I Tested Positive for COVID-19 Three Months Ago; I Am Still Battling Symptoms
I have blood clot now. A Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in my right leg. I had a hunch it was there. Last Tuesday afternoon, an ultrasound confirmed it. I am now on a three-month long blood thinner treatment and I have spent the last week knowing that I have to curb, at least in the immediate future, playing tennis, working out and staying active. I wish I could say I was surprised by this latest development, but I'm not. There are endless reports about "long-hauler" symptoms being suffered by folks who had significant complications due to COVID-19. I am starting to wonder when those complications will end. Quite frankly, in so many ways, the last three months have felt like three years. There have been good days. There have been horrific days. But every day I am reminded, in some physical way, that I have had COVID and it's still marking its territory.
The Northwestern University School of Medicine just released the findings from a study of 100 coronavirus patients across 21 states. 85% of those patients continued to experience neurological symptoms more than six weeks after being infected with the virus. I'm now three months in and I am definitely having them. My friend and coworker Liberty is six months in and she's still having them. Other COVID survivors I know (like my mom) are experiencing the same thing- lingering and frustrating after effects of the infection. Among those issues being reported by patients: brain fog (which I discussed recently here at WBKR), fatigue, dizziness, headaches. numbness, tingling, joint and muscle pain. By the way, if you want to read a great summary of this research project, Sasha Pezenik wrote an excellent one.
I'm sure you heard the recent news about the CEO and founder of Texas Roadhouse, Kent Taylor. He was a "long-hauler" who, quite simply, got tired of hauling. His family confirmed that he committed suicide due to overwhelming and unbearable lingering symptoms from COVID-19. The worst? Tinnitus- a constant, excruciating ringing of the ears. Unfortunately, I know all about it. Mine is just now subsiding, finally, after ringing 24 hours a day for weeks and weeks. In fact, it's that tinnitus, plus the fear that I had a pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in my lungs) that led me to see Dr. Edwards with Deaconess a few weeks ago. Luckily, my follow up to that initial appointment was scheduled for last Tuesday, the day we discovered that I did have a blood clot after all.
By the way, there are several significant studies circulating that indicate that some COVID-19 patients are experiencing clotting during and post-infection. And a lot of these patients, like me, are younger, previously completely healthy and never prone to clotting before. Scientists and doctors are still learning about COVID-19 every day and one thing is for sure. This particular virus seems to be waging war on blood vessels inside its victims. Who knows if that's precisely what caused my clot, but the possibility that it contributed is irrefutable. As my doctor said, "It's the perfect storm."
Tuesday evening, after getting my suspicions confirmed, I gave into the exhaustion and emotion of the moment and I started to cry. I told Kevin, "I'm just so tired of this." And then I tried to explain how I have felt the last three months. Though there are certainly days when I feel better than others, I've not had a single day go by, even during a miraculous vacation in Rio de Janeiro, in which I have felt normal. I've shared this with Liberty and she absolutely relates. I also shared this with another COVID patient I coincidentally happened to meet last week at Great Harvest Bread Company. She is months beyond infection too and is still dealing with issues- blood clots, major fatigue, hair loss. She understands.
I told Kevin that it's hard to describe, but I can tell that something is not right internally. I can feel something gnawing at me, in me. I'm aware that something is working against my body from the inside. I may not be able to pinpoint it or accurately describe it, but I can feel it. I am literally waiting for the next symptom to manifest.
There are times when phantom, horrid tastes fill my mouth. There are times when shooting pains randomly course through my extremities. There are times when I feel like my heart is fluttering and I cannot breathe. There are times when my tinnitus resurfaces or I feel like I have Swimmer's ear. There are times when I am so tired that I literally crash. There are times when I wake up in the middle of the night and I am in inexplicable discomfort. I occasionally break out into a profuse sweat without even moving. I know my body isn't the same as it was three months ago. It's not even close. I said this to Kevin and he got angry, but it's the truth. I'm starting to fear that COVID, in some unexpected but drastic way, is going to take me out. As someone who, until December 28th of 2020 (when my COVID-19 symptoms surfaced), was in excellent shape and never got sick, it's a very difficult "new normal" to accept.
And, yet. There are STILL those people who just don't get it. Those folks who like to use the laughing emoji when a media outlet posts stories about COVID-19, the number of new cases and the ongoing community spread, the number of deaths caused by the virus. You know the folks I'm talking about right? The ones who use that emoji because they think it makes them look like the smartest person in the room. Of course, the reality is the polar opposite. They don't have a freaking clue. Those folks who, instead of actually doing something productive and educating themselves to help others in their community, are content with spending all their time rolling and trolling around social media trapped inside that inflatable hamster ball full of conspiracy theories and embarrassing stupidity. As my friend Crystal said, when her husband Troy contracted COVID-19, then spent weeks in the hospital chest-tubed and fighting to breathe, "Still think COVID is fake or political? Come look at my husband!"
The truth is this. There is NOTHING funny about this. I guarantee you Crystal and Troy didn't foresee this happening to them and it's been a nightmare since it did. I certainly didn't foresee it happening to me. Like I said, I never get sick. Or, at least I didn't. Then December 29th, 2020 happened and I tested positive for COVID-19 and became a statistic and guinea pig of this pandemic. I feel like I learn something new about coronavirus every day because my body is affected by it, in some way, every single day. Still. Three months later.
And there's no doubt the last three months have taken a significant physical toll. I see it when I look in the mirror. I'm also coming to grips with the fact that it's taken a mental toll as well. My mind has become consumed with "What's next?" It's not a great place to be and it's not a great way to feel. For right now, though, that's my reality and I will continue to do what I always do. I will put on a brave face and tackle each and every day with a smile, a crazed work ethic, a big dose of sarcastic wit and relentless enthusiasm. To you, I will appear the same as before on the outside. Just know that I'm not the same, at all, on the inside.
LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions
While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.