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Practicals When You Have Corona Virus – Part 1

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I’m restarting my blog as I want to document my family’s experience with Covid-19 aka the Corona virus.  This was two days ago from FB on March 23  – the first time I had posted since catching the virus.  I have not improved much (day 13 now) but I am hopeful I am turning a corner.   

Day 11 of the McGinnis Corona Chronicals

Practicals in the middle of actually having the virus – An update from Jeannie

**Long Post warning but please share if helpful

My PhD, deep thoughts and eloquent husband (and my hero, especially in these days) has sent a few updates and will probably do a few more as I’m at about 30% with this virus. I’ve written this during sleepless nights fighting fever and breathing challenges, but as someone who is a researcher, I thought it could be helpful in the weeks to come for those who want to know a personal perspective having the virus. A little more knowledge of ‘what might happen’ and what I can do now helps me feel more prepared.

I’m a practical person and I thought it could be beneficial to give a few observations, helpful things to consider and few comments from one of the paramedics who stayed with me until my breathing stabilised a few nights ago – she happened to be a respiratory specialist and has seen many people since its inception here in my city.

Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional – please consult them for medical advice and concerns.

Update and recap:

We are American/Brit dual citizens originally from Texas who have lived in the UK over 15 years. I’ve been in self isolation since 13th March on a Friday when I woke up with a high fever/muscle aches. My whole family has self-isolated since Monday 16th March. 3 of the 4 of us (in our own family) in our have the corona virus symptoms. We have not been officially tested – I have tried at least 8 times, but for the moment it is reserved for those actually admitted to the hospital (and maybe front lines medical professionals).

On the evening of Day 9, though I’d gotten medical advice numerous times before, my breathing deteriorated. It became so difficult gasping for air that I was on the verge of passing out. It was a very scary moment, and my husband called an ambulance. We actually had two ambulances with three paramedics arrive. They came pretty quickly, and we had a wonderful paramedic who also happened to be a respiratory expert who stayed until my breathing settled with steroids. She basically diagnosed that this was NOT YET pneumonia with my lungs shutting down, which was what we had feared, but a severe asthma attack. Apparently, this is due to the constant lung inflammation from the virus, which can trigger asthma even if it has only previously been minor. It’s been at least 20 years since I actually used an inhaler which was only on very rare occasions.

Levels of the virus:

Severe/Critical: For those who need oxygen and respirator assistance. High fever, fluid-filled lungs, severe chest pain (described as glass in the lungs), can’t function out of bed – usually with persistent cough (starts dry) and muscle aches. These need urgent medical care. Viral pneumonia has set in to a deep lung infection. All of the below symptoms in stages.

Moderate: Fluctuating fever/muscle aches/dry cough (non productive) and fatigue. This is with fluctuating breathing challenges such as chest pain, heavy lungs and shortness of breath and potentially aggravated by asthma if you have a propensity (wheezing is a secondary condition but can be triggered by corona lung inflammation). The exertion of any sort such as stairs can make everything worse. Sleep struggles because of the above. Headaches (and if migraine propensity that as well) Also, any ‘mild symptoms’. I’m late 40s and in this category teetering on severe.

Mild: Fluctuating fever/muscle aches/dry cough (non productive)/headaches and fatigue. This is with fluctuating breathing challenges such as chest pain, heavy lungs and shortness of breath. I’ve also seen nose bleeds on many peoples’ posts (my son just started having these) and dry eyes. My husband (mid 40s) and son (15) are in this category.

Asymptomatic: Normal, but maybe a bit grumpy (who wants to be self isolated?). My daughter (16) has been more than exposed to the virus but has shown no symptoms. Contagious still. It’s these individuals who are spreading it through going to gatherings, not social distancing, not washing their hands. Interesting – when the 3 paramedics were here and chatted with Maddie, they applauded her for self-isolating (with a good attitude), as they said it would be people like her who could spread it. STAY AT HOME – IT COULD SAVE LIVES.

Other symptoms: There are other things like nasal congestion, GI issues, as well as I have seen a loss of a sense of taste and smell. Our family have none of these making this unlike any cold/flu we have experienced.

Also – this is not a short-term virus . . . it goes on and on and the symptoms fluctuate throughout the day. It can last anywhere from 7 days to 3 weeks. I’m on day 11. No sign of letting up (I was up from 1:30 – 4 am with a high fever last night that is not breaking ). My body feels like Rocky Balboa in round 9. The paramedic (Julie) told me I actually may feel worse in the period likening it to being run over by a massive truck. Yes, I do. Another note – as a family, we are following government guidelines. But we have decided to not go out of self-isolation as individuals until we are virus free for two days because we don’t know how long we are contagious. At this point, it will be longer than the guidelines, but we don’t want to make anyone ill.

Observations and Practicals:

DELIVERIES – A few days ago we put up a sign that said we were self-isolating as we are very dependent on deliveries. One hour later, a delivery guy in his late 60s knocked, left the package at the front door, then stepped back about 20 feet and smiled with sympathy and appreciation that we wanted to protect him. Then he ‘signed’ for our package for us. Same thing happened with a younger guy two hours later. Protect your delivery people. AND, for those who are well, we don’t know how long surfaces are carrying Covid – throw away the packaging, wash your hands, whatever you need to do as who knows if the delivery person is asymptomatic. Here is what our sign says: ‘Deliveries – We are self-isolating and all at home. Please knock, put the delivery on the doorstep, wait for us at a distance to receive the package and then you can sign for us. Thank you!’

NEIGHBOURS – We have friends and acquaintances here that have been amazing with everything from prescriptions to flowers for Mother’s Day here in the UK this past Sunday. A few superheroes to us right now. But a few neighbours we hardly know have dropped notes with phone numbers through our door or texted offering help. Brits don’t have the same neighbour culture as your uber friendly Americans. That’s okay, but now is the time to reach out. We have been so grateful for their kindness. And after we are immune as a family and through this, we will be dropping notes off and offering to help with groceries, supplies, errands for those neighbours we know and those we don’t. I am so ready to give back.

MEDICATIONS – Paracetamol (aka Tylenol) is our new friend. But with 3 of us ill, we need a lot. Aiden (my 15 yr old son) has improved but my husband and I need it every 4-6 hours. BUT TALK TO YOUR DOC for what is right for you. One slight crisis is that I am prone to migraines. And you can get headaches with the virus that are killers as well. I ran out of my prescription and it was a miracle we got an early refill and a friend could pick it up. BUT talk to your doctor – stock up if you can because you will use more than you normally do. I’d also talk to your doctor about other medications as it may be more and more difficult to get them in the coming months.

ASTHMA – I had seasonal allergy, mild asthma in high pollen season when I lived in Texas. But here in the UK its maybe 2-5 sporadic days out of the year that can be helped with steam and an anti-histamine. Two nights ago I had a severe asthma attack. Apparently such inflamed lungs from the virus can trigger asthma – and constant inflammation can provoke the more serious secondary infections. I’m on steroids/inhalers and strict orders to do very little (including talking) as it aggravates the inflammation and I start gasping for air. If you have this condition, talk to your doctor and stock up as you don’t know if there will be a shortage in the coming months. It actually was quite challenging today to get inhalers with a new prescription as many pharmacies had run out last week.

BREATHING – This is hard on everyone as it is a respiratory virus. There are a lot of scary videos showing the progression online. You can watch that for fun *cue sarcasm* but it can range from chest pain like heartburn to shallow breathing to shortness of breath at any exertion. My best friend from high school lives in California and has corona and describes it like having a heavy cat sit on your chest. Everyone is having this from mild to severe BUT only the severe get hospital/medical treatment. Trust me – we all have tried to get medical treatment, but there is little to do at this point, except maybe a bit of steam, unless you have developed asthma.

However, one thing that has been highly helpful are mindfulness breathing techniques. It’s all about breathing deep (feel it in your diaphragm), inhale through the nose, exhale through pursed lips. Slowly for 4 counts each about 4 times. You can picture that you are drawing a box. A Physio sent me a few tips and this was his top one as well. In the midst of my hard breathing moments, I pause and do the box breathing. Then pray for peace.

IF YOU LIVE ALONE and are self-isolating get a plan for help. I have found you can choke very easily and sometimes not be able to speak. Talk to a few friends and get an emergency plan in place as the breathing challenges can come on quite suddenly and be very scary.

SLEEP – My husband is sleeping tons as well as naps. I normally sleep a lot when I am ill, but it has been different due to breathing challenges and high fevers. Just be prepared and try to sleep whenever you can. I’ve had to also prop by head up numerous nights, but asthma meds have helped.

FOOD – Nutrition before Corona. A little background – I am pretty clued into nutrition, whole foods, what my body can and can’t have due to food intolerances. I’ve also got a certification in Advanced Holistic Nutrition, Aroma Therapy and Plant-based Nutrition. I’m the ‘free from’ girl as I know numerous foods are healing, but many foods in the typical diet can be inflammatory. If you are well, I would consider going healthy in a sustainable way – at least cut out a lot of processed foods and add more veg. Don’t do any extreme thing, but work on boosting your body’s immunity. We are all stuck at home with time to cook real, nutritious foods. And try out those green smoothies now when you are healthy.

FOOD – Nutrition during Corona. I’ve had a lot of well meaning (very sweet) people give advice on this. But I know what my body can handle and have stuck to a strict anti-inflammatory diet as this is normal for me and I need all the help I can get. DON’T introduce any new foods now. You don’t know if you might react to something ‘healthy’ which puts more stress on your immune function. And have a comfort food or two (but not super unhealthy or a few guilty pleasures (mine is vegetable root crisps/chips). We all need a little extra comfort when we are unwell, but not too much crap.

FOOD – Batch cook healthy food. On the first day of my fever I actually had energy. I batch cooked organic soups and foods/vegetables to make meals easier. I made as much as I could and stuffed it in our tiny UK freezer. Now I don’t have the energy and I’ve been directed to not move too much. My family is now cooking for me as it is too challenging (and this is improving their culinary skills as a plus). FYI – I live in the UK (I’m an American/Brit), but my extended family are all in the States. One of my sisters told me she is now getting loads of veg delivered from a local fruit/veg shop – great idea. If you live alone, batch cook and freeze for as much as two weeks if you can.

SUPPLEMENTS/HERBS – Before Corona. I’ve had a lovely nutritionist for 5 years. Ask her and she would say I am one of the most knowledgable, but high maintance clients in terms of what I can and can’t have. I’ve had to experiment due to chronic (but not super serious) health niggles over the years, but found I react to some things, actually, a lot of things. When you are well, you can try out the latest claim to boost that immune system and I say go for it if it’s not too weird. It’s DURING the virus that is the caution.

SUPPLEMENTS/HERBS – During Corona. Here is what I am seeing with top professionals I follow: WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HELPS. Tons of debate, but those normal health supplements, herbs, essential oils that we use for fighting colds/flu may actually hurt this foreign virus. Just an example, there is a lot more evidence (remember though I am not a doctor – just an opinion) that Ibuprofen, an anti-inflammatory, is making corona worse. Who knew? The Covid is a mystery and we don’t know what will help or not. My advice – DONT TRY SOMETHING NEW . . now is not the time. What if you had a reaction like a headache, GI distress, allergy OR what if it was actually not helpful for this mystery virus? In fact, strip back your supplement intake as there is a lot of debate on how different vitamins/supplements could be like Ibuprophen (we just don’t know). With research, I have kept a few things in but removed most herbs/supplements/essential oils. I will list at the bottom for those interested the ones I have continued to use.

FAKE NEWS/HEALTH CLAIMS – Following the above. There are a lot of claims out there. The break though medications, herbs/oils/supplements/regimes that can prevent you from getting this. Don’t believe them (with the nutritional aspect) though I am all for ‘normalising’ your immune function. This thing is so contagious and we are desperate for a vaccine and cure. And STOP spreading this kind of stuff around when you don’t have real research to back it up.

CONFIRMED CASES VERSUS ACTUAL CASES – This one is a bit annoying to me. As I mentioned, I have tried about 8 times to request testing, but we can’t get it. I’m not blaming anyone as there is a shortage (who knows what goes in to all of this) but when you look at the news, the figures don’t match up. Confirmed are those who actually got tested, but there are thousands and thousands who have the virus. I personally think our health care front lines people need testing most, and I pray we come out with one that shows whether you have had it and are now immune. So don’t believe the numbers you see on TV otherwise this would not be such a big deal for the the global community.

FINANCES – I don’t know what to say here. I and my family are trying to stay peaceful. I have a portfolio career mostly in the media – that has all dried up. I’m self-employed, my husband has a salary. Nearly every industry is at risk – I wish I was in the toilet paper industry right now. So we pray for wisdom and at the moment, all our energy is going into to getting well.

So there may be more practicals later, but overall our family deeply appreciates all thoughts, prayers and encouragements. I have read most of them and gotten teary eyed on quite a few – I have never been so grateful for the kindness of others and really look forward to returning that kindness after my recovery. So keep praying as I am not even close to being out of the woods yet.

Here is the list of supplements I have kept in my routine during the actual virus – I have stripped most out during this time period:

– High nutrient foods – I’m sticking to foods for my nutritional needs for the most part – Vit C (but not mega doses like I would a cold) – Vit D – Zinc – Quality probiotic (it can take time for your body to adjust to one so don’t start one in the virus, only b efore if you have never had one) – Aloe – its a very soothing, highly nutritious and safe plant with loads of benefits – I work for a global high quality aloe-based company as their skin care trainer. They ship all over the world – PM me if you want a link.

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