We All Have Big and Painful Questions No Matter Where We Are on the Covid-19 Journey
I’m on Day 33 of moderate (borderline severe) of The Virus. I feel like I have plugged into a faulty charger. You know that kind where you look at your phone the next day and it says 62% but it was on 60% when you plugged it in? Recovery is very, very slow.
I’ve written a few times during my Corona journey when I have had energy. Recently, I am struck by all the questions I’m seeing on social media, that my husband asks, and that I ask. All of us have questions. Many of these are painful questions we have never asked before March 2020.
I saw one recently from an American who posted on their social media, ‘I’m just to beginning to wonder if this is all overkill?’ It was a genuine question, probably referring to all the precautions, self-isolation, the boredom and the horrible financial implications we all are facing. This is one of many, many painful questions we all have right now. I understand this honest question but I also know they have not seen the virus up close in their area like in other parts of the world.
I live in the UK (American/Brit dual citizen) so I have many friends and connections all over the world. I’ve seen many sides to this tiny, destructive beast that has shut down the globe.
And it is very personal as our family had the virus in one of the first waves here in the UK, just as they began the ‘overkill’ precautions.
Everyone has aching questions. Personally, when I have a heavy weight on my lungs early in the morning I ask myself: ‘When will I start actually feeling better?’
I’ve had The Virus since March 13. I’m in the supposed ‘RECOVERED’ stat you see in the news. I may be over the fever portion of the virus but I have not recovered. My current questions: ‘What is normal?’ ‘This is not pneumonia—will anyone be able to help me?’ ‘Will I EVER get a decent night of sleep again?’ ‘Has this hurt my career as a voice artist?’
I still believe, pray and have hope for a quick, 100% recovery though I’ve had some very low moments. And I feel all the encouragements, kind words and prayers have kept me in a place of mostly consistent peace. On an encouraging note, even as I wrote this post, I had some help from a medical professional friend answering a few of the above questions and give me a few more breathing exercises. He has also given permission for me to quote him so my next blog post will be on these tips.
I still wake up in the early hours (too early) with pressure in my chest and sometimes pain. I have weird, reoccurring nose bleeds and chronic laryngitis that at least now comes and goes after 33 days. If my voice feels stronger and I talk for more than five minutes, the laryngitis comes back.
My lung debris and inflammation varies throughout the day depending on what I do, which is very little. I can’t bend down to pick something up off the floor—it cuts off my oxygen. I can’t pick up laundry or put pans in the oven, it is constricting. I’m confined to sitting most of the day upright in a chair as sleep is a challenge. I’m doing rather gross breathing exercises (to cough things up) that make me dizzy about 4-5 times a day to help prevent further infections.
I’ve already had the virus and then a subsequent infection. I’m grateful I didn’t have the infection before Day 20—it most likely would have put me on a ventilator, which has the potential to leave permanent scarring (trying to see the positive here!).
Until I am fully over the inflammation, I am vulnerable. I have to avoid ANYTHING such as being outside around barbecue smoke or dust from cleaning, which could irritate. I am staying on inhalers, not because of asthma (though the virus weirdly triggered my mild childhood asthma in the worst days) but because the inhalers keep my lungs open.
Doctors (and I have talked to 5 in the last month) have given conflicting advice and say recovery could be 2-8 weeks but they really don’t know. They are treating this like a bad pneumonia, as that is what we knew from before the virus. It is not pneumonia; it is Covid-19. However, for those of us with moderate to critical symptoms, we have probably gotten pneumonia because of The Virus.
I’m also a voice artist and speaker and recently listened to a webinar with a top medical laryngologist/voice specialist. She said all the traditional things she would have recommended in the past are not what she can recommend with this virus – in fact, many of those remedies aren’t working and could be harmful. And there is very little research even about potential long term damage which is a concern in her field. It wasn’t very reassuring, though she emphasized ‘silence is golden’ when you have laryngitis from lung inflammation. I am adhering to right now.
Research is still in the very early days regarding almost every aspect of this virus. No one has concrete answers about contagion, how long you have it, treatment options or recovery. And all of us have questions like the one I saw on social media prompting me to write.
I’ve read articles from scientists saying you can have the actual virus from 8 days to 39 days. And conflicting reports of how long you may be contagious—up to five days before you show symptoms to several days after you are symptom free. And what does that even mean to be ‘symptom free?’ as I’ve seen my husband feel better after 12 days with a mild form but he still coughed and felt short of breath for another week. On an upbeat note, he and my son ran 10k yesterday.
I’ve seen reports from scientists in Finland who give a 3-D model in a grocery store where a cough in one aisle can infect someone on the next. How far away do you really need to be, how long is it on a surface, how long can it be on the fruit placed in your delivery? What about that ‘young guy’ who resembles my teenage daughter who was asymptomatic? She quarantined for a month with our family. Does that nameless ‘young guy’ have the virus with no symptoms for weeks? Maybe he now works at the ‘essential’ food shop because he lost his job as a freelancer in media. Maybe he now spreads it unknowingly as he packs the shelves at night or delivers your take-away? I don’t know if want to know the answer to that one.
My 15-year-old son had been in Naples in Southern Italy on a school trip right before the initial virus break-out. My son had a ‘mild’ version which felt like a flu for about 14 days. He’s athletic, healthy and we ‘think’ he got it first. Or maybe I did, though my symptoms showed after his?
When I first begged for a test for my son, he didn’t meet the criteria. All those ‘confirmed’ cases you now see are those checked into the hospitals, which have strict criteria. When I was on Day 9, I lost consciousness because of breathing challenges. My husband begged the paramedics to take me to the hospital because he didn’t feel he could help me.
Normally, they would have and I probably would have stayed several nights. But this isn’t normal. This is a pandemic. What is the new normal, anyway?
I’m glad I stayed home and received medical support here. My family would not have been able to visit and I would have been alone in a very traumatic place. I am concerned for my close friends in the medical profession who work on the front lines in a very real war. How can they stay free of this virus with so much exposure?
Speaking of which, as of yesterday, almost 20 frontline medical professionals have died here in the UK. These are the official ones the media knows about and are official.
Almost 1000 are dying daily in our nation, which is a country smaller than Texas, my home state in the US. Those are the recorded ones. In the news, there are more and more reports that many in nursing homes are passing away at a rapid rate, but they are not recording those as ‘confirmed cases’ because they are not testing them. Why? This grieves me on what is going on with the most vulnerable.
It grieves me when I see a friend post a few days ago he found out his mother’s nursing home in the US had a few cases. It burdens me to pray and send him a quick message that I feel deeply for him as a son who feels helpless. He reports again that his elderly mother now is in the hospital diagnosed with Covid-19, probably confused by people in scary masks and can’t be with anyone she knows. Another why?
In the UK they are saying we have not hit our ‘peak’ yet. For many in the US, except for places like New York, they haven’t even hit the first wave yet. How many ‘peaks’ will we have? And of course, there is the very scary question of the financial implications for many individuals and businesses.
A dear friend left a message on my phone. She works in a hospital in another larger UK city. She says it has not impacted them as much as mine, and it is surreal.
She asks the question, ‘Is this is the calm before the storm?’
Most likely it is. And it deeply saddens me, but I have some hope. Maybe all this social distancing is working?
Maybe it is flattening the curve?
And just like for my personal health, I pray for the miracle of stopping the madness on this global scale with many small personal efforts now.
I have felt humbled by friends, family, strangers and our NHS and ‘essential workers.’ Our family, especially me, has received consistent support, encouragements, messages, prayers and very practical help. It has kept me afloat in very dark moments of choking and fever and sustained me in this ‘recovery’ time full of unanswered questions. And it helped me keep a sense of deep peace and allowed me to keep a sense of humour. Side note, there are some hilarious posts (grin worthy as laughing still hurts for me!) posts out there.
When you ask questions about why you are so bored or annoyed that you can’t go out (I know this is only some of you), please remember this:
Those who are climbing the walls with boredom, please take time for gratitude that you are not climbing the stairs short of breath, full of fever, clutching your chest and wondering if you will become like the UK Prime minister who went from ‘working from home with mild symptoms’ to several days in the ICU. Health is a gift. And you can give that gift to others by self-isolating.
So cheers to our famous British saying, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’, a motto developed during wartime decades ago, as we continue to stay at home, finding new routines with work, family and friends and avoiding (for now) all those things we love of social gatherings.
I know it is hard. It is hard for almost every person on the planet.
It’s not ‘overkill’ and might be the calm before the storm.
Or MAYBE, it just might be working.
Right now the only thing we can all collectively do to save lives is to take the precautions and stay home.
FYI—To feel productive and helpful these days while I recover, I am writing as it is one of the few things I can do. I’m not great at it but I can be honest and hopefully give practicals amid Covid-19. If you want to read other posts, visit my quirky website at jeanniemcginnis.com
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