Quarantine Chronicles: a COVID-19 patient


This account of life with coronavirus was sent to us by a 55 year old, very healthy female with no preexisting conditions.



YOU SAID you didn't know anyone else but me who had COVID-19. Maybe if I share what it's like, you will be extra, extra careful! The thought of anyone else I know getting this is really scary.


This is what it is like. I am now about two and a half weeks in. Today I actually felt like getting up in the morning, but by the time I made tea I was very winded and exhausted again and coughing more through my burning lungs. Still, I think I am on the second upswing and hoping that there is only one hard plummet to endure during the course of this virus. I am now past that plummet (happened to me on day 10) after seeing an upswing (on day 7). That seems to be the typical trajectory of those who have contracted it, and of course those that are admitted to the hospital are those who can not climb up from that plummet and are in the most serious condition.

Overall, the very long pathway (or it feels that way anyway) and crazy parading of symptoms are like nothing else, even if they are mostly relatively mild—as in, you are not in the hospital, but instead are at home suffering through the worst illness you've ever had.

I now know why they call it a beast. It prowls and catches you with a new worse symptom every few hours that disappears and comes back with something else as if it can't make up its mind. At first, a dry cough, low fever, then headaches; then as time goes on, in no order: nausea, full lungs and labored breathing, little sleep, then hard muscle and/or stomach cramps, then joint pain (always changing which muscle or joint), then the shakes, then it pretends to lift, then hits you harder, higher fever for an hour or so, and then cough may become less frequent for a couple of hours and then it increases, chills with no fever, racing heart, chest pressure with constriction and shallow breathing and if that gets worse you'd be in the hospital on oxygen.

Not me so far: scary shallow breathing and hard constriction lasted one evening and was better by the next morning. My feeling is that if a healthy person got the flu on top of this, you probably wouldn't make it.


I am lucky that I have a friend who is a doctor. She has been very kindly, and generously, checking in with me frequently, telling me what to look out for, and what to do to ease the symptoms. That is on top of speaking with my primary care physician. It really sucks though that you cannot easily go in for a chest X-ray or an oxygen level test, which both my doctors recommended, because if you do, you will endanger others and not receive treatment anyway. There is no treatment. Unless you are acute, you will not be admitted to a hospital for oxygen support, so you will be sent home to manage it alone, or with safely distanced help.

There is no question in my mind that the 400% increase in home death calls in New York City are because people are at home with this—not knowing they have it, not having gotten a test, or having gotten a false negative test which are running over 30%—and they suddenly plummet and can't breathe.

These home deaths, by the way, are not being counted as COVID-19 deaths. People are not tested after death.

The only over the counter meds that helped me loosen airways and cope are Mucinex D extra strength. It has two specific ingredients together like in no other cold/flu meds that I could find: guaifenesin and pseudoephedrine. You have to ask the pharmacist for it because it has a meth ingredient, who knew?

Also, lots of water, green tea, steam however you can get it, Tylenol, not Advil, forcing myself to get fresh air and walk and stand in the sun for half an hour twice daily, and doing repeated deep breathing exercises. Maybe stuff for cramps, stomach issues would be helpful but I haven't tried that yet.


My doctor sent in a prescription for an inhaler which I need, but insurance wouldn't cover it and it costs over $400. My medical deductible is $7,000. Such is life in the US private health care market.

Most importantly, this is easy to catch. I was super-socially-distanced early, stayed away from work completely for two weeks prior, prepped with gloves, masks (not the medical kind though), disinfectants like crazy, careful with home-delivered products, even distanced from family members. I still got it. Possible culprit: grocery stores or someone coughed at a gas station near my pump that I used a glove with.

Take care of yourselves, eat your vegetables, and be a bandit and wear a face mask!
cs

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