It was June and I was working my current job, training for a possible new one, and taking summer school classes. Getting headaches is not an uncommon thing for me, so when I started to get a really bad headache, I figured I just had a lot on my plate. I did my normal regimen that works to get rid of my headache and went to bed. The following day I woke up with that same headache. It was pounding and one of the worst headaches I had ever experienced. I am usually a trooper and can push through anything but decided to take the day off work and school to try to rest it out.
The following day I woke up and the headache remained and this time I started to get major congestion. It felt like sinusitis (a condition in which the cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed.) The following day the painful sore throat happened, and I had a terrible migraine, and congestion (to the point I could not use my nose to breathe.) I chatted with a doctor and did an E-visit. The doctor asked if I had a fever, shortness of breath or a dry cough. At the time those were the only known Covid-19 symptoms. I had none of those, so the doctor said it must just be an upper respiratory infection and to take over the counter medication. I started to think maybe I had Covid-19 but I had quarantined and did not even leave for groceries (everything was done via delivery) for at least a month.
I did see my mom one time earlier that week, but she was only at my house for about 10 minutes. I have an elderly cat named Autumn that is 21 years old who we were going to administer fluids from home for the first time. I asked my mom to come over to help me. A week passed and I didn’t feel like I was getting better. I discovered my mom was experiencing the headache and congestion and I thought it was odd we were both sick at the same time. Still both of us did not have a fever, a cough, or shortness of breath at this point. I called my doctor and asked if I could get a test out of precaution and because at this time tests were limited my doctor said she would make an exception but she didn’t think I had it.
Two days later my results came via email and my heart dropped. I was positive for Covid-19. I immediately broke down and cried. How did I catch Covid? At this point it was like a 1% chance of catching it. I had followed all the rules and done everything right. My fiancé who I live with had no symptoms and I had been sick a week by now. He immediately went to get tested. The phone call I had with my doctor following my positive results was scary. She was surprised I had it and said I was her first patient to have it. She didn’t really know how to treat me and said to rest, quarantine, and take over the counter medicine. She said my body would just need to fight it on its own. Since my fiancé had not felt any symptoms she said we need to separate to prevent him from getting it. I asked since I had already been sick a week does that mean this is the worst it gets? She didn’t know, she couldn’t provide many answers for me. She just said if I feel shortness of breath to go to the hospital or call 911. The three loneliest days passed while waiting for my fiancé’s results. He’d make me food and sit on the other side of the closed door and eat with me. He’d FaceTime me to keep me company and was honestly my biggest support. As the days continued my health was not improving. I started to develop a really bad cough with phlegm and it was the worst at night. It wasn’t the typical dry cough that is a Covid symptom. I couldn’t sleep and to be honest, after sleeping by my fiancé’s side everyday for 6 years, sleeping without him was hard.
He finally got his results, and they were positive. I was so worried, I didn’t want him to get sick like me. By this point I was approaching week two. I told my job I’d be out for the next two weeks and informed my summer school professor I was still extremely sick and couldn’t attend class. Thankfully my job gave me an entire month off to recover. My professor refused to let me drop the class and worked with me by sending me recorded sessions and letting me make up the missed assignments once I got better.
I was almost at the 14 day mark and was hoping things would get better but they only got worse. By the end of week two I started to experience breathing problems. My chest hurt anytime I took a deep breath and I had a cough that sounded like my lungs were going to come out. I’d sometimes wake up out of my sleep gasping for air. The breathing complications were the scariest. My fiancé rushed me to the hospital because I was gasping for air.
My first hospital visit I was there overnight. The ICU beds were packed so I was in a makeshift room my entire visit. I was young with no underlying conditions, so I was not considered a priority patient even though I was really sick. They ran tests on me the entire time I was there. My fiancé couldn’t be with me even though he also had Covid-19. He waited and slept in his car in the parking lot the entire time I was in there. He really helped me get through that hospital visit by keeping me company via text and helping me stay positive. Due to the hospital being at capacity, they released me once my breathing stabilized and sent me home with just an inhaler. As you could imagine an inhaler did not help. With medical professionals not helping with answers I figured the best people to talk to were Covid-19 survivors. I found a Facebook support group that really helped me. They had suggestions on things like getting a humidifier to help with my breathing at night, getting a device called The Navage to help with my congestion. They also instructed me to monitor my health and if it gets worse it could develop into something like pneumonia (an infection in the lungs.)
While in week three of Covid, symptoms came and went. The cough and breathing issues continued. I experienced loss of taste and smell for about 3 days. At this point my fiancé still had no symptoms and his doctor concluded he was asymptomatic. I had been sick for 3 weeks approaching four and felt like I was never going to get better. My mother wasn’t doing well either but was experiencing completely different symptoms than me. She had body aches so bad she struggled to get out of bed to use the bathroom. I never got body aches. Her headache lasted the entire time she was sick with major congestion. She also lost her sense of smell and taste for over a month. She never got a cough or shortness of breath.
I would remain sick from Covid for a total of 6 weeks and would be hospitalized one more time. By my second hospital visit I had lost over 20 pounds. My ER doctor said I had Covid-19, bronchitis, and sinusitis simultaneously. Being sick with one of those is bad enough, you can only imagine how sick I was having all three. The ER doctors seemed to be the most knowledgeable because they had seen the most Covid patients. I was explained by the doctor that developing bronchitis, pneumonia, and sinusitis were common things when having Covid.
By week 6 I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My body was recovering but it took a toll on my mental health. People talk about the symptoms of having Covid but you don’t really hear about how it has affected people’s mental health. I was so scared to get sick again that I started to suffer from anxiety. I didn’t want to leave my house and spent everyday indoors for weeks. When I visited my doctor for my checkup after my recovery she noticed my anxiety. My doctor explained what I was experiencing was something a lot of patients were going through. She shared with me how scary it was to be a doctor during Covid-19 and how she also suffered from anxiety. She advised me for my mental health to get better, I need to go outside and continue to live my life but do so while being safe. She advised I follow all guidelines while out. She told me to not let Covid-19 take over my life. This was the best advice I could have received, and I appreciate her sharing her experience and being vulnerable with me.
This is my first time sharing my story and writing this was hard. I have close friends and family who still don’t know I was this sick. I hope that by me being vulnerable it will allow others to learn from my experience. This is why Distance Assistance LA was so meaningful to me. Going to safe places that give me some type of normalcy really helped my mental health improve. I want to remind you I am not a medical professional; this is just my experience and everyone’s is different. Do what makes you feel comfortable and never feel bad for doing that. I am still extremely careful when out and follow all guidelines and then some. There are still times I don’t leave my house for days but I do my best to get some sunlight or go for a drive. If you have gotten this far I appreciate you sticking through this entire post with me. Please stay safe and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.