I think it might be time to tell my whole covid story (as of today).
If you haven’t read the initial post, you can catch up here.
To sum up, Paul and I had covid in March. We contracted it before lockdown even started here in France, and it was the worst 7 weeks I’ve lived through in recent history. These next details are more than we’ve told almost anyone, as we couldn’t emotionally handle having this conversation with anyone outside the two of us, and it’s still draining to have to retell over and over, so here we go.
After the majority of our symptoms left, we were left with a still lingering cough (me), shortness of breath (both of us), noticeably reduced lung capacity (both of us), and inability to focus. Our work days, even 6 weeks after getting the virus, left us being able to work maybe 2-3 hours a day, if we were lucky. Some days we literally couldn’t get anything done.
Two weeks after our symptoms began, we were both still experiencing the thick of what Covid brought us. It was one of those days where we got nothing done, after trying for hours to focus at our computers. While sitting on the couch, Paul noticed his chest was tighter than usual (more even, than the last two weeks), and he had aches and pains in his left arm. We chalked it up to him needing to carry something heavy, combined with the extra covid symptoms. We now believe it was a minor heart-attack.
Four weeks later, my cough had improved slightly, only to come back with a vengeance. We were warned by a nurse we talked to at the beginning of our illness, to watch out for a secondary infection that could appear with our weakened immune system and damaged lungs. Because of this, and because Paul too, was not fully recovered (still trouble breathing fully, etc), we went to see a doctor at the recently opened Covid Clinic in our neighborhood.
When we got to the clinic, they went through every question imaginable. My cough was very apparent still, and I had very elevated blood pressure (possibly because of the stress of the whole ordeal, but maybe caused by Covid). Paul’s breathing was still not normal, and they could hear abnormalities in his lungs, in addition to a very low blood-oxygen level.
That first day at the clinic, they performed an EKG on me (came out normal). Then they ordered a CT scan for both of us. We left the clinic, made the appointment for the scan, and walked to the scan-clinic later that afternoon. Both of our scans came back normal.
The clinic was not done with us. They were determined to get to the bottom of this.
Over the next week, they spent many more hours with us, trying to think through possible causes for why we may still be experiencing these symptoms. They then ordered some blood-work for me, telling me that if one of the tests came back abnormal, I would need a contrast CT. I didn’t fully understand the gravity of this comment.
After we got our blood drawn that day, we decided to celebrate, and treat ourselves, as it was one of the first days in France that a select few restaurants were open for carry-out. So we walked to one of our favorite sichuan restaurants, and put the order in. As we were waiting for our food, I receive a phone call from the clinic (well past after-hours). It was the doctor telling me that she looked over the results from my blood-work, and that I needed to stop what I was doing, and go to “Urgence” right now. The ER. That I could not wait until tomorrow, as she did not know if that would be too late. I could have a pulmonary embolism.
From here, I started to have a bit of a panic attack. By this time we were back home, take-out in hand. We put the food in the fridge, packed a bag with essentials, and decided to take a taxi to the hospital, as a 30 minute walk didn’t seem wise.
So, 7 weeks to the day of the start of my symptoms I went to the ER.
Honestly, what was going through my mind was: I don’t know if (or when) I’ll be coming home.
As we walked to the taxi stand, we prayed “O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me.” (Psalm 69:2) It was never more an urgent prayer than it was that night.
When we got to the hospital, we checked in, and I was soon taken back to see the doctor. Paul couldn’t come back with me, as that whole part of the hospital was the ‘covid-ward’. They told us: “If you didn’t have covid before, you’ll walk out of here with it.” So I was there, alone, not knowing what would happen next. They hooked me up to another EKG, and soon after took me down for a contrast CT.
As a quick aside: As someone who is learning a new language in a still-new-to-me-country, to go through this in *not* your country of origin heaps on the stress. I sat hooked up to a machine for a good 10 minutes telling me and the doctor in the room that my blood pressure was exceedingly high. Again, I’m sure most of that was the stress, maybe Covid…who knows.
In the end, 4 hours later, they found nothing abnormal on the scans that would indicate a pulmonary embolism, and sent me home. By this point, I was ready to collapse. Paul was the best person I could have ever asked for, having had to wait in the “waiting room” (that was actually a loading-dock turned waiting room/storage room, due to turning the hospital into a covid-ward). We texted back and forth while I was waiting alone, and he was my constant partner and prayer-warrior from rooms away.
Fast forward a couple weeks, and I still have panic attacks. I didn’t know whether or not that elevated blood-work could still cause death. That’s a fun thing to face at age 34. The very real possibility that I could die at any time from an embolism. We did some research, and to the best of my knowledge, it should not cause mortality at this point. At least I’m praying for that.
Now we’re nearly back to normal. We don’t have any of the outward symptoms, but despite all our best efforts, it is still extremely hard, if not impossible to focus and get things done some days. Our lung capacity has improved, but is not where it used to be. We get winded easily. I go out to the grocery store, or to run a simple errand, and am intensely fatigued for the rest of the day.
So what’s the point in telling you all this? I’d hope by this point it would be obvious. But in case it’s not: please do not disregard this virus as “just as bad as the flu” or “overblown” or “political” or that wearing a mask is “so annoying or inconvenient.” We both were nearly hospitalised.
When you think of us, if you would pray that God would continue to guide us in our new normal. That we would be able to use the moments of focus we do have, to be productive and to be fully present when we’re with people. I pray that you reading this are kept safe, and would be wise in your actions.
(Some of our experiences were similar, but if you’d like to read Paul’s story.)