Summer graduated with a B.A. in American History from the University of Windsor, Ontario as well as an MS Degree in Psychology from UMKC
When I First Had Symptoms of COVID-19
First, I will start by saying that I am a person who suffers from seasonal allergies. I suffer badly, and at least three or four times a year I end up with ear infections, throat infections, or respiratory infections which are accompanied by fevers.
I live in Houston, Texas where it never really freezes, and the pollen, ragweed, mold, and other misery-causing agents are often listed as "extremely high." I have gone to ear/nose/throat specialists as well as Allergists and they have provided me with steroids, sprays, pills, and even weekly shots. If I said I am diligent about following a strict routine with these medications, I would be lying. I therefore stupidly suffer from the constant array of snot, itchy eyes, sore throats, and waterlogged ears.
On March 29th I was running a fever of 102 degrees and boy, did I ever have a sore throat. I mean, I have had strep throat before and this was at least ten times worse. It wasn't like a normal 'hurts when you swallow' sore throat. It was like a constant aching, throbbing throat pain that I felt through my throat and in both ears.
I work from home all the time. I never really go out unless I am traveling to visit family or friends, or running to the grocery store. We have a large home with 420 acres and I am not a fan of driving in the city, so I have become quite the homebody. It never even occurred to me that I might have contracted the 'Corona Virus' as so many were talking about.
My husband and I thought I was just having another allergy illness so we called Teledoc, and I did a video conference with a doctor.
I Used Teladoc
Teledoc is an easy way to get fast antibiotics if you are sick. It's been around for years, but the most recent version has you fill out an online profile just like you'd do if you were going to a doctor's office. You list your illnesses, your drug allergies, etc. You call an automated number and give your information and then usually a doctor (mostly Physician Assistants) will call you back within an hour.
My job encourages the use of Teledoc and when the COVID-19 started getting very serious, my company dropped all co-pay fees to use the service. I guess this was their way of helping employees save money and encouraging folks to stay at home.
I had called Teledoc several times in the past when my allergies got out of control and so I wasn't a stranger when it came to the process. A doctor called me back within 60 seconds of me leaving a message. I was shocked because I was told there would be a longer than usual wait time with all of the COVID-19 cases.
Nonetheless I talked to the on-call doctor and basically told her that I had bad allergies and I had an infection again, and I needed some antibiotics. She asked me a bunch of questions about my fever, if I had a dry cough, etc- but to be honest I really thought it was just the allergies acting up again so I played down the really weird sore throat and the end result was her sending me my antibiotics, along with a bunch of sprays and steroids that I didn't pick up from the pharmacy because I wouldn't use them. I thought I'd feel back to normal in a few days. I was wrong.
After Three Days of Horse-Pill-Sized Antibiotics
The pictures above show how the ears and throat are connected by a little tube. After three days of taking two 875mg Amoxicillin horse pills, my throat and ears felt worse. They hurt so bad, I was alternating ibuprofen and acetaminophen every two hours.
My fever was a steady 102F or 103F, and the pain meds did reduce it for awhile, but it kept spiking. It was clear the antibiotics weren't working and I had some kind of virus. However, I didn't think it was COVID-19 because I never went out anyplace and my husband had no symptoms. On day four a new symptom started with a vengeance, and I will never in my life forget how it felt.
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I Couldn't Sleep Without Nightmares
Around the fourth day I was still running a fever and I was so tired. However, the virus had a new symptom that would not allow me to sleep. As soon as I fell asleep the nightmares would come. And, these weren't your regular, run of the mill 'scary clown' nightmares. These were the nightmares where you are in a dream within a dream and you know you are having a nightmare and you desperately want to wake up but you can't.
This may not make a lot of sense, but I will try to describe it. I would be in a terrifying situation and I knew that I was having a nightmare so my brain was trying to wake itself up. I willed myself to wake up, and then I would! However, I was still in a dream, but just in another bed. I was awake from one nightmare but beginning another because I was still asleep. By the time I figured out I was still sleeping, I tried again to wake up 'for real.' I am not sure if any of that makes sense, but that's the best way I can explain it.
This constant 'nightmare awareness' caused me to talk incessantly in my sleep and to scream "wake me up please" to my husband. It might have given us both a chuckle if it happened just once, but these dreams happened at least 3 or 4 times an hour. I would scream for him to wake me up. This was tremendously stressful and I became afraid to fall asleep, so I got even more run down and exhausted. It was time to call the doctor again.
Real Media Help and Info: Chris Cuomo
Chris Cuomo, if you aren't aware, is a news anchor on CNN and, he is also Andrew Cuomo's (Governor of New York), brother. As most people watched, Chris tested positive for COVID-19 and continued to do his nightly broadcast from the basement of his home. He stayed downstairs and his family stayed upstairs in order to try and prevent them from getting it too, however both his wife and child ended up suffering from COVID-19 as well.
Not knowing if I had the virus or not, I watched Chris every night. He had an array of people on, talking about the virus and his symptoms. Of course he had some of the best doctors available at his side who could monitor his symptoms. He also had the means to get several chest x-rays.
All of us in the real world hunkered down at home couldn't get tested, so I know many other people probably lived vicariously through him. He particularly gave me hope, because he and I are the exact same age. He had the same sort of symptoms, but he had the well known 'loss of smell and taste' symptom, which for some reason never plagued me.
I particularly appreciate this article, which explains how Chris got 'cocky' when he thought the virus was over. He went off the fever-reducing medication and we fever free for 60 hours. Then the fever came back with a vengeance:
The same thing happened to me. I would swear off the Tylenol and Motrin and make it around 12-16 hours and wimp out because the fever generated such horrible aches and discomfort. Chris would suggest to let your body naturally fight the virus with a fever, but I wimped out. It took about 3 weeks before I was fever free for more than two days, and then it came back occasionally but not nearly as severe and not nearly as often.
Do I Have COVID-19?
After days of fever, unbearable throat and ear pain, and horrific nightmares, I began to feel a sense of tightening in my chest. It felt like I was developing a respiratory infection or bronchitis. It was time to call the doctor. This time, I called my regular physician to see what I could do to get seen by a person. My regular physician's offices were closed so they recommended that I call a number that was dedicated to COVID-19 questions and answers. So, I called.
I am going to make this part of the 'journey' much shorter and sweeter than it was.
I was asked all of the COVID-19 questions that can be found on the CDC's website. If you've read the information in the above link, it basically says the following.
"If you think you have COVID-19 stay at home and recover on your own. Not everyone needs to be tested. This is it in a nutshell."
So, I went over all of the questions with the person on the phone who told me that she was hired as a temp to help answer calls and was no way affiliated with any sort of medical practitioner and had absolutely no credentials. She was just recording my information to give to someone else.
She told me that it sounded like I did have the virus and to shelter in place for 14 days and try and fight it off. She told me that fever medication could be taken and that if my lips turned blue or if I had trouble breathing, I should call 911 or go to a hospital. She then warned me that if I did have trouble breathing, the hospital could possibly make me more comfortable with some oxygen or, put me on the ventilator that would help me breathe. However, 90% of all COVID-19 patients who are put on ventilators would probably die.
I was dumbstruck. So, basically I was told to wait it out at home and if I got so bad I would die, to call 911 and I would probably die anyway.
My questions were, 'Shouldn't I get tested?' and 'Where can I get tested?' She had no answer for me. I was frustrated and quite terrified. In the meantime my husband had developed cold symptoms, including a runny nose and a cough.
Getting My Own Answers
As helpful as the COVID-19 hotline was (not), my husband and I decided to get some information on where we could get a drive-up test and if there were any available in our area. I mean, we live in Houston with over six million people so there had to be some kind of testing available.
We started looking online and we found a place that was about an hour and a half drive for us (the other side of the city), that were doing test between certain hours each day. We called the number and after getting the runaround, they told us that they would be open for two hours, two days of the week because they simply didn't have enough tests.
We drove to the test site the next day it was available, and we drove up to the people in astronaut suits who shoved a q-tip up our noses (just like a regular flu test). We had to pay $250 out of pocket each with no exceptions. They would not do the test without the money upfront. We filled out some paperwork and then we were told we could drive away. I asked when I would get the results of the tests and was told there was a backup, but I should get a phone call in a week.
I was flabbergasted—a week! My husband and I religiously watched the news and the task force who ensured everyone in America that we had plenty of tests available. I can't imagine how many positive cases we would have if there were testing available. The CDC is simply telling people to stay home and get over it without ever testing anyone. This was becoming more and more obvious!
New Symptom While Waiting for Test Results
I was about ten days into all of my ailments when I started noticing a very strange sensation on my skin. I was watching television and suddenly the skin on my back and arms felt just like I had applied a product called 'Icy-Hot' all over myself. I don't know how else to describe it really. I was an athlete and when I was sore, this was a remedy I would use to get relief.
It felt sort of like my skin was electric or prickly, with an 'icy-hot' feeling. I took to scratching my arms and hands and face when I fell asleep. The pictures above are my arms after a few nights of this sensation. I had a rash and scratches.
The Real Truth About Testing
While President Trump has infamously stated as early as March that anyone who wants to get tested for COVID-19 will be able to, that's simply not true. The truth of the matter is that as of April 23, the US has performed about 4.6 million tests, currently completing an average of about 150,000 tests per day. But the testing rate has plateaued there, rather than steadily scaling up to reach the level experts say that’s needed. This might indicate that America has reached its testing capacity, and tests still aren’t readily available in many areas or have been restricted only to people who fit certain criteria. (Source, COVID Tracking Project, VOX, Sara Morrison, Dylan Scott, Rani Morris)
Testing is difficult, and there is no money to make them as funds are not being dispersed.
“We need to significantly ramp up not only the number of tests, but the capacity to perform them, so that you don’t have a situation where you have a test but it can’t be done because there isn’t a swab, or because there isn’t extraction media, or not the right vial,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Time in late April. “I am not overly confident right now at all that we have what it takes to do that. We are doing better, and I think we are going to get there, but we are not there yet.”
So 4.6 million tests were performed when I was in my fourth week of the course of my illness. At that time, there were almost 1 million people who tested positive and more than 60,000 deaths. The population of the United States is 328.2 million. Many of the 323.6 million people in the US at the time wanted to get tested but were met with either no answers, no testing availability, or they were told to stay at home and get better because most cases are mild and don't need testing. What about the people who died? Were their lives worthless because they may or may not have been over a certain age or they may or may not have had underlying health conditions? You would think that testing would be of more importance.
Finally, the Results!
I waited for a phone call but I didn't get one. However, I did get some mail from the Texas Department of Health about 5 days after I got the test. It said that I was positive for SARS Cov-2. I was not at all shocked. My husband also tested positive. The pamphlet of information told me the same thing as I was told every other time I reached out for medical help.
I should quarantine myself for 14 days and wear a mask if I had to go out anywhere to avoid spreading the disease. I guess knowing I was 'positive' was really not necessary. However, think of people like my husband walking around with hardly any symptoms and spreading it.
I got COVID-19 from someone or from somewhere, most likely from my husband. I don't go out much if ever, but he goes out a lot to get supplies for our ranch and he runs a lot of errands. I truly think that testing for COVID-19 is not of any importance in the United States at this point, and until we get more tests we simply won't be able to contain this horrible virus.
This virus isn't like the common flu. It's much scarier and the symptoms are strange. Who knows how this will affect my body in the future? I will be getting tested for antibodies and I will be glad to give plasma if that will help in the future. I don't wish this on anyone. I have been sick for nearly five weeks and I am feeling better, but my lungs and my ears are still sore and I am still having a very hard time sleeping. I have horrible body aches too, but that could be from lack of exercise.
I hope you all stay safe and healthy.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.