Day 17: I definitely have a secondary infection.
The last several days have brought increasing difficulties for me on the breathing front. Since my surgery last year, I don’t have full lung capacity in my right lung so if I can’t breathe easily while sleeping on my left side it’s cause for alarm. I have also had to start using the albuterol rescue inhaler again. Full disclosure: I have been doing more physically and I probably should not have been as active with cleaning and it has felt like someone is pressing down on my chest. These are familiar asthma symptoms for me.
I had a tele-appointment with my doctor back home in Arizona-her husband follows me on Twitter and has been keeping up with my situation and she was kind enough to talk with me on a Sunday from home. She explained that the protocol for treating coronavirus symptoms right now is a round of antibiotics and the anti-malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine. I declined to take the last medicine because my system is sensitive and I’m not sure I really need it. I also don’t want to take the medication away from folks who are suffering with diseases who need it to treat their condition.
I am now taking antibiotics and steroids and she has prescribed a new inhaler that is a bronchial dilator instead of a steroid. The steroids make me feel like I could punch out a rhinoceros, so I got that going for me. The only problem is that my insurance has decided to take several days during a pandemic to authorize filling this new inhaler prescription. I am so sick of our broken healthcare system, but that is another series of posts.
I’m actually afraid to admit that I might have pneumonia, even though I likely do. People are dying from this and it scares me to even say it out loud but I want to make sure you have all of the information. I probably should have talked to my doctor a day or so sooner, but my post-symptoms really developed quickly and it seemed everything was going to clear up. My point in this is to remind you to be vigilant and be in contact with your primary care physician or pulmonologist early if you can. I you don’t have access to your doctor, be sure to develop a back-up plan and how you will seek treatment if you get sicker after the first two weeks.
(I have been doing these breathing exercises from the video above and they have helped me a lot-you should consider doing them every day to increase lung capacity, even if you are healthy, but especially if you think you might have COVID-19.)
I get winded at just the slightest activity and I understand this is a common thing with this virus. I can see how this would be so frightening to people who have never had serious breathing issues because the first time you struggle for air like this you think you are going to die. Thanks to my asthma and some pretty gnarly panic attacks, I am very experienced when these happen. I focus on staying calm and I make myself breathe in through my nose and then purse my lips to breathe out and regulate my breathing overall. So far it has worked really well, but it is very scary while it is happening. If this has never happened to you before, seek medical attention immediately.
I am hoping this will be my last post in this series and that the new medicine will clear up what I am sure is a sinus infection and what is likely pneumonia. I have still not been tested for COVID-19 as there is no real accessible system in place for testing in the Washington, D.C. area and I don’t want to venture out if it’s not critical in the event that I could infect someone else. I know I have had this novel coronavirus, even without the test to confirm it. There are also people who are still having false negative tests at this point, which is hard to understand. I will just wait and have it confirmed that I have the anti-bodies for the virus. I keep reminding myself that once I get through this I will be a superwoman of sorts and might even be able to go to London in September, as I had planned.
My best friend and I are also fairly sure that he had this virus several months ago. He works in hospitality and is exposed to everything and he had all of these symptoms and a lingering cough that lasted for months. We call it his kennel cough and it was all very funny until recently. He has one of the strongest immune systems I have ever seen and rarely gets sick and this took him down for weeks. He has not been sick recently, but I have no doubt that this virus has been in play for months longer than any government is confirming. I have no actual proof of it, I just know it to be true from everything I have experienced and observed.
I wake up every morning so grateful for my life — my job, my family, my friends and everything I am lucky to have. As I heal slowly but surely, I await the impending onslaught of deaths that the people of New York will have to suffer through and that is always on my mind. I think about all of the healthcare workers who are healthy now, but are risking their lives to take care of people who are all alone as a condition of their circumstances, and I am grateful for these brave medical professionals. The stories of loss tick in, one more heartbreaking than the next.
I’m also grateful for the first time in my life that I am an only child because it seems that I have been unintentionally prepping for a serious round of isolation like this from birth. I was a latch key kid and my childhood was a milder version of “I Am Legend,” so I am perfectly fine to isolate for another month or two. You give me a bucket of legos, enough costumes and my Disney storybooks on vinyl and I will never leave my apartment again, even now.
Thank you to all of you who have reached out to me with concern or well-wishes or even unsolicited medical advice. I feel loved and cared for and that’s all anyone can really ask for. Take care and stay safe-I will resume my regular publishing schedule this week because the show must go on and too many people need to be held accountable. When I’m completely recovered from this, I’m going to be so pissed.
For the first post in this series, including Day 1, Day 3, Day 6 and Day 13 click here.
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Amee Vanderpool writes the “Shero” Newsletter and is an attorney, contributor to magazines and newspapers and an analyst for BBC radio. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @girlsreallyrule.