September 10 Update:  I posted the story below on August 29, 2020 and titled it "Battling Covid."   At the time I posted the story, I had been fighting what I believed was Covid-19 for the previous few weeks.  As I describe in the story below, I had reached a plateau on August 29, having dealt with a series of strange and seemingly-disparate symptoms, including breathing issues, persistent high fever, swelling in my lower abdomen, and pain in my thighs.  When I Googled all of those symptoms together, I got... nothing.  Whatever this was, it was very strange.

A few days after I posted the story, in early September, I started developing another strange symptom:  an itchy chicken-pox-like outbreak on my chest.  I researched each of my symptoms online and discovered that, individually, each is associated with Covid-19.  Collectively, though, dealing with each of them in sequence was a strange and unsettling experience and I kept wondering, "OK, what's next?"

However, I'm now happy to report that, two weeks after posting that story, my situation is much improved.  My temperature has dropped back down to normal and I no longer have the other symptoms I had in August when I wrote the story.  Even the weird chicken-pox thing on my chest is clearing up.  The only lingering effect is that I'm still trying to get my appetite back after having lost a lot of weight (some, including myself, might say it was a "much-needed" loss!) 

But I'm feeling a lot better now, so I believe I'm over Covid.  I'm one of the lucky ones.  Along with losing the weight, the other good news is that I should be immune from this virus, at least for a while.  

 


August 29, 2020: 

Despite taking abundant precautions since February, I believe I’ve been hit with Covid-19.  Fortunately it's not severe enough to require hospitalization so I'll call it a "mild case."  I haven’t been tested to confirm it, but I figure there’s no point in doing that, given that:

  1. There’s no treatment for Covid-19, so there's nothing I can do about it anyway, and
  2. I live in total isolation and don’t interact with anyone, so a test result won't affect anything.

Besides, I don't have the energy to drag myself over to a testing site to confirm what I'm sure is true.  In addition, tests aren’t always accurate.  According to the State of Oregon's Covid-19 website, Covid tests have a 50% false-positive rate and a 30% false-negative rate, so what good is that?  Also, I don't want to expose anyone to this unneccesarily.  And the nasal test doesn't accurately detect lower-body Covid issues, which I believe this has morphed into. 

And to cap it off, my health provider, Kaiser Permanente, won't even test me unless I'm currently having "severe breathing problems."  Seriously?  I was having problems breathing 10 days ago but not so much now, so I don't get a test?  Six months into the pandemic and I can't get a basic test with a long delay, while college and professional athletes can get an instant and accurate test, and as often as they want?   America's health providers like Kaiser aren't testing asymptomatic people (who comprise about 40% of all Covid-19 carriers in the U.S.) and you have to wait until you're seriously ill to get tested?  Whatever happened to "Whoever wants a test, gets a test"? 

If I were living with a partner or children, or if I were interacting with anyone, I would definitely push for getting tested because I wouldn’t want to infect them.   But for me to know the result, either positive or negative, won’t affect my life or behavior because I'm already living like a secluded hermit.  The only change will be that, until I'm feeling better, I'll do curbside pickup instead of going into a store, to avoid exposing other shoppers.  When the pandemic settles down, I'll probably go into a hospital and get an antibody test out of curiosity. 

My Symptoms

Covid-19 affects each person differently, from what I’ve read on health websites these past few months.  For me, it started in my upper- to mid-body and has moved down to the lower half.  I first noticed symptoms about two weeks ago, with some breathing problems, including a constant dry cough and wheezing, and acute swelling and tenderness in my lower abdomen area, around my lymph nodes.  Since then, the symptoms have steadily increased until my overall malaise plateaued a week ago, while the focus of pain has shifted down to my lower thighs.  Each morning, shortly after I get up, the pain is so intense that I want to crawl back into bed.  But I know that if I do that, I'll want to lie in bed all day, so I endure the pain for a half-hour until it subsides.  Although the pain in my legs diminishes during the day, it never goes away.  I normally, and effortlessly, dash up and down the stairs maybe 20 times a day.  Now, I take each stairstep... slowly... and... painfully.

I’ve also been running a constant high fever.  My normal temperature is fairly low, around 97.1, but for the past two weeks, it's been about 100 every morning and around 102 each evening (equivalent to 103 or 104 for someone with a more "normal" normal temperature).   And that's despite taking lots of fever-reducing Motrin.  I've also lost my appetite:  last night's dinner was a piece of broccoli, the night before it was an orange and tonight it was... nothing.  I'm trying to force myself to eat to keep up my energy, but food has no appeal for me now – and I can't taste it very well, anyway. 

Last week I started getting chills and they've since become like clockwork, hitting every afternoon around 4 p.m. and lasting until about 8.  I call them, "The 4 O'Clock Chills."  My house is plenty warm but I have to bundle up in a sweater and wrap myself in a blanket during that time (I’m shivering hard as I type this and use the backspace key often to correct my mistakes).  A week ago, I was experiencing a shortness of breath with a persistent dry cough and wheezing, especially at night.  That's subsided, like I say, but it was making it hard to sleep for a while.  In general, I’ve also had a persistent feeling of fatigue, malaise and nausea.  So yes, I’ve checked almost every Covid box.  Given the long duration, I figure it can't be the regular flu or anything else.

I don’t have the desire or energy to do the things I was doing effortlessly a few weeks ago, like construction projects, cooking or cleaning.  A few weeks ago, I might’ve thought, “Hey, I’ll make a homemade pizza," but today I have no desire, energy or appetite for that.  I’ve always been healthy, for which I’m fortunate, and normally have lots of energy.  But during these last two weeks, I’ve been pretty lethargic (and sore).  There are a couple other alarming things, too, that would normally prompt a visit to the doctor but I won't go into them.  I’m still functional, though – obviously, enough to post this entry – and am able to get around the house.

What's interesting is how my symptoms have slowly morphed.  When this first hit, I was having breathing issues but those have mostly subsided.  But then I was suddenly hit by intense chills and night sweats.  Also, the soreness in my lower abdomen, which was intense a while back, has lessened – but now my lower thighs are really hurting, like someone punched me there a dozen times.  So while some things are getting better, other things are getting a little worse.  Overall, though, I'm holding my own.

Dodging the Virus

What amazes me, however, is that I even got Covid.  If you’ve been reading my website, you know that I’ve been super-vigilant about Covid-19.  Americans have faced the virus with different levels of concern, ranging from non-mask-wearing Covid deniers, on one hand, to those who are being extremely careful, on the other.  On a scale of 1 (the non-mask-wearers) to 10, I’m a 10+. 

Furthermore, I live in a spacious house in the suburbs (instead of being crammed into a dense urban environment, like I was a few years ago in Qatar), I live totally alone (no partner or children) and since February, I’ve interacted with people only from six feet away.  I live in Oregon, which is ranked #45 in Covid infections per capita in America, so it's about the safest place to be right now in this country.  Also, I wash my hands often, scrub down frequently-used surfaces every week with disinfectant, and use hand sanitizer copiously whenever I leave the house.  Between my super-cautious mindset, favorable (e.g., childless and partner-less) circumstances, and hermit life, I would probably be the last person in America you’d pick to get Covid.  Indeed, I’ve lived with that mantra since February:  Be the last person to get Covid. 

Here’s an example of my wariness:  I subscribe to the Oregonian newspaper and each Sunday, a newspaper is delivered to my house.  I don’t immediately read it, though.  Instead, I put the paper in my garage (and immediately wash my hands afterwards), then I let the newspaper sit for a week to allow any virus on the paper to die off.  So every Sunday morning I read the news from a week earlier.  Here’s another example:  I haven’t allowed anyone inside my house since February.  Heck, I haven’t even opened the door when my doorbell has rung, and I view anyone who so much as steps onto my sidewalk with suspicion.  “Keep your distance,” has been another mantra. 

I’ve been almost totally-housebound since February, not wanting to get Covid.  In early March, the day after the first case of Covid was reported in Oregon, I packed up my office things and left my job at Metro, figuring that not getting Covid was more important to me than having a job.  That day was also the last time I filled my truck’s gas tank – and I still have more than half a tank.  In fact, I bought some fuel stabilizer in April and dumped it into my tank, not knowing how long it would be before my next fill-up:  3 months, 6 months, a year?  In 2016, I put over 32,000 miles on my truck, while this year it’ll likely be only a few hundred.

The only places I’ve traveled to since my self-imposed exile in early March are to the grocery store (once a month and always as soon as it opens, at 6 a.m., to minimize my interactions with others) and to Home Depot about once a week.  Of course, I always wear a mask – more about that later – and keep my distance whenever I visit a store.  At Home Depot, as soon as I’m ready to check-out, I head straight for the outdoor cashier, not wanting to be inside the building any longer than absolutely necessary.   Obviously, I always bring sanitizing wipes with me into the store and wipe down the shopping cart before using it.  And in late March, I cut my own hair for the first time, not wanting to visit a barber.  Admittedly it was a bit of a disaster, but I did a little better with my second self-haircut a few months later.  Hopefully the third time will be the charm.

... 
 
Above: My constant traveling companions during these past six months. Not shown is the bottle of hand sanitizer, which is also in my truck (and used often).

Now, about that mask.  As the first cases of Covid were surfacing in America back in February, I clicked on Amazon and bought a 3M half-face respirator with the best filters.  This wasn’t one of those flimsy N-95 or surgical paper masks.  According to the 3M website, this respirator filtered out virtually 100% of the Covid virus – versus only 95% for one of those highly-touted N-95 masks.  With filters, it cost about $50 and I ordered it.  I checked Amazon again a week later, after a few more cases of Covid had hit America, and the price had skyrocketed to over $100, and a week later, they were totally sold out.  I checked today and saw that the respirators are back in stock again, and back down to $50. 

The mask sits on the passenger seat of my truck (along with a container of sanitizing wipes) and I’ve worn it every time I’ve visited the grocery store or Home Depot.  Immediately after donning the mask, and before going into the store, I check for an air-tight seal.  I sometimes get strange looks from bandanna-wearing customers in the store, with some folks probably thinking I’m being way too cautious.  

So How Did I Get It?

Given all this, I have a hard time believing that I could’ve inhaled the Covid virus somehow.  Instead, I figure I must’ve gotten the virus through my eyes – that’s the only way possible.  I’ve read on medical websites that people who get Covid through their eyes tend not to suffer the severe breathing problems that others do (I had breathing issues a few weeks ago but they've subsided).  Also, they generally have a milder case of it (again, like me) because the virus doesn’t penetrate deep into the lungs. 

So that lengthy backdrop is why I say that, at the beginning of this pandemic, if you could’ve picked one person in America who would be the least-likely to get Covid, it would’ve been me.  And yet I got it.  It’s a little frustrating, I admit, because I see lots of people disregarding mask requirements, whether from ignorance or arrogance, and who aren’t taking the virus seriously.  I have some new neighbors who socialize with a constant parade of mask-less friends dropping by their house.  And some of the things I’ve seen on TV, of non-socially distanced political rallies, make me shake my head.  While I certainly don't want anyone to get sick, I can't help but think, “How come they haven’t gotten it and I have?” But then I think of people like Herman Cain, who died of Covid after attending (without a mask) one Trump rally in Tulsa and I realize how lucky I am.

Don’t worry, though, because I think the effects have plateaued.  It’s not getting any better but, after two weeks, it’s not getting worse, either.  Also, I’ve always been in pretty good shape and don’t have any underlying health conditions, so I’m sure I’ll be fine.  Nevertheless, I think it’s going to take a while for me to fully recover from this nastiness.  But looking on the bright side, I’ve lost a lot of weight – with hopefully more to come!  And it’s likely that I’ll have some degree of immunity from Covid when I recover, at least for a while.

A Word to the Wise

Like I say, in the realm of people taking precautions against Covid, I’ve always been a solid 10.  Some folks are ashamed to admit that they've gotten Covid-19, afraid of being ostracized.  But I'm posting this story because I want you to know what happened to me – despite my numerous layers of ridiculous precautions.  I'm glad this pandemic is just a "hoax" because otherwise I'd be in real trouble. 

But seriously, here's my point:  If I can get Covid, then literally anyone can, including you.  You do NOT want to get this, so be safe.

 

 
 
 
 

 

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