It started with a light cough after a week of work out of town, I was pretty sure it was just a cold. Now, It has been 3 weeks and I still have a cough, shortness of breath, and a bit of overall weakness. I had Covid-19.
I’m going to write about my experience, not because it was particularly interesting or I have anything inspiring to say, but because they are still people who think this isn’t real. When I stopped at the gas station yesterday the cashier asked me what I thought about masks and if this whole thing was real or not. I told him a little bit about my time in the hospital, and he ended up giving me a soup recipe to help me recover. I still regularly see people posting on social media conspiracy theories about how none of this is real and it’s all part of an attempt to take away our rights. So I’m sharing my experience. Draw your own conclusions about what is happening, but know that my story is true and that I am telling you the truth about what happened to me.
I started feeling poorly Saturday the 24th of October. I went to church the next day, certain it was just a cold, and I wore my mask and kept my distance from the people around me. I was in an isolated room for most of the time I was there and made it a point to not linger near anyone for very long. I called in to work on Monday, planning to go in on Tuesday and spend 3 days out of town on various projects. I didn’t make it in to work on Tuesday either.
The fever started on Tuesday night. A bit before this point I had started sleeping on the couch in hopes that my wife would not also get sick. For the next 5 days I was on the couch almost exclusively, only getting up to make trips to the restroom. As the fever continued to rage, I took regular doses of Tylenol in hopes of breaking the fever. The fever would calm down for a few hours, then as the medicine wore off it would return. The highest temperature I remember seeing during this 5 days was 103.3. I felt terrible, I had no appetite and I couldn’t breath. I had dramatic episodes of chills, followed by waking up soaked in sweat. I woke up several times over the 5 days of fever gasping for air, just trying to get enough oxygen to stop panicking and return to automatic breathing. On Thursday, Samantha and I took a Covid test in the drivethrough of a CVS pharmacy and we began to wait on our results.
It always seemed like the fever had to break soon, I was certain I would wake up the next morning and find that I was a few more miles down the road to recovery.
A few quick background notes. Before this experience, I have not seen a medical professional or even been to a family doctor since the year 1998. This is not an exaggeration, it has literally been 20+ years. I have been pretty sick lots of times, but I’ve always eventually recovered and I had hoped this would be the same.
On average, I have lived a life of average health. Over the past 10 years I have finished 4 marathons and 2 ultra-marathons (slowly) and have had years where I have run more than 300 miles in a season. I’ve done several long bike rides, I love to hike, and just this year I kayaked 34 miles in a day down the entire length of Cedar Creek which involved LOTS of scrambling over fallen trees hauling the kayak with me.
My job is very physical at times, and involves climbing through attics and basements and everywhere in between, often while carrying heavy loads. I was a bit overweight going into this illness, 10-15 pounds and I haven’t been as active this year as others, but I would say that I fall into the upper middle of the pack in terms of overall general health. I really felt like I was in a good position to be someone who could shake Covid at home.
It wasn’t just pride or arrogance that kept me from going to the doctor this time, although I have to admit that was a part of it. I couldn’t help but remember all of the times the news or the government told us that “most people will only have the symptoms of a very bad cold”. I still kind of thought that is where I was. I had a bad cold and I would get over it. I also knew that cases were rising dramatically across the state of Indiana and that the hospitals were going to start being overrun by cases that really needed help. I didn’t think I was one of those, so I kept waiting for the fever to subside so I could start recovering.
It was Sunday night, November 1st , a full week and a day past the onset of symptoms when my dad (an ER nurse at Dupont hospital) came over to see how I was doing. About 10 minutes after he got to our house, we were in the car on the way to the hospital. I had a hard time breathing on the way due to the mask, and I was brought inside in a wheelchair.
I was rapid tested for Covid and was confirmed positive. (My CVS results still had not come in.) I was put on oxygen, given some Tylenol and a few other drugs, got a chest x-ray, blood tests, and various other vitals were taken. Interestingly, I think it was during the first few hours in the ER that my fever finally broke for the last time.
After about 2 hours, I felt ready to go home, so they measured my pulse-ox levels, took me off the oxygen, had me walk around the room for just a minute, retook my pulse-ox level and told me I would be staying the night. I was transferred to a room in the regular part of the hospital and was poked and prodded and tested off and on through the remainder of the night. In the morning, I was moved into the Covid wing of the hospital, which had just had a bed open up.
I was started on antibiotics, remdesivir, a ton of vitamins, and I was on an IV constantly. I was on a heart monitor my entire stay in the hospital. I was told to spend as much time on my stomach as possible, as my right lung had an infection that looked a lot like pneumonia. I was on oxygen almost the entire stay in the hospital. I was started on the basic nose cannula, but I wasn’t doing well enough on that, and they moved me up to a high flow cannula instead. The next step beyond that would have been a ventilator, and thankfully it didn’t quite come to that for me.
At some point during one of the nights, my heart freaked out and my heart rate was in the upper 30’s. The next morning I was placed on Eliquis and some blood pressure medicine. I even got a fancy test that was a lot like an ultrasound, with the gel and everything!
Through all of this, I was well cared for by the various nurses and techs assigned to me. Each one of these nurses was fully decked out in protective equipment, some wearing multiple masks, and the ones specifically assigned to the Covid ward were all wearing soft helmets that had a ventilation system that was strapped to their back like a fanny pack. The hospital wing itself was held under negative pressure, an entire patient room converted to a giant air handler that had half a dozen blowers constantly pulling air in from the rest of the hospital and then exhausting it outwards through a converted window to ensure that Covid would not spread back into the general hospital population. The entire time I was in my room, the blowers were constantly running and it was reasonably loud. I can only imagine the emotional and psychological wear and tear all of these PPE requirements and noise puts on the staff of the hospital.
It was 6 days before I finally stabilized enough that they allowed me to go home. I went home on November 7th, 15 days after I first started feeling ill. I lost roughly 12 pounds during my experience, I’m just now able to speak normally, and I still have a bit of trouble transitioning from laying to sitting or standing as my body has to breath quickly to catch up. It’s now been a week since I left the hospital, and I really felt almost normal yesterday for the first time. I still have lots of bruises from the various blood tests and shots I received, but they are starting to fade.
They say that it is likely I’ll be dealing with the effects of Covid for up to 8 weeks. So maybe by the time 2021 rolls around I’ll be back to normal. There have been a few cases where someone who has been infected is re-infected. Usually the 2nd round is worse than the first, so if that happens to me I’ll be trying to get to the hospital early.
As far as I can tell, no one really knows yet exactly why some people are more impacted than others. I have had coworkers who were sick for a week and back to normal. It seems that is the most common story for most people who get it. My wife, Samantha, tested positive and her symptoms were much more mild, and she didn’t need to see a doctor. Overall, she pretty much feels like she had a cold or a stomach bug and that was it for her.
Since no one really knows why certain cases are so much worse than others, there really doesn’t seem to be a way to know how Covid will effect you until you have it. Again, I’m a reasonably healthy person who is only 36 and this is the most dramatic illness I’ve ever had and the longest hospital stay in my entire life. I would argue that my wife is not as physically fit as I am, but she was not impacted nearly as much.
I have been pretty consistent about wearing a mask, but I also know that I had stopped being as diligent in washing my hands and using hand sanitizer after I was in a public place before I was infected. I suspect that my infection probably was the result of unclean hands or overnight time in a hotel room that wasn’t sufficiently cleaned. I’m trying to retrain myself to be more deliberate in hand washing and sanitizing again, because even if I have immunity now (which isn’t guaranteed), I can spread it to others who do not.
When I arrived and left the hospital, they were out of Covid beds. Once my room was cleaned they immediately moved someone new into it. The doctors and nurses were all very professional, but they were not hiding the fact that things were getting intense and they were out of room and running out of energy. Each healthcare worker was exposing themselves to some level to the risk of Covid, and I am so very grateful for their sacrifices to take care of those who needed it. So if for no other reason, wear a mask and wash your hands so you don’t have to go to the hospital. Wear a mask and wash your hands so you don’t add to the already heavy work load they are experiencing.
If you feel like your personal freedoms are being attacked, please remember that God has called us to a life of service to himself, a life of denial of our own self. Jesus allowed himself to be put to death for sins he did not commit. He held nothing back from protecting us from the consequences of our own sin.
Please be sure that you are pursuing what God has asked of you in this moment, not a desire of your own heart to be free needlessly. Peter, Paul, and other apostles and early leaders of our faith submitted themselves to prison and even death in order to honor God with their lives…surely a mask is far less of a cost.
Thank you for reading…if you have any questions I would be happy to try to answer them. Thank you to each person who prayed for Samantha and I during this illness, and thank you to everyone who reached out to offer help. We are so so grateful for all that each of you have done. .