So this happened, as they say:
That was yesterday morning.
To back up and explain: I’ve avoided COVID since the start. I’ve masked, social distanced, vaccinated, shunned people, the works. But lately clients have been wanting more in-person experience, especially since (as the president said) “the pandemic is over.”
Earlier last week I participated in an international conference (live blogs 1, 2, 3). Two days ago (Thursday) I started feeling poorly. Symptoms were classic cold stuff: coughs, sore throat, soreness, head pain, some hot flashes. I took a COVID test and it came up negative. So I went to Georgetown for class – socially distanced, masked – along with a video meeting and the Forum. As usual work energizes me. I didn’t feel tired until I got home, and that just made sense after a long day and a long week without enough sleep.
On Friday the symptoms persisted, so I medicated with allergy pills, sudafed, herbal tea. Hot showers did wonders. I didn’t take time off, but worked my usual schedule.
Saturday morning I woke up several times with coughing. Throat soreness was still going on, so I took the COVID test. That means the whole deal: poking myself in the nose, squirting fluid into a tube, squeezing the thing, dripping onto a cartridge, then waiting 15 minutes.
That second line appeared and hit me like a hammer. If you look at the photo you can see it wasn’t a faint line, but a solid and clear one. Still, I reasoned that these kits sometimes give false results, so I took a second. *Immediately* the second line appeared, clear as could be. My wife told me it was certainly positive. I insisted on waiting the full 15 minutes to be sure. Positive it was.
I’m writing about this because I’ve been studying COVID since the start, so it’s appropriate to report my first personal experience with the bastard. Perhaps this will be useful to some people, especially in the future.
After the results appeared I relocated to my bed and set up shop: laptop and power supply, phone and ditto, a tack of handkerchiefs. My wife opened a window to improve ventilation then closed the door on my confinement. She and my daughter have been taking turns bringing me hot water and herbal tea.
I immediately reached out to my medical care providers. Now that means Kaiser Permanente, so I clicked to their website, logged in, and found a live chat with a nurse. She shared a lot of information, including a recommendation to make an evisit to set up Paxlovid. I figured out the “evisit,” which turned out to be a questionnaire. It also portrayed a scary view of Paxlovid:
When I completed the form I waited for some reply on the Kaiser site. An hour or so later it came as an email-like message there. A medical doctor approved the drug, but wanted me to get a kidney test first. I asked him for details, and the KP site ate my reply. I asked again and the doc pointed me to a facility half an hour away. I drove myself there – alone, so as not to condemn any passengers.
Half an hour away was a huge, brand new medical facility. I parked and tried to check in at a bank of machines, but the interface told me not to, as I was getting a lab done. I couldn’t figure out what to do next. No Kaiser staff were nearby, so I started wandering around the place, looking for help. A kind security guard led me to the lab space, which had its own check in machine. I checked in and waited. A grumpy fellow patient told me only one lab tech was working.
It turned out the grumpy patient was right. One poor guy was working by himself, and drew my blood with astonishing skill. Then he sent me off to urgent care.
Urgent care was elsewhere in the building. There I was processed and waited, seen, waited again. Really kind docs and nurses patiently took my vitals, answered my questions, and nudged me to the next station. One doc walked me through the blood test, which was actually fairly comprehensive (things were good, except creatinine was a smidge high). Eventually I was sent to the pharmacy, which eventually produced the paxlovid. I drove home, tired and sometimes coughing myself into blurry vision.
Home and masked, I ran to the quarantine bedroom. I ordered out for dinner, since I couldn’t make anything (quarantine violation) and didn’t want to put my family out. They did bring the bags of hot and sour soup plus black bean tofu up to me. I ate some of them. After doing emails and Forum work I fell asleep.
Sunday – today – I ended up sleeping twelve hours. That’s twice what I have been normally getting in a single night. It wasn’t great sleep. I woke up several times with fever or the frightening sensation that my throat had closed. Once I leaped out of bed, clawing the CPAP machine off. I kept falling back asleep. Unsettling dreams came with great clarity.
I’ve spent the afternoon in bed, resting and working. I watched a movie I’d always wanted to see from start to finish (Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, 1957), wrote emails, worked on the new FTTE report, added to the the book index. I gobbled paxlovid like manna and basked in a long, hot shower, which truly improved things.
I’ve been recording my data on a Google Doc. Temperature has swung from 96 to 99. Pulse/ox is ok. Weight is down (to 215).
So what is this like?
Right now my body’s not doing too badly, thanks to my assiduous vaccinations and possibly my good health. My throat’s still sore and I manage to exude some very Halloween-appropriate amounts of mucus. The hot flashes are intense.
My mental state… is torn. On the one hand I’m filled with dread. I don’t expect any physical damage to my body, thanks to the good things I’ve done, but long COVID can laugh at any of us. I’m most terrified of mental degradation.
On the other hand I’m fascinated by the processes involved, from the infection to the insurance company’s. I’m also struck by the feeling of participating in the history that I’ve been forecasting and studying.
I am not someone who knows how to stop working. I am frustrated at working less and not being able to do any housework. Partly this is an American thing. I know at a gut level that every day off is a potential blow. There isn’t much of a safety net. But I also have so much to do!
Back to writing and guiltily watching more Criterion. I’ll blog more if there’s interest. Happy to answer questions.