COVID-19 finally gets me, days 1 and 2

So this happened, as they say:

2 COVID tests positive

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:

Paxlovid warning KP website

“Please don’t sue us.”

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.

Time passed.

Kaiser Permanente Caton Hill lab entrance

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.

Paxlovid in blister packs

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.

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35 Responses to COVID-19 finally gets me, days 1 and 2

  1. I’ve been a Kaiser patient since 1983 and can testify to the recent adaption of machines instead of people, things called “evisits” which turn out to be questionnaires. I find particularly unnerving finding myself in an empty room with machines whose instructions I don’t understand. It’s like being asked to make our way through some series of tests before we can reach our object: a nurse or doctor who may actually look at you (me). Oftentimes I’ve found them insufficiently invested in me as an individual patient.

    I wish you all good luck in getting better.

  2. Nathan L says:

    Take care Bryan. And thanks for your always-candid sharing.

  3. Leslie Donovan says:

    There is definitely interest. Keep the posts coming as you feel up to it.

  4. Roxann Riskin says:

    May you find comfort in knowing many people are thinking of you and believing you will be your awesome self soon.❤️🙏. Time for resting and healing. Even super heroes need to rest to reenergize ——the future of the planet definitely needs your wit and wisdom.

  5. Terri Givens says:

    Sending healing vibes your way…funny thing that there are several people I know who recently got COVID despite masking regularly. Seems these latest variants are very contagious. I expect to see some spikes soon.

  6. Karl Hakkarainen says:

    Here we are, smart people facing semi-smart machines and good, though terribly overworked staff. I can’t help but wonder what non-tech people do,
    I was recently hospitalized after a surgical procedure. There were good people taking care of me, but then they’d disappear, leaving me without people or even machines. (I had no place within reach to plug in the charger for my phone. I had to be very careful managing the power for my phone.) My ICU nurse spent nearly two hours keying in handwritten notes for another nurse caring for another patient.
    All of which says that the systems are nearing collapse even as people are working as hard as they can. It’s scary.
    Rest well, my friend.

    • Glen McGhee says:

      Yes — “All of which says that the systems are nearing collapse even as people are working as hard as they can. It’s scary.”
      Even Franz kafka couldn’t have imagined what we’re all dealing with now …

      • Bryan Alexander says:

        Oh, Kafka has us covered. Check out _Amerika_, “Penal Colony.” I’ve long thought of health care as versions of _The Trial_.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Agreed 100% on non-tech people. (I was tempted to noodle around with the machines but decided to be a good citizen.)

      I’m so sorry about your procedure. Have you recovered well?

  7. Deborah R Penner says:

    Just curious to know how you sensed this was Covid instead of the everyday bugs we used to get before lockdowns? In our family, only our daughter living in NYC who taught online for two years got an early case that affected her with intestinal issues only, and two of our three grandkids in MN got mild cases last summer. The rest of us (7 out of a 10 member immediate family) have never gotten it even though exposed at close proximity. How did you know? Genuinely curious.

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Good question, Deborah.
      I was suspicious because I’d gone beyond my usual biome and met a lot of people. Plus my household is keenly focused on COVID.
      The allergy pills didn’t solve things.

  8. Bob Ubell says:

    Sorry you got it and glad you’re under medical care. Hope it doesn’t knock your out and your bout is very mild, like mine was. Hope you recover quickly. All my best, Bob

  9. Harry Baya says:

    My first thought “Oh no, they (whoever they are) got Bryan.” I know I have been lucky, but at 83 I feel like there is a “kick me” sign for Covid on back and, as a worrier, I do have a fairly high level of fear. I appreciate your posting your experience. My guess is that sooner or later “they” will get me too. Harry Baya

  10. Harry Baya says:

    My first thought “Oh no, they (whoever they are) got Bryan.” I know I have been lucky, but at 83 I feel like there is a “kick me” sign for Covid on my back and, as a worrier, I do have a fairly high level of fear. I appreciate your posting your experience. My guess is that sooner or later “they” will get me too. Harry Baya

  11. Get well soon Bryan and take care. Thank you for all your sharing. It’s inspirational.

  12. Ton Zijlstra says:

    I hope you have a speedy recovery (I can picture you with your gear in bed: I had a similar set-up last year Nov, relocated to the guest-bed at the top floor/attic with my laptop and gadgets, books etc). Get well soon!

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Thank you, Ton.
      I didn’t know about your experience. Any advice? Any impact on you, long term?

      • Ton Zijlstra says:

        Feeling ill lasted a few days, took me a week to stop being very tired all the time, took me two weeks to not be quickly tired after doing something. After that I had several months in which I felt I couldn’t concentrate as before. But as I’ve seen around me, there’s no ‘typical’ just comparison, it’s less YMMV than YMWV, you mileage _will_ vary.

  13. Melanie Hoag says:

    Hope you continue to improve! I’m surprised you were not advised to measure your blood oxygen level especially as you use a CPAP.

    My husband had the same pattern of symptoms and tested negative – lots of coughing and the “Halloween-appropriate amounts of mucus”. He tested positive on day 3 of the symptoms. This blood O2 was low and when the Paxlovid kicked in, that improved along with a drop in the amount of mucus. He uses a BiPAP and his normal blood O2 is lower than average and at times he dipped into the lower 80’s% before the Paxlovid began having its effects.

    Hang in there and get plenty of rest so your body can do its work!

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Hiya, Melanie, and thank you so much.

      A nurse friend recommended I monitor pulse-ox and I’ve been doing so (what’s the CPAP connection?).

      I’m sorry to hear about your husband. Is he doing better?

  14. Leigh Marthe says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us all, Bryan. May you recover fully and quickly.

  15. Glen McGhee says:

    Bryan, Hope you feel better — now I know that you are ill — 7 Faces of Dr. Lao was in 1964, not 1957. Great movie!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7_Faces_of_Dr._Lao

  16. Terry Travis says:

    I hope you are feeling better soon, Bryan. I appreciate that you are willing to be so disclosure — it is very helpful!

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