I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what we would do in my house if one of us had Covid. We had a scare earlier this year where my husband had a cough, and in the week it took him to get back a negative test result, he quarantined in his office, sleeping on a cot, and having me bring him most of his meals. It was horrible. He was incredibly bored, and I was incredibly exhausted. My mother-in-law was a complete angel during that time – I asked if she could help with meals, and each night during this time she dropped off a delicious dinner so I didn’t have to worry about cooking.
While we have been fortunate to not have had Covid at this time, many people I know haven’t been so lucky. I’ve been interested in my family and friends who have caught it, and curious to see their symptoms, and also how they managed with their kids and spouse.
Today we have a guest post from my friend Shanna. She’s from Omaha Nebraska, and lives with her husband and two incredibly rambunctious boys who are 5 and 3. She is a high school teacher who focuses on Biology and Special Education at a residential treatment center. She was diagnosed with Covid in September. She wanted to share her story as she felt it was important for others to know how serious it is, and how it can impact one’s family. Thank you so much Shanna for sharing your story!
How and when did you first discover you had Covid?
I felt off on Tuesday and had some diarrhea but didn’t think anything of it so went to work on Wednesday. I felt off that morning but since I am a teacher and subs are in short supply, I figured I could pull through. By lunch time I had a splitting headache and my body hurt to the point I was struggling to focus. I decided to head home and take a nap. I went home and napped until it was time to get my kids from daycare, so I went and grabbed them still feeling miserable. Luckily, our daycare brings the kids out to the parents and I was wearing a mask, so I was not too worried about infecting someone). I made dinner as I do every night, still feeling awful. When my husband came home, I said how I should go get tested just in case and he thought I was being dramatic but agreed anyway. I went to an urgent care and waited for over an hour to be seen got swabbed and visited with the PA for a about two minutes, then I was on my way home.
I got my phone call that I was positive around noon the next day and was completely shocked!
If you are willing to share, can you tell us a bit about your physical symptoms?
The body aches were the worse part initially. They were so bad I was unable to sleep because I was in so much pain. I would call the doctor and see if there was anything else, I could do. Their response was just keep taking Tylenol and Advil. Those two medications barely took the edge off. The pain reminded me of when I had meningitis, but I had a morphine pump in the hospital for that pain and this pain I was just stuck at home told to not go in a see any doctor. I had these body aches for 3 days intensely and they got a bit better day 4 and 5. It took about a full week for them to go away.
The chills were mostly annoying, my whole body was shaking on and off for about three days. If I wasn’t in so much pain, they would have much more bearable.
The fever that came along with it was also annoying. I wanted to just lay still but was constantly going from freezing to sweating and sometimes both at the same time. My first bout of fever last about 5 days. Then I got a second round of fever on day 7-10 post positive test. This I found out later was pneumonia.
I had coughing and chest pain. I did not get chest pain and coughing until about day 3. My chest felt as if an elephant was sitting on me. I also struggled to breathe walking to and from the bathroom. I was taking my albuterol inhaler every 4 hours without it making much of a difference. When I talked with my doctor about this, I was told its all part of a COVID-19 and if my lips aren’t turning blue or I am struggling to breath sitting still I should just stay home and rest.
I also had diarrhea for over a week. That is one thing I don’t thing enough people talk about how it can wreck total havoc on your GI. I ended up with long term inflammation in my stomach due to the damage COVID caused.
How have you dealt with this all emotionally?
It has been hard since many people I know do not have many of the symptoms I have. I wonder if I was just being dramatic, but the evidence says otherwise. It is hard to explain myself when others have it so easy. I am also TERRRIFIED to get COVID again as it can be much worse the second time. A coworker of mine got it again and was way worse.
What changes, if any, did you immediately make in your home when you found out?
When I got my call that I was positive, I immediately called my husband (who was at drill for the National Guard) to pick up our children and come home since they needed to isolate.
I set up in our bedroom and my two boys were unable to come in. Only my husband was allowed in and I would put a mask on and he was set anything I needed on the dresser away from me.
This lasted until one of our sons got a fever and tested positive. At that point we decided it was easier on everyone if we lived as “normal”. I think my husband was burnt out from spending 5 days solo parenting and fighting the kids to keep them out of the room.
Did anyone else in the family get sick?
Both my sons tested positive for COVID. My youngest was first on my day 5, he had diarrhea for about three days and a fever for one day. Other than that, he was great. Even when he was sick you wouldn’t have known it as he kept running around. My older son got it about two days after his brother. He had a fever but then woke up fine the next morning. I am so grateful that neither of my boys got very sick and it was quick recovery.
My husband got nothing.
How did this impact your job? Were you able to continue working at home?
I would not have been able to work even if I had the capability. I am a teacher whose school never went to remote learning. It was very tough to come back to school after taking three weeks off. Everything was unorganized and my students learned nothing. I also had to take all my sick time and then unpaid leave when I ran out.
What were people’s reactions? Was everyone supportive?
When I began sharing I had tested positive, it was beginning of September and many people I knew had already had COVID. People’s reactions were mostly “When did I see you last? Do you think I caught it?,” “How do you think you got it? Maybe you shouldn’t have been doing __________” (fill in with any activity such as going to the grocery store or working in person or attending a family event).
What did others do or say that was helpful in this situation?
The most helpful thing was when people offered to drop off items such as groceries or a meal.
Is there anything you’d share that is NOT helpful? What should we avoid saying or doing when we find out someone has Covid?
Don’t ask about yourself like if you should get tested. If someone has COVID they have their own personal life to think about, so make that decision on your own. Also do not blame them for getting it. Don’t share the lack of symptoms you or someone you know had. Yes, many people don’t have any symptoms but just because you only lost your taste and smell does not mean other people won’t get very seriously ill. Everyone who gets COVID is different and if you are someone who got it easy count yourself lucky.
How are you feeling now?
I am finally feeling much better. I had many lingering symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain from pneumonia that lasted about six weeks. I also had blood clots that had to be monitored for about eight weeks. My stomach is mostly healed but for about a month I had inflammation to the point that drinking water was painful. I still have days where it hurts to eat or not eat depending. I still get brain fog. I will struggle in conversations to come up with common words. For example: I was trying to explain how I need to go to the grocery store, and I couldn’t remember the word grocery.
What advice would you give to a someone if they found out they had Covid?
If you find out you have COVID would tell only the people you have to. For some reason everyone has an opinion and right now you need to focus on making sure you are okay, not on others. I hope you have mild symptoms and if not, be sure to stock up on good quality toilet paper, Tylenol, Advil, and anything you will drink (I like water and orange Gatorade).
Also be an advocate for yourself if you feel up to it. Doctors know so much more now than they did just a few months ago in September. If you cannot sleep from pain that is not okay, and there is medication that can help, if you cannot walk 10 feet without stopping to breath that is not okay. Do not accept the response of “oh, that is just COVID” as you could have pneumonia or a pulmonary embolism. It is better to bug a doctor’s offices than to have a loved one call an ambulance for you.
Any Closing Thoughts?
COVID sucks. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Get the vaccine.