After 11 weeks of recuperating, I get to return to my nursing job on Tuesday. I am excited and a little apprehensive, but I am ready to get back to work.
Many people have asked me to tell my story of COVID-19. At first I said no, but a good friend told me that my story may help others. I decided to put my story out there in hopes that even one person can benefit from it.
I first should tell you that I am a nurse. My primary job is a circulating nurse in the operating room. However, due to the pandemic, I was deployed to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and the Medical Surgical Units (M/S) for both the COVID-19 area and the non-COVID-19 area. My exposure to the virus was many times greater than the average person, even with proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). During the entire time, I would change at work and then strip down in the garage and immediately take a shower without touching anything in my house.
As a nurse of 40-plus years I had done this countless times before when I was potentially exposed to “something.” I was confident that I did not put my household at risk. My focus for this writing will surround itself with the symptoms and recovery.
A loss of appetite
During April, I began having gastrointestinal (GI) issues and loss of appetite. I tried some over-the-counter remedies, They did not seem to work. On Friday, April 24, I called out sick for work. At that time, to return to work at the hospital I had to have a COVID-19 nasal swab. On that Saturday I had the swab test and it came back negative. I returned to my next shift still not feeling well. My doctor and he suggested some medications, but I refused stating I would give it a few more days. At that time, only emergency surgeries were allowed so a colonoscopy could not be done, anyhow. Please note, masks were always required while in the hospital during this entire period. I was indeed wearing a mask.
I was okay for a few days, but I continued to get worse as the weeks went on. I had begun to lose weight, would sleep except for meals and work, and resorted to eating only grapes and drinking fluids.
On the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend, I was feeling horrible. I saw my GI doctor and he scheduled an endoscopy and colonoscopy for that Thursday. However, in order have the procedures, I would have to get a COVID-19 swab test. On Tuesday, May 26, my doctor told me my COVID-19 test was positive. I was mandated the 14-day quarantine at home. All I could do the next several days was sleep, go to the bathroom, and consume some grapes and fluids. I was beyond exhausted. Any movement caused me to feel dizzy. Going to and from the bathroom would leave me panting. Rest seemed the only thing to relax me and keep me stable.
Feeling more horrible, I was able to contact my infectious disease doctor for a telemed visit on June 2. At that time, I presented the following signs and symptoms: I had a nasty rash on the right side of my chest. It took 10 days to resolve. My feet, especially my toes, were deep purple and sensitive, but not painful. My legs showed non-painful, nor sensitive red streaks from the feet to the knees, especially on the left side. This too resolved in a week. My eyes were so sensitive to touch. If I rolled over and the pillow pressed against them, it would wake me up.
I rarely had a cough, and when I did it was non- productive. I completed deep breathing exercises as often as I could remember, expanding my front chest, back, each side and abdomen with the deepest breathes I could muster. My upper chest, near my neck, felt as light pressure, as if I was wearing a stretch t-shirt at all times.
Night sweats were daily, always awakening me at 3 a.m. Every time I moved or tried to do anything, I would become short of breath and suffer a dull ,aching headache. I attempted to do a sit-up and almost passed out. Pre-COVID-19, I could do 40 sit-ups with weights. My concentration was not there. I could not even watch TV without missing stuff. Reading a paper left me re-reading the same lines over and over.
I had lost a total of 18 pounds from April. I ate only because I knew I had to. I had taste and smell but no interest in eating, anything. My doctor told me to obtain a pulse oximeter and to call him that day with the results. I took the ride in the car to purchase the pulse OX with my spouse and returned. I took my Pulse OX (O2 Sat) as soon as I got in from the car and it was 76%, (I was panting from the walk). I tested it on my spouse, and it was 99%. After 10 minutes (I had stopped panting) the O2 Sat went up to 89%.
I called my doctor, who was not thrilled, at all. I agreed to taking my O2 Sat% several times a day. My average for the first four weeks was 85 to 92% with me increasing my activity.
Finally, some improvement
The first five weeks after the May 26 swab test was scary and debilitating. It wasn’t until the sixth week that I began feeling some improvement. By the ninth week, I was able to both climb and descend a flight of stairs, but had to stop and rest, with sometimes a two-hour nap afterwards. During this time, I would routinely practice my deep breathing exercises and progressed to kinetic exercises that I could perform on my bed in the morning and at night. During this time, I would have a telmed appointment with my ID doctor every two weeks.
It has been 11 weeks and I can walk good distances, lift ten pounds, walk up and down inclines and stairs, and perform ten sit-ups, all with some tiny shortness of breath.
If anyone tells you this virus is nothing, they are mistaken. I am 62 with a couple of co-morbidities and was in generally good to particularly good shape before COVID-19. I could not imagine if I were debilitated prior to contracting this disease. Mask wearing -- I just do not understand those who would not wear a mask. If not for them, then for their fellow human, especially the ill. Please, wear your mask.
“I just do not understand those who would not wear a mask. If not for them, then for their fellow human, especially the ill. Please, wear your mask.”