Thursday, December 15, 2022

Long COVID Journal - My Recovery & Healing Are Still In Progress

When I had the Omicron variety late last year, it was tough going -- having a burning sensation in my throat that lasted for a week and kept me from eating and drinking much of anything. I suffered from chills and was too weak to even just go out to the 7-Eleven downstairs to buy supplies. It also prevented me from getting my first booster shot.  Mercifully, a round of antibiotics cleared up the symptoms in a week's time.  I thought that was it. 

With the reopening of the economy and the loosening up of protocols, I caught a more virulent kind about over 3 months ago. I actually thought I had TB as I was having chills at night but when I looked up the symptoms of Long COVID, I ticked most of the boxes (I created a checklist collated from multiple credible sources so you can answer to find out if you have long COVID) and realized I've been suffering this long-term bout with the virus.  Brain fog, deep fatigue, difficulty sleeping even if I'm really weary and dog-tired, diarrhea, rashes, stammering, and intermittent palpitations.  My lower extremities also felt warm.

Graphic by Og Ramos based on Mayo Clinic & other sites' info
TIRED AND DEPRESSED, WEARY BUT SLEEPLESS - I was still doing my nightly rounds of feeding my street fosters until mid-October but was feeling bone-tired for the past 3-4 weeks.  I didn't have a fever but kept having chills in the evening. Then, I developed this strong metallic taste in my mouth that kept me from eating for the next two weeks  I quickly lost weight. I had muscle pains and weakness that my pain reliever couldn't alleviate (they actually grew worse to the point that I can't sleep until 5-6am).  I stammered and had memory lapses that I thought were odd. 

The 4th week was really tough. Honestly, it's not hard to get depressed.  I ought to have been job hunting all this time but with my state of health, all I could do is rise up in the morning, feed my cat, and crawl back to my mat and sleep if my body will allow it. Seriously, there were nights when I wish I wouldn't wake up the next day. It's frustrating enough to not be able to eat anything solid, it's depressing to be dog-tired but not being able to sleep until the early morning.

Long COVID visual guide • Attribution: Clinical Advisor website

NO MORE MEDICATIONS - Taking a locally-available flu medication (Bioflu, a local equivalent of Tamiflu) only made matters worse.  I quickly lost spatial sense and easily lose balance when I try to walk a few steps.  Out of desperation, I weaned myself of all medicines and did a juice and banana fast for a week.  I grabbed sleep when my body would allow me.  It was a specially agonizing week with the combined effects of the flu, the the withdrawal symptoms from weaning myself from the pain reliever, and the lingering after-effects of Bioflu. 

Two weeks from starting my fast, I was able to commute and pay my respects to the dad of my best friend who passed on.  But I discovered that walking up the stairs of the MRT was rather like hiking up a mountain. I had to stop every three steps and take a deep breath. I felt like crying inside. I didn't recognize the body I was occupying - it was weak, frail, and thin. I was a mere shadow of my old self.


Wear a mask in public
- I was 10-15 pounds lighter too, it was depressing to see how weak I got in so short a time. I can barely lift a 10-pound dumbbell plate.  I watched documentaries like these on long COVID and I can empathize with those who suffer from it, how life-altering the experience could be and why some sufferers commit suicide. I can empathize with their desperation.

THE SYMPTOMS PERSIST - About 3 1/2 months from the time I thought I first developed the symptoms, I am still feeling some of the effects of the virus.  I got back my weight rather quickly when the metallic taste and sore throat cleared up but my breathing is nowhere its former capacity. I recovered some of my strength but I know it's like 60-70% of what it was a few months ago.  The brain fog cleared up quickly (so did the memory lapses and stammering) but I still need afternoon naps to keep my energy levels up.  

I guess I was still lucky since I didn't reach the point of requiring a portable oxygenator or oxygen tank at home or when I go out even to travel a short distance but if you require one, I hope this article by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) may be able to help -- like coming up with a list to what to do (check batter levels vis-a-vis length of trip and travel, checking in with airline policies regarding bringing such a device onboard, etc.)

I know some people are quick to dismiss the virus as already history but I am writing this to tell you it's not. I had two rounds of the vaccine, observed all of the protocols and didn't go out save for buying supplies, food, and medicines but I still got sick twice, the second much much worse than the first.  The bottom line is you personally have to to look after your own health.

Avoid crowds
If others won't observe the protocols, it's up to you to don your mask and sanitize regularly. Avoid crowds and stay some distance from other people (not easy with the holidays coming up). Better be safe than sick and sorry. Unlike the seasonal flu where you get better after a week or two, contracting long COVID is a taxing experience not just physically but emotionally.  You keep asking yourself, "when will I get better?" or "will I ever get back to my old self?"

Attribution: All graphics except the second one by Og Ramos • Graphic #2 from the Clinical Advisor website



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