As I picked up the phone, the first words I heard was 'I'm a survivor!' This was a call from my longtime friend, Donna, who I was pleased to hear from but, admittedly, had lost track of the most recent details of her life. In these middle years, she had become actively engaged in fitness training, consumed lots of healthy green things and had no health conditions requiring medical care. She's was always full of fun, an entertaining host and curious about seeing the world. In other words, she had been living life well.
The commanding career of her husband, Dave, often required extensive short notice travel, a feat he'd successfully navigated for more than 20 years, so a quick meeting in Boston was no reason for concern. Except, it was the first of March and just days prior a major tech firm had an international meeting at the same hotel he was checking into, and COVID-19 had been uncovered there. The hotel made every effort to place him in a fully sanitized room, but the hotel had been occupied by nearly 200 conference attendees.
Upon returning home three days later, Dave needed to inform his wife of the unfolding shamble. There were no next steps given to him because there were none available at the time. These were the first COVID-19 cases reported and Boston was the 3rd US state to be affected. He felt confident and somewhat cavalier that he was not infected and therefore had no reason why he should be quarantined to one room, in their 5-bedroom home. Donna felt adamantly different.
Within 24 hours of his return, he complained of a severe headache. 'Yep, you've got it' was her reply. Insisting it was likely a sinus infection and after no relief with the usual home treatment, he reported to the nearest Urgent Care. With the first cases of COVID-19 not reported in his home state until March 6, the Urgent Care provider made a simple diagnosis based on his symptoms, 'Yep, you have a sinus infection' and sent him home with a treatment of antibiotics and nasal spray.
It turns out it was not so simple, especially as his symptoms worsened. In 24 hours, he had become severely lethargic, nearly catatonic, unable to move his limbs and spiking a fever over 100 degrees but not as high as expected for a typical influenza, of 102. It was bad and he knew what his wife has already known. He had COVID-19. Immediately they reached out to his primary physician with whom he had long standing relationship. His physician's instructions were without hesitation, "Do Not Come To This Office." As a practicing physician, these are the exact instructions we had begun giving to our clinic patients in an effort to keep health professionals from being the first to succumb to this unknown disease. Without trained professionals available, the world would be in a world of, even greater, trouble. He was, however, given the best advice available, 'stay hydrated, take Tylenol as needed, report to an emergency room for any shortness of breath' and isolate from any other household members. He also provided him with the nearest COVID-19 testing location.
That advice would have been easily carried out, except once the vomiting began, his weak limbs became weaker and his wife was now becoming ill with intense body aches and chills, abdominal pain and diarrhea. There was no chance of leaving the house for either of them. By day 7, neither had needed to make the dreaded 911 call for hospital transport. They did, however, need to replenish their supply of bottled water, fruits slices and broth which were the only foods they were able to eat over the 10 days of misery.
A facetime call to their oldest son with a list of groceries was their only connection to the outside world aside from the deafening news broadcast of the COVID-19 tragedies. No sooner than their son arrived at the front door with the replenishing supplies, he was already out of the driveway and half-way up the street, by the time they opened the front door. With a weak wave to the empty outdoors, they picked up the groceries, divided what they needed and headed to their respective rooms.
By day 14, still feeling weak by the endless days of lying in bed, Donna decided, as women often do. 'That's it! It's been 14 days.' She forced the two of them out of their rooms, stripped the beds for sanitizing and headed to the kitchen to make green smoothies. 30 pounds lighter, with blankets wrapped around them, they sat outdoors and looked at each other with tears in their eyes, and said aloud, 'We've survived.'
Neither developed a significant cough or shortness of breath during their illness. Donna continues to have lost her sense taste and smell. Six weeks later, Dave still had not returned to his full level of activity. His doctor has recommended serological blood testing when it becomes available. Donna would like to donate plasma and bone marrow to further the advancement of treatment and immunizations. Let this be reassurance that it's possible to survive this "new flu" and most will.
As we say in medicine, "if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck". In this case, COVID-19. Be aware of the varying symptoms of COVID-19 and call a healthcare provider for immediate instructions.
Be Well in every way! I'll keep showing you how.
If there's something in your life that you feel good about, let your body move about. Listen to Life is Good! If you love it, get it here.