MY COVID EXPERIENCE

I thought you might want to read this account. I would recommend going to the end and read his February reflections first.

You will appreciate his insights that Covid may be more of a HAPE ( high altitude pulmonary edema ) like issue rather than Acute Respiratory distress ( ARDS ).

40 TRIBES FOUNDER/DIRECTOR’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH COVID-19


DAY ONE

MARCH 17

We had returned the night before from two weeks in Costa Rica (yes, a contributor to this perfect storm). We were awakened by our 2.5-year-old son coughing and crying in the early morning hours. By normal waking hours he was on the couch with a low grade fever, which ultimately passed pretty quickly. By 9:30am or so I began to feel feverish. Nothing crazy—100-101—but I was soon laid out on the couch with classic body aches and chills. My wife became feverish by midday. By evening I just couldn’t hang any longer and was in bed by 7:30ish.


DAYS TWO-FOUR

MARCH 18-20

Daytime was bearable. Nighttime was miserable. Always been a solid sleeper but just couldn’t sleep, mostly due to restless/achy legs. Ibuprofen was the only thing that seemed to help—that is, until we read that it was advised against taking NSAIDs for COVID, which we suspected by this point. A dry cough developed and was mostly induced by activity—ie sitting or standing up, walking down and up our stairs, walking around. Shortness of breath became quite noticeable, and was exacerbated by any amount of activity. “Sleeping” on my side was no longer possible. I had night sweats.


DAYS TWO-FOUR CONT’D

MARCH 18-20

Any activity (again, we’re talking sitting up from a reclined position) would lead to coughing fits that became extremely aggressive. Catching my breath and calming myself down would take as long as 10 minutes. It became so bad that I had to start using pee bottles at night so as to avoid going down and up a single flight of stairs. First call to the Dr was placed at ~4:30am the night of the 20th. Was prescribed Tessalon Perles and recommended to take a narcotic cough syrup by a nurse, but the cough syrup was denied prescription by my doctor. Was told to monitor symptoms and stay home.


DAY FIVE

MARCH 21

As was the case, daytime was manageable—and actually, on this particular day the whole damn fam felt pretty “good,” comparatively. Things degraded quickly by 5pm or so for both my wife and I, at almost the exact same time. I felt the leg aches come on strong and was soon under blankets on the couch in front of the woodstove. “This is going to be another shitty night’s sleep,” I remember saying to my wife. Coughing fits and shortness of breath intensified and by 7pm or so, as did the aches/chills. I jumped into a hot shower as my wife put a follow up call in to the doctor. We were again told not to go to the hospital if we could manage symptoms at all.


DAY FIVE CONT’D

MARCH 21

Fortunately, both kids had gone down easily. By this point I was significantly worse than my wife, but my wife was bad too. Talking on the phone was difficult. After the shower I was back on the couch, under blankets, in a prone position to help with my breathing. By 8pm or so I just couldn’t recover from my aggressive coughing fits. I couldn’t catch my breath. My wife called our neighbors and—very slowly—asked if they knew anyone in our mountain community with an Albuterol inhaler. In less than 10 minutes, an inhaler was dropped on our porch. I began using it. It saved me. I could breathe again. I had to get down off the mountain.


DAY FIVE CONT’D

MARCH 21

With both kids asleep, we decided I would go down on my own. Drive time is normally 35 minutes but in the days prior it had dumped a couple of feet. Roads were bad. Truck was buried. I took the inhaler, Tylenol, a Buff, and gloves from the 40 Tribes Kyrgyzstan med kit. Didn’t totally know where I was headed, but probably to a vacant friend’s house. By this point we had been told not to go to the hospital so many times we didn’t think I needed to go to the hospital…which, knowing what we know now, I absolutely did.


DAY FIVE CONT’D

MARCH 21

The drive down was slow, for a variety of reasons. In my out of it state I drove with the e-brake on for a good 5-10 minutes. The 20+ inches of snow on top of my truck slid down onto my windshield. Getting out of the truck and clearing it was a monumental task. Eventually I made it down and to our friend’s house. The descent (3000 feet elevation) was relieving…I think. Couldn’t totally tell if I could breathe better or not. Almost immediately, one of my wife’s colleagues from the local birth center arrived with oxygen and a pulse ox. I thought she’d just drop it outside but she was masked and gloved and came in to get me set up.


DAY FIVE CONT’D

MARCH 21

Initial blood oxygen (SpO2) reading was 78. Probably—most likely—this had been significantly lower earlier and in the days prior up at our house. Hypoxic. Not enough oxygen getting carried through the bloodstream to sustain organs and vital tissues. SpO2 improved quickly with the oxygen set on 8L…then turned down to 6. My brother had driven up from Denver, just to be outside in case things worsened. By midnight, I was feeling OK. Oxygen was key. Aggressive coughing fits continued, but I could breathe. By 12:30am or so I told my brother he could go home. I slept (finally) from about 1am-6am. Oxygen ran out at some point overnight. SpO2 was in the mid to high 80s when I checked in the morning.


DAY SIX

MARCH 22

We decided we had to get everyone down from elevation. Bummer thing was that I had the car seats in my truck. My wife managed to pack “everything” we’d need, all food, the kids and we met in Jamestown—halfway down. By midday we were all safe and down off the mountain and I started an online chat with a Dr, as the wait for phone appointments was becoming insanely long. I explained what had happened in the previous 24 hrs and, for the first time—without any hesitation—she said I needed to go to the ER. But as was the case, it was daytime and I was feeling OK. She insisted that I go.


DAY SIX CONT’D

MARCH 22

Gotta say, that walk into the ER—”masked” with a Buff and gloved—is something I’ll never forget. So strange. As expected, I was put on O2, an IV and had blood drawn. It was daytime and I felt OK, which made sitting in the ER that much weirder. Lots of questions about my recent travels (Costa Rica first two weeks of Mar, France in early Feb, Kyrgyzstan before that and Siberia in Dec). Lots of waiting. Lots of alien-looking protective headpieces. ER doc eventually explained he was considering the possibility of some underlying condition based on my travels and travel history. Possibly tuberculosis? Or pulmonary embolism?


DAY SIX CONT’D

MARCH 22

For a second, those possibilities seemed logical and interesting. But also knew it would just be WAY too much of a coincidence for this to be something other than COVID-19. Next thing I knew I was being wheeled down the hospital hallways for a CT scan. After lots more waiting the results were in: CT scan showed faint “groundglass opacities” on the lungs…commonly seen in COVID cases. Bloodwork was “interesting”—some of it normal, some of it showing warning signs of a worsening condition. Not the flu. Not TB. No blood clot in the lungs. Presumed COVID-19, but due to a shortage of tests I could not be tested.


DAY SIX CONT’D

MARCH 22

For a little while there was talk of admitting me, but that was eventually—and thankfully—decided against. The reasons were good: Space in area hospitals was limited and being reserved for severe to critical cases; I am young, healthy and capable; My wife is a nurse; We had access to a pulse ox to monitor levels on our own. So I was released. Sent “home” untested, with an O2 tank, tubes up my nose and an antibiotic prescrip just in case of bacterial pneumonia. After not coughing much during the entire visit, I was hit with a classic aggressive fit the second I stood up to get dressed. That night an oxygen concentrator and 4 tanks were delivered to our temporary home.

 

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