Category Archives: Health, Healthcare, Support, Science

Undiagnosed, Day 17-20

UPDATE, MARCH 30-31, APRIL 1-2, DAYS 17-20

I’ve been making good progress, I think. I attended a wonderful online conference during the weekend, but needed time off afterwards. Sunday I tried to take a proper walk, which you already heard about, but I think I was still a tad mentally foggy and should have made that post for two days. But Tuesday, I walked around the block feeling as if I’d been let off a leash. I felt GLORIOUS. Better than 100%! It was wonderful, and it lasted, oh, about six hours. LOL!

I haven’t had any actually CLINICAL symptoms in days now, and have returned to my usual flu-season regime of one ColdEeze a day. No more sore throats, no more tight chest, no fever, no cough, no night sweats, no dizziness, no more sense of fighting through a fog. I feel more myself during the days, but I find I’m starting to yawn a lot later in the day, and I hit a wall by the end of the normal work day. So, not quite 100%. I told my boss I was 98%, but honestly, that’s only as long as I sit still and don’t move. I’m much more comfortable in my house and body than I was a week ago. When I hit a wall, though, I start chilling again.

I had a fun moment the first day I actually felt normal for a bit. I found the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker. Part of the reason I wasn’t tested was because I didn’t have the scarier respiratory symptoms. I was told to self-quarantine with the assumption that I probably have it, and to contact them if I got worse. But “worse” was defined as the respiratory symptoms getting worse or the fever getting really high, and neither of those happened. What happened for me was extreme chilling, with sticky cold skin, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, brain fog. My son had to help me stand up if I wanted to go the bathroom. He had to make all the food. He had to hold my cup of hot drink if I was trying to move. I couldn’t walk and hold the cup. My fingers were so cold they were stiff, and this was indoors with my son running around in his t-shirt and me wearing five layers and wrapped in a blanket. I couldn’t walk without holding onto him. My toes ached from the cold. I just shivered and shivered all day. And then at night, I’d sweat. So when I ran the CDC Self-Checker and they asked about sets of symptoms, and I saw one for me, I first felt really validated. And then I laughed, a little weak puffy chuckle. Because their tool implied that maybe I had been sicker than I thought I was.

CDC Self-Checker

Still, I made it fine, at home, and what I’m hearing from most of my health care provider friends is that you REALLY don’t want to go into the hospital if you can possibly avoid it. If you can possibly recover at home, stay home. And that’s what I did. And it worked, for me. Anyway, when I start chilling now, I don’t think this is the virus anymore, I just think it’s my body being overextended and worn out, and it’s usually only for a short time. The chilling isn’t attached to weakness or sweats anymore, it’s just feeling cold. It stops when I lay down. And that’s why I haven’t been getting these posts done. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, and I keep thinking I can do this later, because it will be easy. And then it isn’t. I’ve been trying to write this for three days now. Maybe I’ll finish it today.

By evening, it’s all I can do to lay down and let my son make dinner. I haven’t had veggies in weeks because he doesn’t do veggies, and that will surely contribute to my fatigue, so I took a break for lunch a couple days ago and threw a bunch of greens, beans, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, potatoes and black rice in a pot and made some sort of vegetable slop. Let’s just say I’m not actually cooking up to my usual specs either. I’m a really lovely cook, and going out to eat is usually a step down. Right now, not so much. My tastebuds are still shot, probably from all the ColdEeze, so maybe my cooking is fine and I just can’t taste things? Also, I stocked up really well, as usual, and we’ve done fine at home with the food I already had, but we’re getting to the point where we need to replenish a few perishables, eggs most of all. It’s been three weeks, after all. I’ve been trying for days to get a delivery slot for groceries, and that just isn’t happening.

As someone in the high-risk category without a CONFIRMED case of COVID-19, I really shouldn’t be out anyway. Or should I? You see, without a confirmed case, you are in an awkward situation. You get all of the joys of being sick and having been sick, without the benefit of presumed immunity from knowing you had the thing everyone is avoiding. You have to both act as if you might be highly contagious while also following guidelines for being at risk of getting it again. And the guidelines from the CDC and the doctors aren’t terribly helpful. Friends from Asia have been pointing me to research articles showing that some people still show viral shedding up to 37 days after the onset of symptoms, but they don’t have a clue as to whether that virus is active and infectious or not. There is confusion about whether this is different or the same for those with more severe cases or with mild cases.

The doctors here tell me they can only follow the CDC’s recommendations, and according to those, it’s perfectly safe for me to be out and about. But is it? Am I safe for others to be around? Is it safe for me? I’m not sure. Some folk have already said they are kind of freaked out to hear I went outside and walked around the block, with no one closer to me than across the street. One one hand, I know they are over-reacting, but on the other hand, what we know is so ephemeral and fluid right now. If nothing else, this is an exquisite illustration of the way science works ALL THE TIME. Science is always fluid, and scientists largely acknowledge that much of what we “know” depends on the last piece of research and may shift with the next piece. The general public thinks of science more along the lines of grade school true/false tests, with a definite hard-and-fast forever truth. Nope. That’s not science. That’s a myth or a religion wrapped in science-themed gift paper to make it easier to accept. Real science is messy, and changes.

[SIDEBAR: Sometimes science communicators use the analogy of an onion’s rings, which really doesn’t work for me. The idea is that science has core precepts that other scientists tried to disprove over and over, and couldn’t. Those are the center ideas that don’t change, the ideas that we would tend to have on those grade school T/F quizzes. The rest of the science moves outward from that, and the further out the less sure we are, the more vibrant and likely to change things are, the adventures and excitement of scientific discovery live at these far edges. But with onions, the vibrant life is push out of the center, and it is the edges that are dry and static, so I have mixed feelings about this analogy.]

For now, given that I haven’t had a sign of a fever in almost a week, and tomorrow morning it will be a solid three weeks since I first got sick, I’m calling this part done. This will be (I hope) the last post about my personal experience with this. I’ll do another collecting some links to other people’s experiences, because I’m only one person, and my experience may not be typical, so I want you to have some others for comparison. Part of the problem right now is the information being shared is all about what happens to the folk who get seriously ill, and there just isn’t enough about the mild cases, what that experience looks like, what recovery feels like. There are stories about people who are sure their case is mild, and wait too long to get help. There are stories about the people who go in, and are sent home, and the going in makes them worse. There are stories, lots and lots of stories, about people who had some mysterious long lasting virus that was too early to be COVID-19, or before we were doing testing here, and whose symptoms maybe were more like mine than what was the expectation at the time. There are stories from healthcare providers saying to themselves, is this what I’ve been seeing all winter, and I just didn’t know what it was? We don’t know much. So I hope my sharing my story is useful (I’ve been told it is), and I’ll continue to share some COVID-19 info here, but I’m hoping to get back to more of the regularly scheduled programming.

Undiagnosed, Day 16

UPDATE, MARCH 29, DAY 16

I’m getting better, I swear I am. It’s been three days since I had a fever. I still have chills, but not sweats. I still wake up with a sore throat and congestion, but not as much of either. (Started the day with the usual sore throat and congestion, but both were milder. I wondered how I would do if I didn’t take a ColdEeze, so waited an hour before I gave up and took one, which helped within minutes.) I’m having times when I feel like I can do sort of normal things in a normal way for a bit. Last night I actually looked at a stack of origami paper and almost picked it up. I read a few pages of a book I was reading before this all started.

I had done a lot of cooking right before this all started, and that was a good thing, because that lasted me a long time. There were also a lot of days when all I could taste was salt, and I wasn’t very hungry, so I ate a bag of potato chips for lunch. Most of this, I was eating one meal a day, and a few small snacks. But yesterday, I knew I needed to cook or I wasn’t going to have anything to eat. I’d made some quinoa a couple days ago, and hadn’t done anything with it other than spoon soup over a a few spoons of it for lunch. I had my son help me mix it with eggs, dried, canned, and frozen fruits, a couple handfuls of sugar and spice, and bake it. So, that should last me for a few days, hopefully. And my son made me a pizza for lunch. That’s two meals that won’t take a lot of effort. Lots of food, just not lots of energy.

Because I’d been starting to feel better, and because I made it around the block, on Friday, I was thinking I wanted to start rebuilding my strength. You see, I’ve been ill for long times before, and you lose muscle mass, you lose stamina, and it takes a lot longer to get it back than it takes to lose it. I’ve been through that. I want to get strong again as fast as I can, and I want to minimize losses as much as possible. I decided I needed to walk a little further, not too much further, and I took kiddo along because I don’t trust my body that much these days.

The nearby park that isn’t a long walk is about four blocks away. We got there, and I rested on a rock for a while, then we came back. I’d gotten a slight headache before we got there, and the sense of pressure was more noticeable by the time I got home. When we got home, I sat down and didn’t move for two hours. At three hours, I was able to stand up again briefly. At four hours the headache went away. I spent most of today recovering from that over-exertion, but now it’s evening and I’m feeling okay.

Meanwhile, my son has NOT had any further symptoms, but today I was convinced he had a fever because he felt so much hotter than me. Both my thermometers broke (one, the battery died, and the old glass one shattered and I got to clean up the mercury). A friend brought me theirs, and … surprises. Yes, he’s warmer than me, but no where near fever. Maybe part of the reason I’ve been chilling so much during the days is because I’m actually so cold. His temp is normal. Mine is 97.0F. I had fevers earlier in this, the first week and some in the second week, but that sure isn’t the case right now.

Undiagnosed, Day 15

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UPDATE March 28, 2020; Day 15

When I have too many posts in a row that start with the reminder that this is part of a series, people get confused which one they commented on, so … mixing things up. I will add this to the main giant original post. https://www.facebook.com/pfanderson/posts/10157284631197903

Yesterday I mentioned that I had a long full night’s sleep, and that this was unusual. I was still tired though, and still took a quick catnap over lunch. Last night was back to usual. What’s usual? Well, there isn’t an actual daily consistent pattern, but what’s close is that I chill all day (huddle over my computer with a blanket on my lap and another wrapped around my shoulders) and burn all night. Some nights, that’s waking up sweating, over and over. Other nights I wake up hot and dry, my throat is burning, and I can’t get back to sleep. Last night was roughly 5 hours of sleep. It was a hot, dry, throat burning night, and when the thunder and lightning started, I knew it was time to give up and get up, and take a ColdEeze. Usually, the sore tight throat goes away when I have my second ColdEeze of the day. And, yes, I already have a scarf around my throat and a blanket on my lap.

NOTE: I did go for a walk yesterday, towards the end of the day when I felt better. My son went with me, because I got a little wobbly, but I made it around the block. I’m counting that as a win.

How’s kiddo? Well, so far so good. If he’s actually sick, we can’t tell. Maybe I was just worrying because he had brief symptoms. Maybe he is sick, and contagious, and it’s just so mild that we can’t tell by looking. Time will tell, maybe. Someone asked if it could be allergies. Yes, we both have seasonal allergies. No, this is not them. How do I know? Zinc. I’ve been doing this for over a decade. Because I’ve been taking zinc as a kind of a prevention, pretreatment, a priming dose, I’ve noticed very quickly that it does absolutely nothing for allergies. It also doesn’t do much for bacterial infections. So, if ColdEeze helps symptoms, even a little, those symptoms aren’t allergic, or an infection that could be helped by antibiotics, they’re viral.

Folk have also been asking me about the new diagnostic clue making the news — for some people, a warning sign prior to developing symptoms is a lessening of the ability to smell and taste. My experience with this is a little warped, and it may make a useful example of why these signs and symptoms may not always be terribly useful, except in hindsight.

So, first, was my sense of taste and smell altered? Yes. The day before I got sick, all I could really taste was sour. After that, when I started the ColdEeze, mostly what I taste is salt and sugar; with salt tasting good, and anything sweet tasting foul. I’m over-salting and over-spicing everything in an attempt to have flavor. HOWEVER, is this meaningful or significant? I didn’t think so, or I’d have mentioned it sooner.

Why didn’t I think it was useful info? Partly because this is a respiratory thing for me, and that means congestion and such will interfere with smell. I don’t find that surprising at all. Partly because I’m taking ColdEeze, and it’s well known that it kind of destroys the sense of taste, and can actually cause permanent damage in this area. Last but not least, under normal circumstances I’m a supertaster, and so even with taste damped down, I’m still probably tasting more than expected. When this started, it wasn’t dramatic, like I couldn’t taste anything, but more like food was bland. Since I was not eating at home the day before I took ill, I didn’t know what to expect for flavor, and assumed it was just the way it was prepared.

Undiagnosed, Day 14

I will add this to the original post.

Reminder! My case is an assumed-to-be-the-real-thing-so-you-quarantine case of COVID, not an official presumptive, nor confirmed.

—–
UPDATE, MARCH 27, DAY 14

I slept 11 hours. I slept ELEVEN hours. Wow. Of course, this means I didn’t take any ColdEeze for 11 hours, so I woke up congested, with a sore throat, and a small cough. Hunh. And tired. How can I sleep 11 hours and be tired? Not sleepy tired, but low energy. And my hands are just a little shaky. That’s not a surprise. It happens whenever I’m tired.

Meanwhile, the kid getting sick has me thinking back to when I got sick, and remembering things I haven’t shared here, which may be entirely irrelevant. Things like the day before I developed symptoms I had a CRPS flare (chronic pain). I was slightly more tired and out of focus than usual (but it was Friday, so that’s not a surprise either). About 14-15 hours before symptoms started I had a tiny catch in my throat. It went away right away, but I’m thinking THAT was significant.

So, kiddo? He woke up feeling mostly fine. Slightly froggy, but no sore throat. OTOH, his stomach is still full from dinner last night, and I’m thinking maybe he’s going to be one of those folk who gets COVID19 in the gut instead of the respiratory system. I’m not prepared for that. I prepared for all kinds of things, but I did not stock up on gastritis stuff that the kid can tolerate. What was I thinking? I was thinking I was prepared for a normal case of influenza, and for the respiratory business, and for quarantine food and supplies. I wasn’t thinking about a major extended case of gastritis. So now, I’m worried.

Undiagnosed, Day 13

UPDATE, MARCH 26, DAY 13

Today was mostly a good day. My energy was good. No chilling, no sweats. Some fatigue, but manageable. Friends helped get just a few things we were out of (a little produce, some cheese for the kid). Greatly appreciated! Had offers from three other friends to pick things up, but we don’t actually need that much, luckily. We will before much longer, thought.

We had been trying to reach kiddo’s doctor to get a letter to say it was okay for him to go back to work. They need workers, he’s worried about losing his job if he’s away too long, we need the money, and my official quarantine should be over tomorrow (except it won’t be, for me). The doctor sent the letter, and we were very happy, until … he started coughing, got froggy, and a runny nose. Oh.

So, now, kiddo is sick-ish, and we are waiting to see how bad. I’m still kind of fatigued and worn out. Hopefully, he won’t get it any worse than I did. If we’re lucky, maybe better. But we told his job he can’t come in, and no one is happy about that.

Undiagnosed, Day 12

UPDATE, MARCH 25, DAY … 12?

2nd week is tougher. Kiddo wants to know why I’m so weak. No answers. Last night was night sweats. Today I got to mix up chills and heavy sweating. Naps. Multiple naps. Weak. Really weak. Took today off work. Asking for help from other medical librarians for some of the questions coming to me over social media. Answering what I can. Missing all the cool free concerts and movies being streamed. Bummed.

Things I learned today. Kiddo probably can’t go back to work until I quit having symptoms. Not sure yet. Some people have viral shedding for weeks after their symptoms resolve. HOWEVER, they don’t think they are actually contagious. And viral shedding is usually undetectable at 20 days after symptoms start. So that’s good. Ish. And because of the whole surfaces thing and my being too weak to clean, no one should come into my house for probably a month after I get better. Erring on the side of caution.

Undiagnosed, Day 10-11

Reminder! My case is an assumed-to-be-the-real-thing-so-you-quarantine case of COVID, not an official presumptive, nor confirmed.

UPDATE
I didn’t get Monday’s update written, or today’s. I’m tired and worn out. The pattern with this has been sort of good-day/bad-day, but this has been three bad days in a row. I’m exhausted. I’ve been trying to work from home, because I ran out of sick leave before this all started, AND because I see such a need for good information right now, AND because I felt well enough to do so.

NOTE: The university is offering an extra supply of sick leave for pandemic response stuff, but I’m afraid to use much of it because what if this is NOT COVID and I get it for real later? What if my kid gets it? What if I need it for something else related? Not to mention that I almost always work from home when I’m sick, but I almost never get paid for it. I kind of like not having to use my vacation time to work from home when I’m sick.

Anyway. Sunday was really awful chills again, really bad. Monday was bad fatigue. So was today. Some runny nose again all three days. Taking ColdEeze still. Not helping as much as it did. Today, after I finished work, I slept for three hours, then lay on the couch not moving because my phone was too heavy to pick up. I think I need to take tomorrow off, like, the whole day. Kiddo is scared because of my fatigue and weakness, but my breathing is okay, so I’m calling it good, right? This is Day 11, I think. Talked with some other HCP folk in a similar boat. All of us assumed to have COVID but not tested. All of us weak as kittens right now. So, I’m not alone. 🙂 TTYL.