I spent a good portion of 2020 like most people I know: staying at home, watching the news every day, keeping track of the rising COVID-19 case numbers, and thanking my lucky stars that I was not part of the statistics. Until one day, I was. This is my story.
In mid-November of last year, my wife started showing symptoms of COVID-19. She had a fever and aches and decided to get tested. When her test came back positive, we started contact tracing and quickly determined that she most likely got COVID-19 from her workplace. It was pretty easy for us to determine this since I was working remotely and we don’t go out, dine out, or see anyone outside our immediate family. We also wear our masks religiously. Additionally, members of my family are frontline workers and were constantly reminding us how important it was to stay isolated and protect ourselves.
After my wife was diagnosed, she quarantined in our house in a separate room. A few days later though, I started showing symptoms and immediately got tested. My positive result came back the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and by that point my symptoms were in full force: 24/7 nausea, blinding headaches, body aches, loss of taste and smell, a high fever, and zero appetite. However, the worst symptom for me was the breathing. I had purchased a pulse oximeter earlier in the summer and was constantly checking my oxygen levels. At first my oxygen was in the 90s, but the Sunday after Thanksgiving I was having a hard time breathing, and when I checked, my oxygen levels had dipped into the 80s. At that point, I knew I needed help.
The Turning Point
The last thing I wanted to do was go to the hospital. Like most people, I was glued to the news and saw how overwhelmed and crowded our hospitals were. But I also knew I needed help. I was over 50 with predisposed health conditions, so I was a higher risk than most of the population. I was in close contact with my doctor, who agreed that I should get to the hospital. My wife drove me to the emergency room on December 1.
My Hospital Experience
When I arrived at the hospital, it was standing room only, and I had to wait around 3 ½ hours to be seen. Once I was seen, they admitted me to one of at least three dedicated COVID-19 wings.
At the hospital, you are by yourself. No one can come inside with you and no one can visit you. Although you can text and call loved ones, you’re isolated and scared. The nurses and doctors are so overwhelmed, they often can’t spend much time with you (short of constantly checking your vitals). In fact, a nurse made a point to tell me, “Please don’t take it personally, but I don’t have the time in the day to spend with my patients like I normally would.”
The work that the doctors and nurses are doing is unbelievable. They work constantly, moving from patient to patient to patient with barely any time in between. In addition to the overwhelming number of COVID-19 patients, they also had the normal patient load of car accidents, heart attacks, and more. I saw firsthand how incredible health care workers are, and was in awe of their tireless and nonstop dedication to their patients.
The first thing the nurse did when I arrived at the hospital is take my temperature and vitals and put me on nasal oxygen. Once I was admitted to my room, they put me on a cocktail of Remdesivir and steroids to help my lungs open up. They told me up front that I would be there for five days minimum for the full Remdesivir treatment to get my breathing back to normal. The steroid treatment was for ten days.
A couple of days in, my breathing got worse, but finally, it turned a corner and improved. I was able to go off the supplemental oxygen and thankfully was discharged after five days in the hospital.
The Road to Recovery
Once I was released from the hospital, my symptoms started improving bit by bit. My breathing had returned to normal and I no longer had a fever. I still had very little sense of taste or smell though, and my energy levels were extremely low. For weeks after my release from the hospital both my wife and I felt 90 years old. We had virtually no energy and were depleted just walking up and down the stairs at our house.
Now we are a few months out and I am starting to feel more like myself. I’ve lost 15 pounds, but my sense of smell and taste are back. I am trying to get back to where I was physically by exercising as much as I can, but I’m definitely not where I was pre-COVID-19.
My Mental State
This entire experience definitely challenged me emotionally and mentally. It was very isolating. During the pandemic, you have no exposure to anyone outside of your immediate family. To make matters worse, when you have COVID-19, no one can come help you, not even your family. As my symptoms started getting worse, I was starting to get worried, but I didn’t want to worry anyone else, especially since my wife was going through the same ordeal.
At 55 years old, I was definitely at a higher risk for severe COVID-19. I was alone on Thanksgiving and couldn’t sleep due to the fever and nausea and breathing issues, and I was watching the news 24/7. All I could focus on was the rising number of people who were impacted, and that my wife and I were part of the statistics. My mental state was really challenged and probably the lowest it’s ever been. I can honestly say it was one of the worst stretches of my life.
Advice to Other COVID-19 Patients
If you’re diagnosed with COVID-19, the biggest piece of advice I have is to stay in contact with your primary care physician (PCP). Your PCP can help guide you through the journey and tell you what to look out for, as well as reassure you that you’re doing the right thing. Now, there are more treatments available for people with mild symptoms to manage at home. A few other bits of advice:
- Although you may be physically isolated from people, it’s important to lean on your family for help. Family and friends can drop medicine and supplies and help you emotionally and mentally.
- Make sure you quarantine from others if you have it. You do not want to give it to anyone else.
- Don’t compare yourself to others. I had three friends around the same age as me who also had COVID-19 and their symptoms were completely different than mine.
- Drink fluids constantly.
- Buy a pulse oximeter so you check your oxygen levels. Knowing that my oxygen levels dipped into dangerous territory was critical in my decision to go to the hospital.
After my experience with COVID-19, I would definitely encourage you to get the vaccine when it’s your turn. For information about COVID-19 care and services, visit ibx.com/covid19.