Mmmm ma My Corona!
March 30th, 2020 - By Patrick T. McBriarty
I am not going to get all “soap-boxy” about what should have been done to combat this pandemic. Plenty of that can be found elsewhere, but suffice it to say face masks are a good idea. In Czech Republic they have used them quite successfully to curb the spread of the Coronoavirus (COVID-19).
In my case, I believe (without readily available tests, still unconfirmed) I came down with Coronavirus last Monday (3/16). I have no idea where or how I got it. I woke up feeling pretty normal maybe a bit sluggish, showered, had breakfast, but by 10:30 am fell asleep on the couch for three solid hours, despite the cleaning lady being here. That never happens as I typically go work at a coffee shop. And yes, I talked with my cleaning lady yesterday and she is fine and no one in her family has signs of the virus. Whew!
The week-and-a-half prior I had already minimized contact with others, was working from home as a writer, podcaster, and for a nonprofit the Chicago Maritime Arts Center. I had fully recovered from a cycling trip getting in 350 miles over nine days in Tucson, Arizona having flown back on March 6th and took a cab home since I had an oversized bike case with me and not the L. Prior to that had completed two months of a push-up regime so I am in good health and rarely get sick for more than 2-3 days. It is possible I picked up something at the airport ten days earlier. In any event thankful for a flexible work schedule the isolation was not a big deal, but was already making me a bit stir-crazy. Except for a couple trips to the hardware store and Trader Joe’s I had hardly left my condo. Now, I will admit I was not washing my hands as well or as frequently as I am now having gotten it and not wanting to spread it to anyone else.
My case has been mild, but it was like no other cold or flu I had ever had. There was no runny nose, no post-nasal drip, no body aches, no cough, no fever to speak of and I never lost my sense of smell. I did however have a touch of diarrhea Wednesday afternoon and roughly every third morning cleared a little green phlegm from the back of my throat. This happened three times and after I rinsed my sinuses with warm salt water and was good for a couple days. I also thought a couple times there was some chest congestion, but it could have been a mild panic or fear.
The big issue was fatigue and dehydration. Over the past seven days I would sleep 8-10 hours and was still taking 1-to-2 hour naps each day with no disruption to a night’s sleep. The week was spent refilling my water bottle, laying on the couch, eating, peeing, and watching Netflix or Amazon Prime, which if I had not felt so exhausted and worried, it might not have been so bad.
This heavy fatigue was characterized by an inability to concentrate, difficulty doing much work, (even reading for more than an hour or two became a struggle) low energy, desire to lay down (rather than sit up or stand) and overall tiredness and not feeling well. I lacked any ambition, was easily dehydrated, and prone to headaches, which I normally never get (except when hungover), and could mostly eliminate by drinking lots of water and/or eating something. I was drinking a gallon to a gallon-and-a-half of water each day and still frequently feeling dehydrated and the headache that can go with it.
On day two (Tuesday) I woke up feeling somewhat better and after a slow start did do some research until about 3pm when the need to lay-down sent me to the couch to watch a video and nap. After dinner returning to the couch and then going to bed to sleep through the night. Wednesday morning I did some research until about 11:30am and needed to lay down and fell asleep on the couch for two hours. Later that day I was able to go outside for a walk and the fresh air seemed helpful. By Thursday it felt like I was feeling better, but speaking with a friend in D.C. who had a similar first week warned the second week knocked her down worse than before. So I continued to coddle myself and took it very easy Friday – Sunday. No work, rest, nap and watch videos. Sunday morning I was able to do some laundry and cleaning before flaking out on the couch and later getting in a walk. Only yesterday (Monday, 3/30) did I start doing any writing before having to lay down a couple times to coming back to it this afternoon.
Over the weekend and today, just talking on the phone for an hour or less made me want to lay down and rest. I still did not have much energy, but my headaches were less frequent and overall I felt a little better each day. My thinking is still scattered, I was more easily distracted, forgetting to complete simple tasks (more than usual), and still had not finished cleaning up the last 20% of a broken bottle of olive oil fumbled earlier in the week. A task that was spread over two days, because I just didn’t care nor have the energy.
- One man’s hospital experience with COVID-19 – “Ten lessons from an old friend that just survived an ugly bout with COVID-19,” Wireponts emagazine, April 1, 2020.
A YouTube video discussion from a physician that has been treating COVID-19 patients for the past three week at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City (57 minutes) – Covid 19 Protecting Your Family a Group Chat with Dr. Dave Price, Recorded March 22, posted March 26, 2020.
- How to interpret the numbers – “How to understand – and report – figures for ‘COVID deaths’,” by Dr. John Lee, Spectator Magazine website, March 29, 2020.
- Face masks – “How to make an effective face mask at home,” by Kelly Burch, Business Insider website, March 28, 2020. (Note: a needle and thread can easily substitute for a sewing machine)
- More effective malarial treatments than quinine – “Could the anti-malarial drug chloroquine treat COVID-19?,” by Nicoletta Lanese, LiveScience website, March 20, 2020.
- Johns Hopkins Experts – “Experts Discuss COVID-19 and Ways to Prevent Spread of Disease” by Saralyn Crucikshank, March 17, 2020.
- Expert brief Congress, especially see Lisa Maragakis’ (3rd expert) discussion of the “droplet nuclei” in paragraph four of her testimony – “Transcript of congressional briefing by Johns Hopkins experts,” Hub staff report, HUB (Hopkins University Bulletin) website, March 11, 2020.
- Coronavirus may linger in the body – “Can people spread the coronavirus after they recover?,” by Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience website, Feb. 29, 2020.
- Lessons from China – “Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in China,” by Zunyou Wu, MD, PhD and Jennifer M. McGoogan, PhD, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network website, Feb. 24, 2020.
- What is Coronavirus? – “Coronavirus Symptoms and Prevention Explained Through Medical Animation,” by Avijeet Ranjan, Scientific Animations website, Feb. 20, 2020.
The articles above were very helpful in getting up to speed on the topic and between research, talking with friends, knowing my own body, and following the news my experience was very mild case of Coronavirus (though I would not wish even that on anyone). The real issue in my mind now, besides continuing to recover, is what happens next?
Basically we are still at the bottom of the infection curve of this pandemic in Chicago (and much of the United States). As the CDC estimated as reported on March 13, between 48- and 65-percent of the U.S. will likely get infected, so for Chicagoland an area of approximately 9 million some 4.3- to 5.8-million people will get infected. Even with limited testing we are no where near those infection levels at this point.
How much longer do I need to isolate? I am guessing upon reaching full recovery in another day or two – plus 14-days, but I have yet to find a definitive study to tell me for sure. Is there a test to prove I had the virus? Yes, the South Koreans have used one widely and Mount Sinai Health System has a test that needs to go through clinical trials but essentially there is nothing yet available in the United States. So it is doubtful after my self-imposed quarantine I will be able to move about with impunity despite being 90% sure I now have the anti-bodies to ward off Coronavirus. I will have no way to prove it so will likely need to at least wear on a mask and gloves to leave the house assuming no additional restrictions.
I ask these questions as it would be nice as get out and if possible help friends and family or volunteer to help others once I am no longer a carrier, which could include helping high-risk individuals. So would 100% certainty will be needed not just for me but others as this progresses. We need to know who had Coronavirus and be able to prove it. I have not left the house for the past 8-days except to go for three walks and will continue to do so for at least the next two weeks and hope for better information.
Getting groceries is one of the problems I will soon face. After a half-dozen unsuccessful attempts across three days I finally received five of the dozen items ordered for delivery from Amazon and Whole Foods. Limited delivery slots and a lack of availability can only get worse in the coming weeks so I will have to find an alternative means to get food. Of course I can definitely order takeout delivery and still not leave the house. However, it would be nice to know if wearing a mask and gloves I could safely walk to Trader Joe’s, which is a block away, and shop without fear of infecting someone. I have enough food for two weeks at a minimum, but rice and beans could get pretty boring. I have several friends who already offering to help me out, so while this is not a crisis, I wonder about those who do not have friends or family able to fill such needs?
In any event, I share these experiences in the hope it is helpful as more folks are confronted and become infected (hopefully mildly or experience no symptoms at all) and am very grateful these are just small inconveniences. Thankfully I am not threatened by a layoff or furlough, I will not lose my home or apartment, and I am most grateful for good health and seem to have successfully fought the virus off.
I hope you all are well, washing your hands, and using or start to use face masks!! As the video about their successful use in the Czech Republic says about using a face mask, “I protect you and you protect me.” Stay safe!