I mentioned in my last post that I was sick, and I'd follow up on that later. Well here I am trying to therapeutically put it all down on paper in the hopes that writing it down will release it and I can finally breathe, literally and figuratively. Whether I actually publish the post has yet to be decided. However, If you're reading this, I guess you know which way I went.
*Today (now yesterday) (March 18th, 2020) I got the results of my COVID-19 test...
It took 5 anxiety filled days, in which only a few people knew I was being tested, and it has come back negative! I'm so thankful for this test result, but if I'm being honest, I find that it has only eliminated one fear and replaced it with another. To understand why I say that, I should perhaps give you some backstory...
I've been sick since I returned home from Portugal. On my trip back home, about halfway through the return flight, I started feeling very rundown. My throat was starting to feel sore, my body was starting to ache all over (not unusual after having walked so many kilometers each day for a week in the hilly cities of Porto & Lisbon), my head was killing me (somewhat typical), and I was starting to get that tickle in my throat indicating that a cough was coming on. I should point out that these symptoms are typical for me anytime I fly because of the dry, stuffy air I encounter on planes. My sinuses are easily irritated, and my body hurts most of the time these days due to my herniated disk and osteoarthritis. Jeez, I'm seriously too young to feel this old! Basically, I wasn't concerned because it wasn't out of the ordinary for me, and I wasn't running a fever.
We landed on February 24th and by the time we got through customs, picked up our car, stopped for a quick bite to eat at an Onroute, unpacked our bags, and showered, all I had energy for was sleep. So that's what I did. I slept until the coughing started to wake me up in the middle of the night, and when that happened I realized my throat was on fire, my body hurt, and it was difficult to breathe lying down.
So, when I woke on the morning of February 25th I started thinking maybe this is more than just my regular travelers stuffiness. I noticed that any exertion made me short of breath. I was coughing, my throat was on fire, I hurt all over, my headache was still there, my nose was running like a faucet, and I was sneezing, but I still didn't have a fever. I discussed it with my husband and considering that COVID-19 was just then starting to make headlines for being in other countries besides China, and the fact that I work with children, we decided it was best that I call my doctor and get an appointment. Better safe than sorry. I didn't want to go to work the next day and infect everyone with whatever it was that was causing me these issues. Whether it be a common cold or something worse.
So, I got an appointment with my doctor for that afternoon. Since I didn't have a fever and was not arriving back from China, and had not been in contact with anyone who had tested positive for COVID-19, I was not a candidate for a swab test for the virus, and my doctor didn't feel it was necessary as he was confident that it was something else. At that time, this was the protocol. A week or two later, that would all change for pretty much everyone.
My doctor was however concerned with my breathing. He felt I had pneumonia, so he sent me for a chest x-ray to confirm, put me on antibiotics, and told me to stay home for at least a week. That if in that timeframe I was still symptomatic, that we would reevaluate. The x-rays confirmed that I had pneumonia, at the beginning stages. On thursday I called the doctor to let him know that I was still feeling quite bad, and in some regards worse. He told me to stay home, and come in on Tuesday for another check-up.
On Tuesday, March 3rd I went to my doctor's office for the check-up. He felt my lungs sounded a bit better (though my breathing was not really improved), but he was still concerned about my immune system and my being around others (as I could at this point easily be infected with whatever people happened to be sick with). So he told me to stay home for the rest of that week, returning to work on Monday, March 9th. He told me to go home and rest, and for the sake of my health to distance myself from others. So that's what I did. Essentially I had the equivalent of a 2 week quarantine.
By Sunday, March 8th my cough was pretty much gone, my breathing was better, unless I was moving around alot or lying down (my doctor said this would be the case and it would take a few weeks for me to completely get back to my normal self), my body aches were gone, my headache was back to normal (I always have a slight headache), my runny nose back to normal (I've seriously had year round allergies since I moved here), and my throat was all good. Still no fever at this point, so per my doctor's advice, I went back to work on Monday, March 9th and kept as much distance as I could from anyone displaying any illness, in the hopes of not catching anything.
I was feeling better, not 100%, but that was to be expected. I was keeping my distance, trying to keep the kids out of my bubble, and at this time we were starting to implement extra measures at work to keep everyone safe, and we were all following those measures. Washing hands for 20 seconds (easier said than done with kindergarteners!), sanitizing everything constantly, making sure everyone was giving each other personal space and staying out of each other's "bubble" (again almost impossible with little ones), going over the proper way to cough or sneeze into one's elbow, etc. Still, there were a lot of sick kids in our program. Some parents did the smart thing by keeping them home, but some didn't have that option and had to send them to school anyway. It wasn't ideal by any means, for anyone concerned, and of course I got sick again.
I made it through most of the week fine, but by halfway through my shift on Friday morning of March 13th (Of course a Friday the 13th!), I was starting to feel rundown again, had that tickle in my throat indicating a cough coming on, and I thought I might be developing a fever. I asked my coworker if my forehead felt warm and she thought it might be, but we had no way of confirming this. So, an hour later I was at home and able to use my thermometer, and discovered that I had a fever. I took some Tylenol and called my doctor's office. I explained that I had started running a fever and was still having shortness of breath, and my cough was coming back. They got back with me within 15 minutes and sent me to the ER to be tested for COVID-19.
It was quite scary being in the ER that day. All staff were in full PPE, they were guarding the entrance to the ER and screening people before they could even go in. If they didn't feel you needed a test, you were sent home. I went through about 4 different "triage" situations before I was deemed a necessary test patient. After about 4 1/2 hours I was called back to a room to start my testing process. I had to do a swab test, a blood test, and a new chest x-ray. That all happened quickly compared to the first 4 1/2 hours, but then there was another 1 hour wait to get the lab results from the blood test before I could be sent home. 6 hours after I had arrived at the ER, I was finally on my way home.
I was told by the ER doctor that my white cell count was high, but she wasn't concerned at this time, because the virus could account for that elevation. I was then sent home to self isolate, even from my husband, for what I was told was 72 hours, but turned out to be 5 days. Apparently the lab was inundated with so many tests that they were unable to keep up with the demand and had to adjust their turnaround time. To say I was anxious doesn't even begin to describe those 5 days. I'd wish upon no one the anxiety of waiting to hear potentially bad news. You do everything you can to occupy your mind, but ultimately you go on Twitter or read a news article and your anxiety is through the roof again.
So, that puts me back to today (now yesterday) when I found out that I tested negative for COVID-19. I'm so relieved to have gotten that test result, but now I'm worried about my susceptibility to get that or any other illness due to my immune system. I'm also concerned about the elevated white cell count that the ER doctor had mentioned... now that we know what is not causing my symptoms (COVID-19) I have to wonder what is. What did I pick up at school or is it still just remnants of the pneumonia reemerging? I'm still running a low grade fever, still having shortness of breath, still coughing (though it has slowed again), my headaches are horrendous again, and I'm so exhausted. I'm not a doctor so all I can do is Google and you guys know that's never a good way to go. From what I've read I can account for the elevated white cell count because of the stress and anxiety, so we'll go with that. As for the rest of it, maybe it's a bug I picked up at school and I just have to let it run its course.
Guys skip to the next paragraph if "girl" things bother you...
*On another health related note... I've also developed really, really, really sore boobs in the last few days. Not sure that has anything to do with it, but they don't even get this sore (Who knew they could get worse than that!) when I cycle monthly, and it's not even close to time for that yet! Seriously, they are so sore just rubbing against them makes me want to cry out in pain. Not that any of you needed to know that tidbit, but it is also out of the ordinary for me, so I'm noting it. It feels a bit concerning because I currently have a lump in one breast that they are "watching" and I go for another follow up ultrasound for it in a few weeks. So yeah.*
Ok guys you can read again...
Anyway, I'm waiting to hear back from my doctor on what he thinks about the hospital's chest x-rays and the elevated white cell count. Until then, he has prescribed me a new inhaler, and once again I'm to stay away from people as much as possible to avoid getting infected while my immune system is compromised and until my symptoms subside. But that seems to be what everyone needs to be doing, or should be doing at this time anyway. I've also heard from the Health Unit, expressing pretty much the same concerns.
On a positive note, I'm thankful that I can safely hug my husband again, and maybe I won't feel so alone anymore. It's been difficult not being able to seek comfort from the one you love.
So here I am on day 5 (now 6) of #SocialDistancing #Quarantine, and though I have answers to some things, I 'm left with more questions. I've struggled with anxiety my whole life and this situation hasn't helped with that. I know there are others out there whose anxiety is much worse than mine, and my thoughts are with you all. I wish I had some sage advice to help us all be able to get through this without anxiety attacks and the ups and downs of this emotional rollercoaster, but sadly I do not. All I can do is take it day by day.
And also please be kind to those around you! The situation we all currently find ourselves in is devastating, but COVID-19 is not the fault of any one person or any one race of people.
Be kind. Be loving. Be helpful. Be encouraging. Be BETTER!