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My Family Got COVID—Here’s What It Was Like

Courtesy of Cindy Gagne Nason.

Saturday, July 18 

I was at the pool with my grandson, Charlie, for six hours—slinging him around, playing tag, ball, etc. My husband, Gary, joined us for the last hour of play. Daughter Melissa and her family came to the pool and picked up Charlie. He was sent away with a kiss on the head from Nana.

Sunday, July 19    

Gary and I both had a little cough.

Monday, July 20   

I came down with a low-grade fever. My cough started getting worse. Gary was “fine” but started to feel “off”  later in the week. He still had that little cough.

Tuesday, July 21    

I lost my taste and smell. This is a telltale sign of COVID. My sister, who is a nurse, said, “You’ve got it.” I called my PCP to order a swab test. I was lethargic, fever, couldn’t eat, dropping weight, chills, coughing, gasping for air if the cough turned into a fit. I was living on Tylenol and cough syrup. 

Wednesday, July 22

A phone call came in to schedule a swab test at 2 p.m. that afternoon. Gary drove me there, and as we were pulling away, I broke down crying.  

“Baby, Baby, what’s wrong?”  

“Gary, if I get worse…I’m so scared!”

Thursday, July 23     

Gary gets a swab test. 

Friday, July 24

My test comes back positive. Monday, Gary got his results: positive.

Monday, July 27–Saturday, Aug. 1

My cough had gotten so bad that I was gasping for air. I felt like I was hurling up my lungs, especially my right one. I was sleeping all the time, moving from my bed to the sofa, to the recliner, to the hot tub—repeat. I woke up coughing so hard I knew I had to go to the ER. I waited too long! Gary was slowly feeling worse, mainly lethargic. He brought me to the ER. He left, and I went to get checked out.

If you land in the ER, they now have a protocol of things they get to quickly.  Amazing health care staff at Piedmont. Since they have had a lot of “practice” since March, they knew exactly what to do. I was relieved to be in such good hands.

Here’s the list of procedures: Check urine for dehydration, IV insertion, blood draw from artery (worst blood-draw I have ever had: not fun), chest X-ray (I had bacterial pneumonia), breathing treatment, which felt soooo good, oxygen after the breathing treatment was done, a heart monitor attached to my chest to check for congestive heart failure (more wires). They checked me into a room because of the pneumonia.

Procedures after I was in my room included continual vital-sign checks every few hours, continual blood draws—so many needles!—a shot in the abdomen every 12 hours (blood thinner to avoid developing clots), ultrasound on the legs to check for blood clots—a huge issue with COVID (negative)—CAT scan checking for clots in lungs (negative—happy, happy!), continued oxygen support. They rotated my body from sitting to prone (stomach), side, sitting, other side, prone, etc. throughout the week.

Prone position is very important. It was very difficult getting there because of the coughing, but once there, you can feel your lungs opening up. The air gets to every corner of the lungs and actually feels really good.

Two one-hour drips of antibiotics, several injections of another antibiotic in the IV, continued observation of heart monitor, two devices for breathing exercises—a flutter valve (breathing out) and an incentive spirometer (breathing in).

Meanwhile, my oxygen levels were just too low (90/91), but my taste/smell was back. I was sooo hungry, eating well, but could still feel I wasn’t putting back on the weight I lost. The body is fighting so hard to kick out the virus that calories are burned like crazy.

The  awesome doctor came to speak to me. He told me, “You are one of the lucky ones—you are standing, you can walk to the bathroom and around the room, and you don’t have a tube down your throat.” 

I told him that even with the encouraging news, that seems optimistic. I realize just how fragile this situation is, and I want to be realistic at the same time. He said that was a good attitude to have. He explained how he

wouldn’t let me go home until I could breathe on my own for 24 hours. “It doesn’t go well for patients that are sent home with the oxygen machine.”   Fair enough.

Back to Monday, July 27

There was a whole other situation going on with Gary at home and with our daughter Laurel and her husband, Matt, who tested positive.

Laurel drove Matt to the ER because of his cough and he couldn’t breathe. He had a fever and no appetite but no pneumonia. They gave him fluids and sent him home. Laurel got a false negative. No way was she taking care of Matt and didn’t get it. She was lethargic, had a headache, no taste/smell and no appetite. Though her physical symptoms were somewhat mild, Laurel was affected more by the mental/emotional part. Because she was the one who could be around us and felt better than all of us, we called on her to do this and that. Not much, but when you don’t feel well, it’s a lot, carrying the worry of your loved ones while you are also trying to recover.

Tuesday, July 28

The day after he dropped me off at the ER, COVID hit Gary like a ton of bricks. I later found out that he couldn’t get up. He had to stay in a horizontal position because he was in so much pain. Every muscle in his

body was screaming. He said it felt like someone was tearing and twisting every one of his muscles. He was home alone, crying out in pain. He had that pain, fever, headache, chills. It hit him so very differently than it hit me.

Still just a little cough. The healthcare professionals did the blood-draw, urine check and chest X-ray. Gary had the very beginning of viral pneumonia—the worst of the two kinds because antibiotics won’t help.  There was no sense in keeping him, so they gave him a prescription for the muscle pain and prescription Tylenol. 

Saturday, Aug. 1

Laurel, feeling quite crappy herself, came and got me from the hospital and brought me home. Both Gary and I looked and felt like we were 90. I walked to him, started crying and we hugged. “I missed you, baby.”

The Present

We all have been taking this past week to sleep, eat and nurture ourselves. 

We are the last ones who thought we’d get this. We are active, eat healthy and are spry for our age. Never in a million years did we think it would hit our family the way it did. As of right now, Gary and I do not want to be around people, especially ones we don’t know. You have no idea who they have been around: Do they wear masks and practice social distancing? 

When our other daughter Melissa found out that I had a fever that evening of July 20, she immediately started freaking out because Gary and I

Had been with her son Charlie two days before, and on July 20 her in-laws had come to spend some time with the kids. Did Charlie contract it from Gary and me? Was he a carrier exposing the other grandparents? Not to mention her husband, J.P., and their sweet little Elijah, just 19 month old. So many questions that couldn’t be answered, which led to so many fears.

They carefully monitored themselves and checked in with us daily. When I was admitted to the hospital, Melissa got on Facebook to let friends know what was going on. She was very good about posting our progress, but she had no idea Gary was so sick, just that he was sleeping a lot. She called him twice a day, but he kept to himself what was really going on so as not to worry her.

People ask where we think we got it. Honestly, we can’t make a realistic/acceptable speculation. We just don’t know. Was it from getting the mail? Was Gary too close to someone in the grocery store? You just don’t know. 

Last March, we stopped eating out, gathering with groups of friends or going to the gym. We started wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Gary went to work and to the grocery store, and that was it. I kept walking at the park, spending days at the pool and making my one visit a week to the chiropractor. We washed the money we got from the bank and wiped down our grocery packages with alcohol wipes. We did everything right, but now, having had this horrid experience, we are tightening up even more—doing only curbside pickup for anything unless we have to get our meds. We are very apprehensive about being around other people right now. We are not letting our guard down. This virus has a long way to go until there is a vaccine. So be it: Three months, six months, a year—we are going to be even more careful and stay as safe as we can.