I thought it was a bad hangover at first. I had a headache, my body hurt, my stomach felt weird, “all from two glasses of wine? What in the hell kind of wine was that?” I kept saying.
I was in Nebraska staying at my sister’s house so she and my mom could help me with Birdie while Chris was on a golf trip. When she took her kids to school I put Birdie down for a nap and also laid back down. I was certain falling asleep for an hour would cure me, it was just a mild hangover, right?
Two hours later I could barely get out of bed when I heard Birdie wake up. Every symptom was still there, just a little bit worse. And I still thought it was because of the cheap wine! Well, the wine and all of the Tylenol I’d taken on an empty stomach.
“I just need to eat,” was my second excuse. But nothing tasted good (however I definitely could taste and smell and never lost the ability.)
Since 2020 anytime I’ve had so much as a scratchy throat or running nose I’ve googled “do I have covid?” And yet with this “hangover,” I was sure it was anything but. When I started to throw up that night I was certain it was the flu. It had been going around at my niece and nephew’s school so it made sense. I slept with a bowl next to my bed like a child because I couldn’t make it to the bathroom. If I had been at home I would have just slept on the floor in the bathroom, but I opted for the bowl at my sister’s house because I was trying to be a nice house guest. Lol.
The worst part about throwing up (other than everything) is that I had a terrible migraine that I could feel throb against my head every time I bent over to puke again. It was like a double whammy of feeling nauseous but also ready to black out from the intense pressure in my head. The chills would wash over me as I lay in my niece Vivi’s room, all of her princess blankets piled on top of me, and when I’d finally fall asleep I remember dreaming that I was laying on rocks. That was the body aches moving in. The body aches were… well, remember when Chris and I flew off our vespa a few years ago? My body ached worse with covid than it did from that accident.
By day two I didn’t leave the princess room in the basement. Thank God I was in Nebraska where I have my mom and sister so they could watch Birdie. I still thought it was the flu, but as everything got worse and more intense I knew that it was unlike any flu I’ve ever had. And I’ve had swine flu, normal flu, and flu flu.
My mom continued to take my temperature but it read normal, which I thought was weird because by day two I was burning up. (The thermometer was broken we’d later learn. I was actually around 102.) But anyway… on the second night I texted Chris, “I either have the flu or covid. I hope it’s flu.” He was on a trip in Western Nebraska where service isn’t great so I hadn’t talked to him in a few days. Or maybe it was only one day? Time started to make no sense as I stayed isolated in the princess unicorn room and the fever grew and grew.
The fever dreams got extra wild on night two. I’d wake up shivering or covered in sweat surrounded by dancing unicorns on the wall. WHERE AM I WHAT IS HAPPENING?! I had blankets covering the window for when Birdie was staying in there with me in her pack and play (she moved out when we realized it might be covid) so there was an eerie pink glow in the room at all times.
By day three I was completely delirious. My mom came in the room and told me we were going to the doctor and I wanted to resist because I couldn’t imagine all of the energy that would take. I’d been sleeping for over 48 hours and I was still exhausted. She had to tell me to put on shoes because I tried to walk out barefoot. I brought a blanket and a pillow and laid in the waiting room because I couldn’t sit up. I don’t know how long we waited, it felt like days though, and in the time we were in there one person after the other came in saying they thought they had covid.
When we got back to the exam room I collapsed on the table. After the nurse came in and gave me the covid test I asked my mom like a small child if we could please just go home because I was so miserable. Couldn’t they just call us with the results? I needed my princess unicorn room. I don’t ever remember feeling as weak as I did on this day (and like I said above, I once fainted while giving a work presentation thanks to H1N1.) But this feeling was so much more intense.
The doctor came in and told me that my test was positive. She started to check my vitals and ask me some questions. When she had me stick out my tongue I could barely do it and that’s when she noted I was,”dry as a bone.” I’d also lost almost ten pounds in three days.
“Have you eaten or drank anything lately?” she asked.
“I can’t keep anything down,” I said.
I remember her nodding her head and saying, “so you’ve got the gastro covid.”
I’d never even heard of gastro covid until that moment, but apparently I had it.
“Have you had the vaccine?” she asked and I nodded. “When did you get it?”
“In March. I have a baby who’s been around me, will she be okay?”
The doctor went on to tell me that if Birdie hadn’t shown any symptoms yet, she probably wouldn’t get it. Her own son (who also had a ten month old and two other children) was just a breakthrough case and only he and his wife got it. “This virus can be extra nasty and we still just don’t understand why it strikes some and not others.”
Once I heard Birdie was going to be okay I’d heard enough. I wanted to go home. But home wasn’t an option just yet. I needed to get some fluids in me so they could make sure I was going to be okay, or we’d have to talk about potentially going to the hospital. Hospitals are crowded right now, there are no guests allowed, and even in my delirium I knew I did not want that option.
They took me back to another room, laid me in a recliner, and started to prick my arm over and over trying to get the fluids going. I was so dehydrated it took them several attempts and each time it stung but I was too tired to care. I don’t know how long I was alone in that room, I thought it was just an hour, but I think I was there most of the day. My mom ran to get me some Pedialyte and Gatorade, and each time she came back they wouldn’t let me leave just yet.
The nurses told her I was still, “too out of it” and “not making any sense.” And my mom told them, “oh, that’s just her personality.” Which is partly true, but I also remember trying to get up and go to the bathroom and when they saw me in the hallway I couldn’t explain what I needed. It was truly so odd, like I couldn’t remember how to talk, or even what I was doing. I’m not sure if this is covid fog, or just from being so sick? But luckily once the fluids hit me things started to clear up a bit and I was able to go to back my princess unicorn room at my sister’s house.
My sister pretended she was a labor and delivery nurse (or that’s what she said she was pretending to be) and came in every few hours (even in the night just like an L&D nurse) with pills, crackers, and water for me to drink. Birdie had moved to my parents house by now and Chris was on his way.
For the next few days I couldn’t stay awake for more than an hour. I would try, but I literally could not do it. The fatigue was so intense I finally stopped trying and just gave in to sleeping all day. There were moments when I’d wake up in the pink room and feel so damn depressed for being in there all day and night. It felt like this thing was never going to end. Sometimes this was in the day when I’d see the light creep in past the blanket covering the window and I’d hear kids playing outside, and other times this was in the dead of night when I’d wake up trembling with chills unable to sleep because I couldn’t figure out if I was hot or cold. And then I’d feel guilty for being depressed because I thought of all of the other people who must be feeling the same way at this very moment, but who were stuck in a hospital room, all alone. At least I got to be at my sister’s house.
And at least I could breathe. Yes, I’m sure all types of covid are horrendous, but I never had the respiratory issues. I got super dizzy any time I stood and struggled with some vertigo for a while, but I could always find my breath.
For the next 14 days I relied on the help of my family, my aunt, and Chris’s family to take care of Birdie. On the rare occasion my mom or sister couldn’t help with, I’d spread out a bunch of toys and put Birdie in the middle and just lay there, watching her. It was all I could do. The first time I lifted her I thought she’d gained ten pounds, I couldn’t believe how heavy she felt. Chris’s mom flew out for a week just to care for Birdie and help me put some weight back on.
I am so incredibly lucky I had help, or I couldn’t have done it. I really don’t know how others have done it.
I’m almost four weeks out at this point and I still get very anxious thinking about ever being that sick again. I woke up with a sore throat and headache today and instantly googled, “can I get covid back to back?” Luckily, google said no. But yes, to say the least I am fearful of this thing. I am fearful for my friends and family and even for those who don’t believe it’s “that bad.” I am not trying to be a fear monger by saying this, (I’m doing okay now) I’m just being honest. It sucked. Plain and simple.
My doctor told me the vaccine probably kept me out of the hospital. And yes, I believe her. Why? Because I’ve always believed in doctors and science. THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL STATEMENT. Okay? I’m simply telling you my experience and my thoughts. If there is a booster shot I will be first in line for it. Then again, you could tell me I’d need a weekly shot for a year and if that meant avoiding feeling as awful as I felt for those ten days, I would do it. Hands down.
Chris and I have traced back our timeline in an attempt to figure out how/where I got this and we have no idea. Since mine was gastro there’s a good chance I ate food prepared by someone who had it. Or maybe I didn’t? We just don’t know.
What I do know is that I didn’t kiss Birdie’s cheeks for two weeks and I don’t want to miss that again. I don’t want to miss anything because of this damn virus again. I just want it to end.
And a big thanks to all of the doctors and nurses who take care of those us sleeping in a waiting room. Anytime I’ve been in a place of vulnerability and need the help of medical staff I am always blown away by your kindness and willingness to help others. But I suppose that’s why you go into the profession that you do.