Survival Mode – My Covid Diary

I am not big on over sharing my own life, and this is a very big “pull back the curtain” moment for me, but I think it is very important that I share my symptoms and experience fighting Covid 19. I hope that my experience can be helpful to someone, somehow, which is the only reason that I am sharing this. None of this experience has been easy, and as of the time of its posting I am not out of the woods yet.

Michael

Wednesday the 30th of December 2020, I took a PCR Covid test that came back positive. After three quarters of a calendar year avoiding people, shrinking our social circles, cancelling trips, alienating friends and loved ones, and a brief stint of washing our groceries back in May, I finally got Covid. [See News and Updates, Weathering Storms] Months of doomscrolling social media, pouring over international studies, and dreading the virus finally came to a head on the last hours of 2020.

I don’t know how I got it, and frankly the how isn’t going to solve any of my present problems. It is just an irritating itch in the back of my brain that accompanies the dull headaches and ebbing and flowing pain in my chest. Walking back in time, however, I was not too close to anyone without a mask on. I wear a mask all day at my job, avoid crowded places, and wash my hands as if my life depends on it. My officemates don’t wear masks, but we all share a mutual understanding of my stance and what is at stake. All I can assume is that I picked it up from a surface, and following touching that mail, doorknob, etc. I failed to wash my hands. Ancient history now.

I’ve seen a handful of these diaries elsewhere, and while I have been careful on what I read for my own sanity, I thought it might be helpful to others that I share my experiences, raw as I have lived them. As I write this on day 5, I do know enough to say I am fortunate and while I am uncomfortable, this appears to be a more mild case. Still, I don’t wish this on anyone, and despite my getting it after all the time I was careful, I strongly believe in the success of proper mask wearing and proper social distancing.

December 29th, 2020

Quick Vitals

  • No Fever
  • Restless sleep
  • Light to no cough, dry
  • Sinus pressure and congestion
  • Abdominal pressure, bloating, and eventually sick

My day started normally, but with minimal sinus discomfort. I felt congested but that didn’t feel unusual to me as the weather had become cold again and I was two days into falling asleep with no water in the humidity reservoir in my CPAP. By midday, however, I found myself making numerous bathroom trips at work and I began to feel a little nauseas.

That night I went to bed without any inclination of being sick, chalking up my GI issues as a reaction to something I had eaten.

Day 0 – December 30th, 2020

Quick Vitals

  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Heart racing when I woke
  • No fever
  • Dry cough
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue, winded doing stairs
  • Headache

I slept restlessly, having dreams I could only describe as fever dreams for most of the night. When I finally woke, however, my heart was racing and I felt off. My congestion felt worse. I rose, dressed, and made it downstairs for breakfast feeling some body aching that I thought at the time was a product of how I had slept the night before.

As I ate breakfast I noticed the first symptom – I had no sense of taste or smell. Slightly alarmed, I reached out to a family member in the medical field and described what I was feeling. They stated I should pursue a covid test, but hoped with me that it was just something sinus related. I had no fever but to be safe I took a motrin for my head and a some cold medicine to try and take the edge off of the symptoms. My covid test was scheduled for that night.

Throughout the day, my symptoms became more present. I was winded doing stairs, my heart felt racy when I was still, and my aches did not dissipate. At 6:30 that night I made it to after hours and received a PCR test for Covid. 30 minutes later I was given a positive diagnosis. It didn’t feel real as I was told, and a mild sense of panic set in as I called my wife. Much of my drive home was letting family know, and the quiet moments between calls was filled with the fear of any of them getting sick. I had a momentary thought of my own mortality, but it passed as I again shifted my worry to those few in our careful circle that had seen me over the last 48 hours.

That night I slept on the couch in our basement until we could make a better plan. Again, it was restless and light, my headaches dominating the list of symptoms.

Day 1 – December 31st, 2020

Quick Vitals

  • No Fever
  • Headache, only dulled by rotation of Motrin and Tylenol
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Pulse oxygen at 98%
  • Trouble catching breath

I spent much of the day alone in out basement, numb and out of it. The headache I was having was rough, and motrin and tylenol did break some of it but it hung on like a bad hangover. I had an appetite, but food was joyless and bland. This was the day the brain fog felt the worst so far; I could not focus for long, I felt floaty and lost.

Midday my wife and son were tested; he came back positive while my wife was negative. He showed very mild symptoms; a headache before bed the previous night and a sore neck. The day of his testing, he was himself, if a little flushed in the cheeks. He napped and slept well that night. My wife and I took to sharing the common spaces as little as we could, and I took to spending time with our son in ways she couldn’t anymore. (Her and I both still wear masks in the same room on the day I write this. She has our bedroom and bathroom to herself where she can unmask and relax. I sleep on the bed in the gest room down the hall, only removing my mask to put on my CPAP and sleep. Our son wakes me when he gets up in the morning, and I put him to bed each night to keep her from spending too long in his bubble of air. )

The night of the 31st I began to experience shortness of breath. My pulseox sensor told me I was at 98% oxygen, however, it was getting harder to catch my breath. I dozed in the basement on and off, waking briefly to see the ball drop at midnight, then making my way to bed.

Day 2 – January 1st, 2021

Quick Vitals

  • No Fever
  • Headaches persisting
  • Tired, very fatigued
  • Avg pulseOx at 97%
  • Covid dreams
  • Shortness of breath

I spent much of this day fatigued and tired. My headaches were broken and improving, but my breathing still remained a concern when I did stairs of moved around. Still no fever, average pulseox at 97 this day.

The biggest hurdle I faced mentally was the continued stress of who else might be infected and could get sick. I had largely given up on the how I got it at this point, but frequent check-ins persisted with those who I saw two days before I was positive.

I had a flurry of well wishes and family checking in as well, which was comforting and gave me some light in an otherwise dark time mentally. It was hard to respond though, and I wanted nothing more than to hide away and stew in my own head.

Dreams are also an issue. I am having vivid dreams, something I do not have. I am also having violent dreams, something I never have. They start innocent enough, and then rapidly deteriorate into madness and awful acts of violence around me. They permeate into my waking hours and make me hesitant to sleep more. After sharing some of this with family, and some googling, it turns out this is a known phenomenon called “covid dreams”. Not a fun fact.

Day 3 – January 2nd, 2021

Quick Vitals

  • Congestion and runny nose
  • No fever
  • pulseOx dipped to 95% after dinner
  • Fatigue, body aches, very worn out and tired
  • Headaches gone
  • Shortness of breath

My headaches were gone, but my runny nose and congestion worsened. Taking mucinex to cut the chest congestions and loosen the drainage. No fever, pulse ox hit 95% and became a real concern after dinner.

Mentally I was crumbling. Night was especially hard as the sun retreated and the routine of dinner, bath, and bed began. I remember this being when fear first began to creep into my head.

Day 4 – January 3rd, 2021

Quick Vitals

  • No fever
  • Chest discomfort and pain
  • Pulseox dropped to 93% for a time, required concerted effort to bring back up
  • Cannot catch breath, feel like I am fighting to breathe
  • Tylenol extra strength lessened inflammation but needed to stay on top of doses.
  • Congestion and runny nose

Breathing is a cause for alarm today. Tough to keep % above 95, and my chest hurts. It feels like I have a pulled muscle in my back at first, but then becomes a tight and uncomfortable ache as if my lungs are too big for my chest. Laying on my chest does not help anymore, there is a physical sensation of obstruction now that I cannot move around.

I knew I overdid it after lunch when I built a marble run with our son to keep him occupied. As dinner approaches I am panicking, pulse ox drops to 93% for the first time and remains steady if I do not force myself to breathe deep. At the advice of a family medical professional, I switch to just Tylenol and max strength mucinex. About 2 hours later at 8pm, I get our son to bed and call the after hours clinic; it is time for meds. I take two more tylenol and manage to get to sleep comfortably.

This was the first time that my own life and the thought of dying has really crossed my mind. I’ve been vigilant to avoid the news of covid, but I kept seeing people who had passed away that were barely older than me. I don’t want to leave my wife and son behind, I don’t want my family to have to say goodbye to me. 2020 had managed to give me the finger on the last days of the year, and here it was still trying to keep me down.

Day 5 – January 4th, 2021

Quick Vitals

  • Day One of Steroids and Albuteral
  • Fatigued in afternoon and evening
  • Restless sleep
  • PulseOx at 96-98 all day
  • No fever
  • Chest pain is persisting, lungs feel tired
  • Cough forming again
  • Congestion breaking and nose is running

I woke feeling a bit more ease in my chest despite it being after 10am and well overdue for more tylenol. My pulseox was 98 when I woke up, and still no fever. Food is still bland so I opted for a protein shake and some banana bread before I set off for the clinic.

Driving was a relief, it felt nice to leave the house even if I was highly infectious. I waited in my car for a room to open up, and saw the doctor. My wife joked before I left that the pulse oximeter I wear around my neck is my Life Alert necklace, so with my Life Alert on I tested theirs against mine and was relived to see it was accurate. They did a chest xray that came back clear, much clearer than the previous image on file of my bronchitis two years prior. They gave me an inhaler, two separate rounds of steroids, and some peace of mind before I headed back home.

I spent the rest of the day lying down, minimal anything. After dinner, the chest pressure resumed and as I sit and write this it’s coming and going in waves. Sitting up makes it worse, which means I need to lie down.

I’m less worried about dying as I write this. The clean xray, the numbers on the pulse ox, the medicine, the rest – all of it has made me feel better.

I’m still worrying about family. My grandmother messaged me today to say this is day 10 after seeing me and she is all clear by CDC guidelines. My in-laws are only a few days behind my own timeline, as are my parents. I’ve tried to shake these feelings but I feel responsible. I was safe but not safe enough. I would be crushed if anyone were to get sick because of me. I don’t want this for anyone. But I need to stop before I begin to spiral.

I’m also becoming concerned about life post-covid for me. I see articles about clotting, aneurisms, taste and smell not coming back for months, I’ve seen those infected in my own life still get winded months later. Can I get this again? How do I keep my wife from truly getting it if she doesn’t already? Is my son going to get worse?

It’s just a constant storm that I can’t shut out. I worry for so many things out of my control, and I have so much time that those worries just come to visit whenever they feel like it.

Day 6 – January 5th 2021

Quick Vitals-

  • Still no fever
  • PulseOx – 96% and steady
  • Cough is productive and wet today after lunch
  • Chest pain and breathing fatigue
  • On Prednisone, Albuterol inhaler, and Zpak
  • Moody; tired, irritable, sad, stressed
  • Chest feels shaky, likely the steroids.
  • Breathing eased some in evening

Much of the previous night was spent restlessly tossing, turning, and struggling to breathe in my CPAP. I think I finally fell asleep sometime after 1am, having to trick my body into first falling asleep without my mask on, then waking myself up just enough when I woke up gasping and slap it onto my face in order to pass back out.

When I woke in the morning I felt some relief for a few moments, but by the time I made it downstairs I was already having trouble taking deep breaths. I ate a light breakfast and spent the morning and early afternoon with our son in the basement once more while my wife worked, resting on the couch as I attempted to catch up on my mountain of work.

The brain fog is awful today. I cannot focus on anything; the movies the boy wants to watch, my work, books or articles I want to read. On top of that the steroids are working today, which makes me feel jittery but weak, tired but restless, and worst of all – irritable. It feels as though my body is trying to tear itself apart. I enjoyed my flavorless lunch with a side of mental breakdown, then rested the remainder of the afternoon until dinner. My pulseOx has been at 96% for a large part of the day, but it still felt as though I was struggling. It’s like a pain in my back as if I pulled a muscle near my shoulder blades, and in the front as though there is a weight placed on my ribcage. I also have some crud forming in my chest that isn’t causing a cough, but when I do cough, or force one, I can feel it but not clear it.

The pain my chest dulled by dinner, and as I sit and finish this update for this day, I have spent the last hour laughing at some videos on YouTube as I lie in bed awaiting my next inhaler and mucinex round. A warm shower helped to knock some of the stress edge off, and the cooler air once I was out of there appears to have helped my breathing.

Positive note today – My mother in laws Covid test came back negative today. For the previous few days she has been fighting a bug of her own that looks like the flu or some stomach bug rather than Covid. One less household to worry over, next up will be my parents house as their 10 CDC recommended quarantine ends Friday/Saturday.

I saved this pre-Covid as a joke for New Years Eve with my family. Think everyone reading this deserves one of these.

Tomorrow is a week of no taste and smell, as well as the 7 day mark for my own positive test. I can feel the medicine taking hold today, especially tonight. I hope that I continue to improve as these next days progress, and that by Monday I am truly able to leave the house once more for work. I am painfully aware of how delicate the situation is as I regain strength, stairs still suck, but the inability to help around the house or hug my wife is really a mounting point of tension. I struggle with how I keep her safe despite two thirds of this house being sick, we are all affectionate and social creatures here. This is the most abnormal our household has ever been. It is difficult, and what makes it worse is that even when my quarantine ends, I won’t feel safe unmasking for a time because her health is so important to me.

I am also haunted by stories my wife tells me of friends she knows who spent time in the hospital with Covid, the reminder of how lucky we are, and the guilt that comes with that. It’s bizarre who and how this virus takes, and I wish that more people could have had a more mild version and stayed with their loved ones. I can’t help but wonder what years to come will be like as we learn more about transition, complications, and the social impacts of the virus. Will this be like those mesothelioma commercials on TV? If you or a loved one was exposed to Covid -19 in the workplace, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

I was made aware of a TikTok video tonight that said if you char an orange and eat the browned fruit inside, it will bring back your sense of taste. Interested to try it, but who thinks of this stuff?! I do not recommend anyone take advice from social media, but what do I have to lose eating hot orange…juice? Pulp?

Restoring Taste and Smell, According to TikTok

Day 11 – January 10th, 2021

Quick Vitals-

  • No fever
  • Runny nose
  • Mild congestion
  • Productive cough
  • No taste or smell
  • Headache
  • Some breathing trouble

I’ve taken a few days away from updating because there have only been minor updates so far. Much of my symptoms are gone, though I am still tired and sleeping when I can. Breathing on day 8 and 9 was very difficult, especially after I stressed about work and overdid it on day 9 helping to take down Christmas decorations. Sitting still and relaxing is hard as the cabin fever sets in, and after being on my feet or sitting upright at my desk to answer emails and help out with work related duties it felt as if the inflammation was as bad as it was nearly 5 days ago.

The brain fog is settling in and becoming worse. I know that I want to do things, but when I start them I am easily frustrated and often distracted, not into it. This has been work and leisure; can’t seem to keep focused on movies even. It’s part of why I haven’t updated this experience either.

I am on the upswing, however, I can feel it as my energy levels last further into the day and my fatigue is less and less as I do the stairs or do tasks around the house. I finished my Z Pak two days ago, my last dose of prednisone is tomorrow, and I am taking regular puffs of albuterol every 4 hours, and extra strength tylenol at 6 hour intervals.

How I am starting my days still. Vitamins are a mix of C, D, Multi, Elderberry. Took B12 out because it was keeping me up at night. Bottom: Prednisone, two tylenol, Azithromycin, and Mucinex Max

Silver linings for today – our son is out of his 10 day contagious window. No symptoms, and so he and my wife are finally face to face again. Their reunion is probably the best relief I’ve had in over a week, and I’m hopeful that in a couple of days I will feel comfortable enough to take my mask off in the house once more. I still have pangs of fear about her getting it, from him or I, but at this point I think we are safer than we were when I was at peak symptoms.

Worth noting that everyone I saw pre-positive test has either tested negative or is now symptom free!

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