My 25 days with an uninvited intruder – COVID-19
From January 1 to today, six million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States. On July 20, the most unimaginable thing happened in my life. I learned that I had become one of those cases. Now, as a COVID-19 survivor, I’m sharing my story to let you know that COVID-19 is a beast, the symptoms are real and the road to recovery can be tough. Anyone can be infected, no matter who they are, and each person’s symptoms vary widely from mild to severe.
United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
My 25 days with an unwanted intruder – COVID-19
From January 1 to today, six million cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the United States. On July 20, the most unimaginable thing happened in my life. I learned that I had become one of those cases.
Now, as a COVID-19 survivor, I’m sharing my story to let you know that COVID-19 is a beast, the symptoms are real and the road to recovery can be tough. It is mentally draining and exhausting and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It is a very individualized disease. Anyone can be infected, no matter who they are, and each person’s symptoms vary widely from mild to severe.
On July 19, I felt an unexplained malaise. On July 20, I developed a fever. I was able to get tested the next day. As I waited for the results, I dipped in and out of denial. I kept thinking of all the reasons I couldn’t be infected, such as, “Yes, I have a fever, but I am not coughing or having any breathing problems or trouble tasting or smelling.”
Two days later, a nurse’s call knocked me out of denial. She simply said, “I am sorry, but you have tested positive for COVID-19.” All I could reply was “Ok, thank you.” There was an awkward moment of silence before she said, “We are assigning you to the COVID Virtual Outpatient Management Clinic and we will be monitoring you daily via telephone.”
Learning that I had COVID-19 was one of the most traumatic events of my life.
Why did this happen to me? That’s always the first question we ask, isn’t it? I am a seasoned public health professional and practitioner. I write about COVID-19 for the United Church of Christ. I wash my hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask everywhere – to the chagrin of my grandchildren, who, until I tested positive, believed it was not cool or necessary. I’ve told others that “the virus doesn’t discriminate. Anyone can be unknowingly infected.” But somehow I didn’t think that applied to me.
During the next 25 days, I quarantined from family and friends in my home. I was given medicines to reduce inflammation, an inhaler, and antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection in my lungs. I was provided an oximeter to check oxygen daily. I regularly checked my temperature and blood pressure. My healthcare providers told me it would help my lungs to get out of bed and move around a bit. I also was given lung exercises to do.
The first five days, I experienced only occasional headaches, intermittent fever, and a slight cough. As I entered my second week, the symptoms worsened. I had unrelenting fever. My coughing increased. I felt like there was a foreign body in my chest as my breathing became more labored and talking more difficult. I also experienced mild joint pains, muscle aches, gastrointestinal disturbances, mild pneumonia, low oxygen, night sweats and deep sleeps with sometimes vivid dreams.
A member of my COVID-19 management team told me that the second week was a critical period and one of heightened concern as the virus can take a more dangerous toll on one’s body. It was during this time that my fear, anxiety and depression ballooned. I tried to concentrate on the positive things in my life despite COVID-19. I knew I wanted to live and be healed. But I found myself doubting everything in my life. I was quarantined and alone. I wondered if I got worse how I would I get to the hospital 40 minutes away and would I get there in time.
I wondered why God had allowed this to happen to me. Was God punishing me? Then I would feel guilty about saying that and ask God’s forgiveness. I started reviewing my life and all the things I “shoulda, coulda and woulda” done or done differently. I wondered if I had been a good parent, grandmother and friend. I wondered if God thought I had been a good and faithful servant. What would people remember about me? I wondered if I would see my children, grandchildren and friends again. I wondered if I was going to die.
A friend reminded me that God’s got me like God always has.
By the end of the second week, I started to feel that I had turned a corner. No more fevers, coughing or trouble breathing.
During my third week, I was feeling so much better. Some days I would drive to the park and sit by the lake to refresh my soul and my spirit. The calm water and the gently blowing wind always calm me, renew me and give me strength. Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10) is the scripture I meditated on.
As of August 11, I was declared recovered. But I’m left with this irritating brain fog. I’m having a hard time remembering things and forming thoughts and words. I’ve since learned that these two things can be a side effect of the virus. According to a report in STAT News by Elizabeth Cooney, up to one-third of people who had COVID-19 report lingering neurological and psychological symptoms due to the disease, ranging from numb limbs to a mental slowness some people are calling “COVID fog” – a finding that “reflect[s] a growing consensus that the disease can have lasting impact on the brain.
I believe that one of the most important factors in my recovery was the valuable continuity of care that I received. While this practice is important to any patient, I believe it’s especially so during this time of COVID-19. While having access to care is also very important, research has shown that patients who receive continuity of care have better health outcomes, higher satisfaction rates, and the healthcare they receive is more cost-effective. But not everybody receives the care that I received.
As I recover, new concerns, fears and anxieties creep in as I am reminded of the new medical research that has surfaced regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19. While most people who have COVID-19 recover completely within a few weeks, some people – even those who had mild versions of the disease – continue to experience symptoms after their initial recovery. This may indicate that the virus can damage many other organs including the lungs, heart and brain, which may increase the risk of long-term health problems. (See UCC COVID-19 Brief COVID-19 recovery not as simple as once thought)
According to CDC quarantine guidelines online, people who have recovered from COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months unless that person is exhibiting the symptoms of COVID-19. But it does not mean that people are immune to reinfection. Furthermore, there are still asymptomatic individuals who do not know they have the virus and pre-symptomatic individuals who have not shown any symptoms yet. It is important that we continue to test and provide resources.
I have signed up with the Red Cross to evaluate whether the plasma in my blood might contain COVID-19 antibodies that can attack the virus and be used as a treatment for currently ill COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 shouldn’t be about politics but about love, support, good healthcare and empathy. I wish to thank my family and friends who prayed for me and supported me throughout my illness. Most of all I thank God, for without God’s grace, mercy and love, I would not have recovered.