I’ve been dealing with COVID-19 and its side effects for almost the whole month of May. I thought I would write about my experience in hopes that it might help someone else who’s going through this too, or someone helping someone else through it.
On May 5, I came down with a fever. It was only 99.5ºF, so I didn’t think much of it. Still fevers are unusual for me so I gave my doctor a call and they got me scheduled for a COVID screening on the same day. The test came back in less than 24 hours and said I was negative. I figured I must have some other strange infection, but given that it was just a fever the doctors didn’t seem too concerned and told me to manage it with Tylenol and call them back if it got worse. I continued to work that week since my fever wasn’t too bad and I was feeling well enough while the Tylenol was working.
Things started to get worse on the weekend. I started to develop a light dry cough. Nothing was coming up which concerned me, but I thought maybe it was allergies since all the trees and flowers are out here in Massachusetts. I was getting more and more tired too as the days wore on, and the Tylenol was slowly becoming less effective. I still (foolishly) didn’t think much of it.
My symptoms at this point still hadn’t improved. I was feverish, I had chills, I had a cough, the whole thing. The other peculiar symptom I had developed was that salty food was extremely salty to the point where I couldn’t eat it. Everything I ate had to be bland, like plain yogurt or plain frozen waffles. I couldn’t tolerate anything more complicated than that.
The doctor called in another COVID test for me. This one came back positive just as quickly as the last one was negative. Crap.
I was somewhat relieved that the test was positive, if I’m honest. I had at this point convinced myself that I’d caught west nile virus or lyme disease from the mosquitoes that had been out in full force in the weeks prior to me getting sick. Knowing I had cOVID was a relief to know I didn’t have something worse (not to say coronavirus is good).
For the next few days I laid low. I wasn’t working anymore by this point and just stayed in bed. I couldn’t really do much else.
The 14th was the scariest day of the entire illness. I attempted to take a shower and nearly blacked out. I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, and I almost fell over from standing. Fortunately my fiancée was around and could catch me and make sure I was alright. I have never in my life been so sick that I almost blacked out. I immediately called the doctor and ordered a price-gouged blood oxygen meter from Amazon1.
I kept getting weaker all weekend. Walking around was difficult. I definitely didn’t attempt to shower again. Breathing wasn’t necessarily difficult, but my cough wasn’t getting better and my core muscles were starting to get sore. I had horrible back pain and couldn’t sleep. Tylenol also stopped working entirely at this point and my fever refused to go below 101ºF.
Having not slept for 4 days I was totally at the end of my rope. The doctor sent me in for a chest x-ray just to make sure nothing was wrong in there. They had a suspicion I had some pneumonia, because they’ve been seeing strange body pain as a result of COVID-19 pneumonia and they wanted to rule that out before giving me something else for my back pain.
Turns out they were right! I had pneumonia in my left lower lung. My right lung was thankfully clear. They suspected it was a bacterial pneumonia, so they prescribed me an antibiotic (Z-Pak) and told me to rest, but really for real this time. I didn’t want to take chances on this one so I did exactly what they said.
After just 24 hours on the antibiotic my fever was totally gone. I still couldn’t really walk around or breathe properly but for the first time in weeks I no longer had a fever. It never came back after that point. The doctor gave me an albuterol inhaler to help with the cough and to get the junk out of my chest from the pneumonia.
Today is the 28th. I’m more than a week out from my fever breaking, but I’m still not back to 100%. The pneumonia has improved and I’m no longer contagious, but it will be several more weeks before my lungs are back to 100% capacity. I really want to be able to exercise again, but all I can do now is go up and down the stairs and take the dog for short walks. Anything more than that and I get out of breath immediately.
As a result of COVID, I’ve lost almost 15lb. I intended to lose that weight anyway, but I was doing it safely with diet and exercise. I’ve lost most of my body and leg strength. For the first few days I was able to stand up I was sore from standing for 5 to 10 minutes. I’m still sore from standing and walking around but it’s getting easier. Prior to getting sick I was a half-marathon runner. I had recently done a 10 mile training run. I have no idea when I’ll be able to do that again, let alone run at all.
I have no idea where I got it from. It’s pretty unlikely it came in on a package or from the grocery store, and I haven’t been to work since the beginning of March. I suspect my fiancée may have brought it home from her work but as we sit here now she tested negative and has never had any symptoms whatsoever. Maybe she’s one of those asymptomatic carriers, who knows. No one at her office tested positive. It will probably remain a mystery forever.
I have kicked my caffeine addiction though, so that’s something. I didn’t want to give up coffee necessarily but having not had it in several weeks I don’t need it anymore. I must’ve ignored the caffeine withdrawal headaches because of everything else that was going on.
COVID is an absolutely brutal disease. All things considered I got an extremely mild case. I wasn’t hospitalized at all and I was able to recover completely at home. Not everyone is so lucky. I can’t stress enough how important it is that everyone wear masks and continue to social distance. No one should have to suffer through this or watch a loved one suffer.
If you have the means, I recommend picking up a blood pressure cuff, thermometer, and blood oxygen meter. They’re hard to come by but having one at home is critical during this time. It makes Zoom visits with your doctor so much more productive because they can get some actual readings and data about how healthy you are. It also lets you keep an eye on yourself and know if you need to get more intensive medical care. Things can go south with COVID very quickly so it’s extremely important to keep an eye on yourself if you’re sick.
Please be responsible and take care of each other. We will get through this together.
One-day delivery even! It almost makes the $10 meter sold for $70 worth it. ↩
Arthur Rosa is an engineering manager based in Sunnyvale, California.