In the end it didn't have to happen

by Nikki Higgins 5 months ago in humanity

My experience with having COVID-19

In the end it didn't have to happen

In the end it didn’t have to happen

I am writing this to both acknowledge and inform others of my personal experience with having survived COVID-19 aka the Corona virus. For the first time in my life I describe myself as a “survivor” despite having experienced traumatic events. I have never thought of myself as a survivor, just someone who experienced a bad thing and continued to move forward. I do not want to scare anyone; each person’s experience of the virus is different. My experience while scary at times was not as bad as others, especially those who lost their lives. Although I will undoubtedly say something about the government’s handling of this pandemic I do not intend this as a political piece. I will state some opinions and views that I hold but that does not mean for the readers to dismiss my or others’ accounts of their direct or indirect experiences.

In early February my oldest daughter came down with what she thought was a cold. She texted me while she was at work as to whether I had some cold meds. However by the next day she was asking if the ER would be able to give her a doctor’s note of her being off of work for the next couple of days. I told her that yes they would and she Ubered to the ER. The next thing I knew she texted to say that they were taking x-rays of her chest, doing blood work and about to insert an IV into her arm. Damn, all that for a cold I thought but she texted back that they diagnosed her with the flu. My daughter stayed sick for two weeks, she ran a high fever, had a rough cough, sore muscles, diarrhea, really bad chest congestion and extreme fatigue; she was not tested for COVID-19. A week and half later her son and grandmother started showing similar symptoms. Once all three experienced starting experiencing flu like I immediately walked to the market and brought cold medicine, Vicks vapor rub, paper towel, bleach, new plastic gloves, ammonia, Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, orange juice and an extra 24 pack of tissue rolls.

I watched over my mother as she had just recently had her 3rd stroke in December and serious congestive heart failure. My grandson had surgery for removal of his adenoids and insertion of ear tubes only two weeks prior. I wiped down every inch of the house with a concoction of bleach and Lysol cleaner, door knobs, light switches, refrigerator doors, oven doors and knobs, toaster, coffee pots, tvs, tables, lamp switches, remotes and windows. I sprayed Lysol on curtains, computers, laptops, cell phones, tablets and definitely garbage cans/trash bins. I vacuumed and mopped, and when the mail person or delivery person came I passed out wipes like tips. This was the second week of February and we knew nothing about a virus working its way to the states.

I thought I was in the clear as I routinely washed my hands as a medical professional would and became a housekeeping savant. By the third week of February I recall waking up with a slight case of nausea and thought maybe it was something I ate the night before, I mean I have been eating a little more than usual. I dismissed the nausea. I complained to my mother about her not covering her mouth when she sneezed and coughed (she has dementia so her regression increases with each stroke that she has); I continue to keep a watch on her and my grandson. My daughter returns to work but says she still feels sick but good enough to work. By the end of the third week of February my sick family members are doing much better especially my grandson and mother.

February 24th, during a walk down the block to the market with my youngest daughter we stop at the corner. While waiting for traffic to clear I notice I can’t catch my breath, my heart is racing, this is weird because we walked at a slower than usual pace. By the time we cross over I am experiencing difficulty, it’s taking some effort and now I am nervous. What in the hell is going on? Am I having a heart attack? I know I am out of shape and need to lose weight but I have walked this route plenty of times with no problem. Upon entering the market I am sweating, still having some trouble breathing and I feel hot as hell. The next day I have a full blown fever, itchy throat, and headache. At night I experience cold chills that are so violent that I move the bed and request to be wrapped in two comforters and a heating pad. I experience these symptoms for three days and then the cough kicks in. This is not an ordinary cough, this cough is painful as with each expiration it feels like someone is cutting my throat with a sharp object. Not only that but I cannot lower the damn fever, I am constantly sneezing and the congestion in my chest is painful not irritating. I believe I have a cold but it’s so different; both my inner ears hurt so bad I cry on my mother’s bed like I did when I was a child. I have a double ear infection. Goodness.

Into the first week of March, I am experiencing symptoms of sore throat, dry cough, fever, congestion, running nose, sneezing, nausea, and soreness all over. I am on a constant rotation of NyQuil, Tylenol PM, and Mucinex. I regularly remake hot toddies, lemon and honey tea, ginger and lemon tea. I eat Halls cough drops like they are candy, and gargle with intervals of Listerine or hot water with salt. What used to be done only at night is now an all day routine of covering my chest and back with Vicks vapor just to help me breath. The cough grows worse and by March 2nd I am starting to believe I have the Corona virus. On March 4th I can’t take it anymore. Nothing over the counter is helping with the symptoms and I have never experienced the flu like this before. I go to the ER and get a big shock.

As I enter the ER waiting room the security guards walk right up to me, one guard without gloves on takes my handbag and places it in the bin to run through the security monitor. Another guard leans in to ask if I am there to be seen, I cough into my elbow as he hands me my bag - no gloves, no mask. The check in person passes me a clipboard, I sneeze into my hand looking for hand sanitizer, there is none around, I take the clipboard and pen with my other hand. The waiting room is almost empty as a family of three look at me nervously but do not appear too alarmed. The news of Corona is just beginning to spread but it’s conveyed as only being in Washington state or that cruise ship the president doesn’t want to let people off of, it can’t be in Michigan yet. I take the clipboard to the desk person and he takes it bare handed. I return to my seat amazed by the unfazed or unawareness appearance of it all by the hospital personnel. Have they not heard of this virus? Has the hospital not been put on alert as to its seriousness?

I vent to my youngest daughter about how horrible this is; I am visibly sick with something and these people are treating me like I just have a headache. When I am finally called to the back (yes, other people arrived and have been called before me - I have been in the waiting area for 30 minutes, no tissue, no mask, no hand sanitizer) the check in nurse asks me all my symptoms. I list them all and she doesn’t blink an eye. I have a high fever, but she shows no urgency whatsoever. I am then put on a stretcher and left in the hall while other patients are in rooms with the doors wide open. I go to the restroom to get tissue as my nose is profusely runny. I am constantly sneezing and coughing, and although I do wash my hands every time, people are walking past me during all of this.

Still no offer of a face mask, tissue or gloves, I have now been in the hospital ER for almost two hours. By the time the doctor comes to evaluate me she appears concerned but immediately diagnoses me as having the flu. She tells the nurse to order chest x-rays, flu swab, and blood work - the doctor walks away after saying I will be fine. The doctor is at least wearing gloves but no mask. When the nurse does the flu swab I almost sneeze directly in her face, she steps away to retrieve a face mask for me. It is officially two hours that I have been in the ER.

By the time I am isolated into a room, I have been taken to x-ray (the tech appeared very nervous but caring) and sat back in the hall going on three hours. A new rotation of nurses have come in to start their shifts, housekeeping has finally made an appearance (wearing a face mask and gloves, smart girl) and a new doctor appears with my final diagnoses and a script for Tamuflu and pain meds. I left the hospital scared and very concerned because all my symptoms matched the signs of corona virus and so many people have been exposed to me - not to mention others who probably visited before and will be after me that have similar symptoms. I share with family and friends how unprepared this hospital is and predict that they will have huge problems (I was not wrong).

I spent another three weeks sick, the meds only worked temporarily, Tamuflu did nothing, and I have completely lost my voice, sense of smell, and taste. I call another nearby hospital to see if I can get tested only to be told I would not be seen and recommended that I call my primary doctor. I cannot see my primary doctor because I have ‘that’ cough the nurse precedes to tell me, and she recommends that I stay home and continue taking my over the counter drugs and drink plenty of fluids. She also tells me “you know as we get older it gets harder to recover from the flu” - I never told her how old I am. I surmise that she has looked at my chart and reviewed my ER visit, she knows I have it.

It is now the second week of March, my voice is gone completely, I am still a constant fever with soreness, and I swear the cough will be the death of me as I struggle to breath after each expiration. My family becomes concerned because it’s going on a full month. I have never been this sick. My dreams are very vivid and weird. I am easily fatigued walking from the bathroom to my bedroom, and I awake from sleep in coughing fits that feel like I am suffocating. During this time my friend texts me to check on me because he can’t bear to hear what voice I can make and he asks if I think I have the virus. Yes is my reply and he texts he doubts it as Michigan only has two cases - four hours later Michigan has over two hundred. By the end of the week Michigan has almost 1,000. It’s been here.

By April 1st I am starting to regain my voice and the cough subsides. My other symptoms began disappearing about the last week of March. However I am not fully over it, the fatigue and congestion are still concerning to me. The congestion is not as bad as it was but I still have soreness in the middle of my chest especially near and around my heart. The continuing fatigue shocks me as I have difficulty making to the end of the block just two houses down. Every now and then I develop a slight temperature too. I try my best to take my time doing normal routine things like cleaning and cooking but find that I have to take breaks while doing them. Everyday I find it more difficult to watch the news and hear the dumbshit that the Republicans and that president says. I hate hearing about stories of people who have died, have survived and are doing their best to help others, it’s too heartbreaking. I hated seeing the fear in my family’s faces, hearing the fear in my father’s voice; my grandson now has the habit of asking three times if I am okay before he goes to sleep.

Just this past week my mother had another stroke and it broke me when the EMT told me I couldn’t go to the hospital. I literally did not know what to do. She is home now and doing much better, she is COVID 19 negative. My father asked me how I dealt with being sick, and I told him I got angry and tired. I got tired of the pain, the fear, and I got mad. I am a fighter and all I knew to do was fight this virus. I didn’t need a test to tell me I had contracted COVID-19, the symptoms told me and what I experienced told me. As I type this narrative, the US has over 700,000 people tested positive for the virus and more than 38,000 have died. Unfortunately those are the ones that we know about. I am one of those that was not counted. Just imagine how many others have gone uncounted just in the US. It’s a horrible thing and no one wants to admit that they may have been the reason someone else contracted this illness, but we will all before it’s over know someone that has had it and survived or died from it. My experience seems surreal to me as one never thinks that something like this would happen to them. Despite all the precautions I took to not catch it and the care I took not to infect others the virus found a way. What really pisses me off at the end of this is that amount of people that have contracted this virus and/or died from it was preventable; it didn’t have to happen.

Nikki Higgins
Nikki Higgins
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