I’ve Had It

It started with a young couple who had just come off a cruise from Mexico with an awful cough they couldn’t shake. They coughed all over me. I saw several more patients with similar illnesses coming back from cruises to Jamaica, the Caribbean, South America…

But no one from China.

That was near the end of February.

The first day of March I started with a bit of hoarseness. It lasted for a few days. I didn’t feel bad at all but I sounded awful, barely able to croak out a whisper.

Then there was a tickle in the back of my throat.

Sometimes the tickle would trigger a coughing fit… a coughing fit so bad I would have to excuse myself from a patient room to grab a drink of water. The cough was always nonproductive. No nasal congestion. No runny nose. No postnasal drip. On the plus side, my voice was back. I’d had this happen before with spring allergies, given the fact I probably had a mild case of seasonal asthma, but oddly, the cough went on for well over a week. I really didn’t feel bad per se. It was just that silly cough. I still didn’t think I was sick.

Until the fevers started.

The fevers came and went and they went on and on. 101. 102. Down again to 100.4. Early morning and late evening seemed to be the common times it would spike. Fatigue. Shortness of breath. I got an inhaler and started using it. I took a steroid pack and an antibiotic. Cough pills. Allergy meds. I took a second antibiotic. I got a chest X-ray.

Nothing seemed to help.

I stayed home for a couple of days when the fevers started but after that, I felt I had to go back to work. Tons of pressure to work. Pressure from corporate, the clinic staff, my office manager, patients, myself. I didn’t want to be called lazy. Or a wimp. Or a malingerer.

So I wore a mask. We had a stash of N95’s and I wore one the whole time I was working. I felt OK with that until one day I started the morning with a patient on oxygen, the next patient had lung cancer and was getting chemo, the next was a frail 90 year old. It spooked me.

What if I make all of these people sick?

What if I killed them by being in the same room with them?

I called the local health department to ask if I could be tested for coronavirus. They were the only ones with tests at this point. My hands were shaking as I made the call. I was terrified of the medical and social implications. A doctor testing positive would no doubt make the evening news. Stigma. The answer from the health department though? Absolutely not. No testing for me. I couldn’t possibly be infected, they said. No exposure to someone recently returning from China and no exposure to a known positive COVID patient.

Corporate, though, got worried and forced me to go home. Honestly, I have worked while I was much, much sicker. During residency it was always emphasized that we had better be present at the hospital rounding on patients unless we were the patient being rounded on. Or dead. We could be dead and that would be a reasonable excuse…

The following weekend, still running fevers, I had a spell where my heart felt like it was racing out of my chest and I dang near passed out. I had to call out to my husband to keep me from falling over onto my face. It passed after a minute or two and I successfully talked myself and him out of a trip to the ER. The whole spell was probably just my imagination going crazy, right?

Interestingly, food did not taste right at all. I felt like that was probably due to all of the medications I was taking. This was before smell and taste changes were identified as part of Coronavirus.

The fevers finally stopped after 10 days. All said I had been acutely ill for over three weeks. I was finally allowed to go back to the clinic. The first thing I did was to call all of the patients I had seen while I was ill to make sure they were OK. They were. Thank God for N95 masks. I still had a cough, though. I still had to use my inhaler. Walking up even a low, gentle hill was just not possible. It took a few more weeks to have all of THAT pass. I have never had something like this hang on for so long. In some ways, I felt more debilitated after the fevers were gone than I did during the acute phase. The whole episode had felt so strange, not like any illness I’d had before.

By then, my clinic was turned into a respiratory clinic. People suspected of COVID were sent to me for testing. My mind would go to dark places almost every day. What if what I’d had was NOT actually coronavirus? Would I get sick? Was I going to die? BUT then I felt that if anyone had a chance to have immunity, it was me even if we didn’t know positively. So I made sure I was the only one doing all of the testing, keeping my staff away from being exposed to patients who were ill.

All the time, I wondered. I have wondered for over five months as I have watched some of my patients die or end up in ICU as they fell ill.

Yesterday, I was told that I AM positive for the antibodies. Testing was performed as part of a healthcare worker research study. I don’t know how high my antibody levels are, only that I have them. No one else in my clinic has antibodies. Is it possible that I had an asymptomatic case later? Sure. But I believe I was one of the first in my area in early March with COVID-19.

There is a huge weight off of my shoulders, now. I did not realize how much the fear and doubt were weighing on me until it was gone. How much immunity I will actually have, especially at this point, I don’t know. But I do know this:

I survived COVID.

And?

If I did it once, I can do it again.

95 thoughts on “I’ve Had It

  1. Congratulations on surviving. Sounds like you went through one hell of an experience, and worked through some of it. I like to be an optimist and say, once you’ve had it, you’re immune forever. I hope that’s the case with you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! So good to hear from you! So sorry you had Covid but soo glad you survived! Prayers for continued strength!
    Now this is a totally off the wall question but it might bring you a smile. I love medical shows , Binge watching Grey’s Anatomy. I often wondered how actual Drs feel about that show or other nedical dramas. Do they get close to portraying things accurately at all? Without all the sex in supply rooms, etc of course. LOL!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I donated blood with the hidden agenda of finding out of I had antibodies – symptoms in Mid March not as significant as yours, but still…I wondered.
    Outcome – no antibodies.
    I kind of would have liked to donate plasma.
    Do something.
    Anything to help.
    Glad you came through it okay !

    Liked by 1 person

  4. MY son and DIL contracted COVID on a flight back in March. Their course was much like yours. Thank God, they survived, but. They were never able to get tested at the time because they had no direct connection. My DIL still has no sense of taste or smell. They were treated for respiratory infections, got steroids, and inhalers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back then there wasn’t anything else to do. Testing supplies were so scarce. The implications are frightening, just how unprepared we were. I think when the dust settles, the 185,000 dead so far in the US will be only the tip of the iceberg.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It so irresponsible of your health authority to have denied you that first test. Typically blinkered to be told “Absolutely not. No testing for me. I couldn’t possibly be infected, they said. No exposure to someone recently returning from China and no exposure to a known positive COVID patient.”
    I am so pleased for you that you survived but horrified that you had to drag yourself through this . I hope you stay safe, the problem is possible long term effects and can you catch it again. Sorry I am so sick of the Covid19 and I just know it’s not being not ever was taken seriously enough. Be safe 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fortunately I don’t seem to have any long lasting effects at this point. It will be interesting what we find out as we understand it better. What the health department said about not testing was a testament to how scarce testing supplies were in the US. Our government did not take it seriously enough to make sure we had what we needed in place.

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  6. I was incredibly sick the last trimester of my pregnancy. Fevers, cough, extreme headache, exhausted (more than normal on preg #4!). I have never felt so sick. They would give me fluids and send me home. I was continually just told it was a nasty virus .
    I keep thinking I need to get tested for antibodies. It was a miserable illness on top of a pregnancy riddled with complications. Baby and I are fine now but it was a rough road to get her here.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thank you so much for the insight! A first hand account, not just of the physical illness but of the psychological aspects as well. I don’t think people understand it, even so many months in. Glad you are a survivor!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Victo, thank you for sharing this story. I’ve asked myself many times since February if the little cough, the 2 hour sore throat, the one night I had some tightness in my chest and all the little sneezes and long work days just wanting to sleep could be symptoms. Never a fever, never anything prolonged, and the only one to do my job for all these months…
    I’m so very glad you are doing well.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Something remarkably similar happened to me late winter. The first to go was the sense of taste and smell. Then there was the fever and the attempt to cough up my liver. This was before the word Corona even hit the news, long before it was known as COVID 19. Could have been the flu. Timing suggest it was something else, but all the symptoms were there. It’s absurd that a medic couldn’t get tested. I think we’re going to live with the fallout from all this for a long time. So glad you survived and were able to lend your skills to the crisis.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. What a testament to the inadequacies of this country to be prepared for this epidemic and the follow up. I also hate the fact of how we turn medical providers into machines, instead of humans with families. So glad you are ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hey, there, Victo. So glad you survived all that, and so pleased to see you here on WP. I had family members, including my 90-year-old mother-in-law, who had “really bad colds” back in January. My MIL was told she had bronchitis. Personally, I think she had COVID (in hindsight she had all the symptoms), but of course, that was before it became so prominent, so no one was testing for it. Fortunately, everyone got over their “colds”. I’m seriously worried about the upcoming few months now that college is back in session and school is about to start. Already in the last 2 weeks there has been a significant spike in virus cases among the college students and faculty. I’m half hoping for another lockdown so I have an excuse not to go out and risk exposure without appearing wimpy to everyone else. Stay safe, Victo.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I kind of knew the title of your post was a bit of a diversion, but I wasn’t expecting the subject. That in itself is odd, since you’re on the front line with the whole COVID thing. I’m so glad you came out of it ok, and lucky you, you do know where to get the best information as we keep learning more about this disease. The whole thing with the testing… the whole thing about how stupidly America has been handling COVID… the whole politicizing a virus… As bad as nearly 200K dead is, I’m surprised it isn’t worse.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m so sorry you had to go through that Victo. I wonder how long the antibodies last? You will have to be extra careful because I don’t think one develops immunity from it for long.
    Leslie xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’m glad you survived it okay. It does have a long course, but coronaviruses have been evolving over the past ten or more years to come on in stages and last longer (at least in my experience; I remember when a cold lasted a few days. all the viruses I’ve had in the past few years have been 3 weekers). It might be that COVID-19 is the latest of the nasty mutations.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’m stunned but shouldn’t be. I’m always disturbed by how hard they work our health care providers. That’s ridiculous. We need you in top form, ALWAYS. It’s insane how this country thinks the work ethic goes beyond good common sense. You were lucky to survive. If I get it, I’ll find a test but will NOT go to a hospital. Seems quite unfair. Things are not as they should be here and I hope enough people have caught on that little item. I’m hoping there are no residual effects from this. Keep us posted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Please don’t be afraid to go to the hospital if you need it! It has saved the lives of my patients. With physicians, we don’t have someone who can fill in for us willie-nillie. AND we are not given enough PTO for being out every time we feel a bit under the weather. I know there were other docs caught in the strange limbo of mild symptoms, worrying about what to do…. especially when testing was not available OR when it was taking 7-10 days to get results back. If my PA and I were both sick, there would be no one manning the clinic at all, leaving patients stranded. It will be interesting if this changes some of how we approach illness in providers down the road.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. I’m glad you’re well and that you had the wherewithal to wear an N95 mask when seeing patients. Where I live we have a county-run drive through testing site that anyone in the county who wants a test can get one. My son was sick a few weeks ago, felt better for a day or two and was sick again, and even though his symptoms were not typical of COVID19 he lives with anxiety and wanted to be tested. Negative.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This makes me so angry. Not with you. No way with you. I am so angry with the naysayers and the conspiracy theorist who say it isn’t as bad as is said. Now there is the garbage that only five percent die with Covid. That all Covid deaths are from preexisting conditions. I am 77 and I have emphysema. If I get it I could easily die. So would I die from Covid or from Emphysema? I have a friend in England who is an ICU nurse. If she doesn’t get Covid-19 she could quite easily become so depressed that she might just as well have got it.
    I have tears in my eyes for you. I am glad you are still here. Lots of love from Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to stay off of social media for that very reason. The callousness and stupidity of people who believe the crazy stuff posted all over the Internet is unbelievable. I have patients who spout off all of that to my face at the clinic. No. A thousand times no. Please stay safe! We need you to stick around.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. So good to know you are still here given no blog posts for months. Not sure this one is news I want to hear—a doctor’s experience with Covid. Thank god you survived. The immunity only lasts 4 months? Not long enough. Let’s pray the vaccine is available by 2021. I’m a healthy 81-year old. Not traveling or social gathering until the vaccine is available. This Is the new normal. There’s no going back to the ways it was! 📚🎶 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that, and the response (or lack of) from the people who should be handling it is just beyond belief! I hope you’re okay now, and let’s hope the antibodies last long enough to take you through to when they (hopefully) have a vaccine.

    I had an illness at the end of last year and I do wonder if it might have been covid-19, though nobody here knew about it, so no tests available, and I live in Wales where only certain categories of people are currently allowed a test. But anyway the cough (or rather ‘coughs’ as it seems I had two running concurrently) went on for two months and my voice still keeps going at the slightest thing.

    In the meantime, I’m pretty paranoid about going anywhere near a hospital, doctor (sorry!), dentist or optician, though I definitely could do with seeing the latter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel safer at work than I do at home and at shops and such due to the PPE. I don’t feel like anyone would catch anything from my office. We have patients wait in their cars, walk them in and out so no contact with other patients, we wear N95s and face shields, and we sterilize the hell out of all surfaces and instruments and hands in between patients. I would bet your doctors and opticians are doing similar things. Ring them up and ask what precautions they are taking. Maybe that can give you peace about getting seen when you need it? Take care of yourself!

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Thanks for sharing your experience with coronavirus, Victo. I know ten people who’ve died from this disease here in South Africa and have read similar accounts of this illness. Lots of people seem to have it with no systems though which makes it much more difficult to feel comfortable being around people.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Your symptoms sound just right. Can’t believe they wouldn’t test you. Tsss. I told you our daughter and son-in-law got infected too, didn’ I? All the better. Despite very isolated reports, the odds of catcing it again are limited.
    Stay safe and keep helping the sick.
    🙏🏻😷

    Liked by 1 person

  22. A friend of mine had a similar experience. His wife contracted COVID fro the hospital she works in and he and the entire family followed suit. He had to shut the OPD for a few weeks, though they couldn’t get tested (because, protocols). In the end, the postinfection malaise turned out to be much worse than the infection itself, though their kids thankfully recovered much faster. For the rest, climbing up a flight of stairs left them breathless.

    I’m so thankful that you survived this and are (hopefully) back to normal or nearly so. Take care, take rest, and keep staying safe, we’re not sure yet how long the antibodies will survive.,,

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been wearing compression hosiery while working for a few months due to significant dependent edema. I have not had this occur before unless I was flying overseas. I have blamed the unusual working conditions but it struck me the other day…. what if it isn’t? LOL! Could be worse, though. Please stay safe.

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  23. Our eldest daughter tested positive after we all were quarantined when a cousin exposed us. Our daughter had a very mild case and thought to be tested negative within the two weeks’ quarantine, But no, she tested positive two more times. What a bummer that was for everyone in the family.
    I hardly know what to expect with all the healthcare workers in our family, but we are a gregarious bunch and have resigned ourselves to let the LORD be in charge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have moved away from waiting for a negative test because so many are still positive over a month after, even when asymptomatic. Really was a problem for return to work so now we follow the symptom/time guidelines from the CDC. That was especially tough when wait times for results were so long and testing materials were in short supply….

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  24. Well, hope if same type of symptoms, you’ll get tested immediately. Do you as a physician have to pay for that test? Just wondering, I’m asking…from CAnada.

    If my doctor – sister exhibited the same symptoms I would be afraid for her and her family. She has 2 children.

    Liked by 1 person

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