous……oh, the mucous! Copious amounts. The kind of amounts that if you did not feel a sneeze coming on, you would have to change your shirt afterwards. Mucous led to coughing, but in my case this was light, and mostly happened only at night. I attribute my lack of constant coughing to forcing myself to drink at least a half gallon of water everyday, and to deep breathing and walking around the house at least every two hours.
Then there was the pain in the center of my chest. Was it my lungs, was it my esophagus, was I having a heart attack? It was persistent, and not pleasant. Like an elephant with a flaming foot, stepping on my chest.
Next, and most frightening….extreme nosebleeds! Spontaneous. No warning. Just suddenly blood everywhere. This was concerning to me, because I had already read reports about clotting issues causing early deaths of Covid patients. DIC remains a persistent and evil possibility. The nosebleeds continued for two days.
Next, an odd symptom. Swelling of the tissues surrounding my eyes and increased and painful inner-ocular pressure. It seemed that I had perfectly normal vision for the first few hours of every day, followed by swelling and blurred vision for the rest of the day. Try not being bored when you cannot read, get on your computer, or even watch TV. And so…..you sleep.
The palms of my hands turned bright red and itched relentlessly…….and sure enough, new literature shows this as a symptom.
Another odd symptom started rearing it’s head….the bones in the heels of my feet hurt when weight bearing. I am saying, hurt so much that it made walking difficult. This symptom, too, seems to be persistent.
Then came frequency, urgency, and burning with urination. No urinary tract infection, just all of the delightful symptoms of one. That was followed by urinary crystals that caused itching.
Now comes a truly odd one: I suddenly found myself showering multiple times a day because my whole body smelled of pungent ammonia! Yes, this is now a documented thing. I had wondered why I was craving only carbohydrates…..it is because my body was using all of my carbs to fight the virus, and it had finally used up my carbs and was now using protein to fight the infection, and the byproduct was ammonia. When you smell like ammonia, you are glad to be in isolation, believe me.
Next, thanks to another friend noticing her own symptoms, I noticed that I had increased hair loss. Now, I have low thyroid, so I am always losing more hair than most people, but it had increased during my illness.
So how am I doing? I am currently on day nine of quarantine. My symptoms broke two days ago. I knew my illness was over, when the swelling of my eyes suddenly vanished and I could see clearly again. Hallelujah! I have been getting stronger ever since. Yesterday, I was even able to get on my treadmill, which felt so good. (When you get excited because you can exercise, that should be a clue that you have been truly sick, right?)
Yes, I am one of the very lucky ones. I know that. I am very thankful for that. I am well on my way to recovery, and will be out of “Covid jail” after another day. I do, however realize that there will still be people scared to be around me, even though I have been very careful to follow all guidelines regarding quarantine. It will be frustrating, but I will respect them in their fear. We have so many unanswered questions regarding this virus, and at best, a lot of conflicting information. It is when we make ourselves the “expert” that we truly become dangerous.
What is the upside for having gone through this illness? Here are a few things that come to mind:
*My body forced me to slow down. This is foreign to my nature. I needed this time to sit and to think, to research and to heal. This slow time alone has allowed me to identify a lot things in my life that need to change.
*My experience helped me to clearly see real fear in others, and helped reinforce that I do not want to be the cause of their fears. I will continue to use caution and follow recommendations. I will take in new information, but will consider always the sources of that information.
*Research showed me that we do not know enough about this virus, and the myriad ways in which it can present. I found out that my “weird symptoms” are indeed starting to be documented in medical literature.
*Testing is not always reliable. rna testing can be positive for a lot of reasons: Hepatitis C, Ebola, SARS, regular influenza, polio, measles, chicken pox, shingles, mono, HIV, etc. Any virus that causes inflammation can cause a positive Covid test. On the other hand, there have been a lot of false negative tests, especially in the rapid tests, allowing asymptomatic carriers to infect others unknowingly. Be wary of statistics, for they may not reflect exactly what is going on.
*Gatherings after a known exposure when “you feel safe because you are not showing symptoms” is a very dangerous roulette game with the lives of others. Quarantine is always a best bet.
*I now should have “immunity”, or antibodies for at least three to six months…..but wait, new documentation is showing that you have a ten percent chance of recontracting the virus a second or a third time, especially when you consider how fast it is mutating.
*I grew to respect and depend on the delivery angels from Whole Foods, Target, and Walmart. Anything I needed was often available at my front door within two hours.
*I am always and forever thankful for the truly real friends that I have who kept me laughing and feeling loved.
I know that I am one lucky lady….but I also know that I take pretty good care of myself. I try to use common sense. I get exercise. I strengthen my immune system by remaining active when not in strict quarantine. I stay hydrated. I try to eat healthy-some days that is easier than others. I wear a mask even though I do not think they are effective. I try to stay current with regard to information in medical journals regarding this virus.
Stay healthy out there. This virus is not for sissies.