By Lynn Venhaus
I have COVID-19. This is my personal story. It is my experience, not anyone else’s, and I certainly don’t have any medical expertise on this public health crisis or any insight into a global pandemic’s effect that has caused 400,000 deaths in the U.S. I am one of 25 million cases to date..
I would describe my illness as a mild case. I feel very blessed. For two weeks, I have had the extreme fatigue that everyone mentions – it’s nothing like I have felt before, and aches like I have been pummeled by a heavyweight champion. Four naps a day are not uncommon. Very strange. This is real – it is not a hoax or a government conspiracy.
We all need to take this seriously. And it’s so pervasive and the likelihood of contamination seems inevitable, even with trying to do the right protocol and follow the restrictions. Now, there are new strains. It can be easy to let your guard down for a brief period even if you are trying hard to do what’s suggested. I know. We’ve been at this for nearly a year.
Fortunately, I work from home and could call people for interviews, contact through email and work with my editors online. I did not miss a BND deadline or my KTRS radio segment (even though I didn’t sound like myself Thursday and had some cough breaks). We Zoom our Reel Times Trio podcasts these days. (What would we do without Zoom? Thank you, technology!).
Nevertheless, getting stuff done on some days was a challenge. And there are the coughing fits.
I also don’t have a family to take care of or a job I must be at full-time, so I was lucky in that regard. I can’t imagine what that is like. I only ran a low-grade fever a couple of times – nothing to cause alarm. The body tries to fight the virus off. (After all, it is an animal disease that jumped to human that our DNA doesn’t recognize, therefore no immunity).
Because the virus tries to settle in your lungs, I have been doing lung exercises that are supposed to help. I walk around the block to get some ‘cardio’ and fresh air daily – it’s quick. I don’t pass anyone nor do I stop. Some days, you can hear the slight ‘wheeze’ in your lungs. I don’t sleep ‘flat’ – as I heard that helps.
I have been taking extra Vitamin D and Zinc for a year now, and actually think that has helped. Those are recommended by doctors. And lots of fluids. A dear nurse friend has been advising me. She suggested Vitamin C, plus melatonin to help sleep. Even when you are tired, it’s not always a restful sleep.
I have A- blood type, which is supposed to be the worst one for getting this. At 66, I am in the tier that’s next for the vaccine, but now, since I contracted the virus, I will have to wait 90 days once they start with my age/high-risk group. Missouri is last in the nation in vaccinating folks. I am still unclear about it all, but I will find out soon enough.
I can only guess where I might have gotten it. I have been staying in, living in isolation for the most part. I go for a grocery run at a non-busy time and I always have a mask on and social distance, go through the drive-through at Sonic on occasion, but always wear my mask when I roll down the window. I went out to dinner on my birthday Dec. 23 (Peacemaker in Benton Park had socially distanced tables and waiters with masks), and I was in a long Target line for Christmas Eve afternoon shopping.
Sometimes, I get delivery or curbside pick-up from local places because restaurants need our help. I have not traveled or hung out in public places. I took my uncle to some doctor appointments, but haven’t done that in awhile. I was with three people on Thanksgiving and four people at Christmas.
I haven’t seen my son Charlie, who lives in Brooklyn, for over a year now (even missed his wedding, which is a long story that I shared in September).
I spent the spring lock down thinking I was helping the greater good, but we’re back to square one. So, it was so far, so good, until now. This is work, and anxiety, and fatigue just trying to stay safe.
In my 4-unit apartment building, I am one of three senior singles living here, one is vacant, and we all have had COVID-19 in the past month. First, my two neighbors and then me.. I talked to one when I opened my door without a mask — but she was six feet away and had a mask on, so who knows?
My symptoms timeline: I began New Year’s Day with my annual bronchitis – it usually appears late fall or during the holidays or in January. As it went on – it usually lingers now that I am in my 60s — my lungs hurt, so that was a different feeling. Then, symptoms of a sinus infection arose.
This was on Sunday, Jan. 10. My face hurt, I just didn’t feel ‘normal,’ was going through a lot of tissues, and that’s when I think the coronavirus surfaced. By Wednesday night, as it continued to get worse, I made up my mind to go to an Urgent Care the next day. I thought they’d give me a Z-pack.
That was Thursday, Jan. 14. Did I want a COVID-19 test? Yes, please. Swabs up each nostril. Didn’t hurt. Very easy. Physician Assistant came in to tell me that I tested positive. If I came down with a fever or a bad cough, go to a hospital. But as my symptoms were ‘mild,’ just keep taking over-the-counter cold medicine and Tylenol. No steroids. They checked my oxygen level, which was normal.
I was shocked at the news, but a nurse friend had told me they were seeing a lot of people who thought they had a sinus infection, but it was COVID-19. The PA said they were either seeing positive patients with the sinus issues or respiratory. It felt like a bad cold.
I went straight home. Notified my son, family, some close friends. Mucinex DM was helping. The worst part was the anxiety of having it – thinking about what might be ahead. I did not lose my senses of smell and taste, although they are not at 100 percent.
The St. Louis City Department of Public Health called to ask me questions. They send you an official letter too. Keeping track of cases for the public record.
Even though I think it started Jan. 10, and two weeks are over for quarantine, I’m counting Thursday, Jan. 28, to return to ‘normalcy.’ As in return to the outside world. I think I am turning a corner but know I need to be careful. I still tire easily. I’m still coughing and sneezing, though not as frequent. People do get this again.
I have learned to get things done during bursts of energy and then take it easy, or the exhaustion will be worse. I do think rest and nutrition are key.
I am grateful for people’s well wishes and concern, and
their offers to help. A friend went to pick up an oximeter for me. I recommend
these – judges your oxygen. Put your finger in a slot. Should be in the 90 to
100 range. Fortunately, mine has been 98-99, thank God. If it’s below 80, get
to a doctor.
I appreciate all the kindness shown me the past couple of years. December is a tough month for me, and people were so nice – and I meant to start thanking everyone New Year’s Day, so I will get around to individual thanks, just a delay. It is really special for people to reach out and care about how you are doing, feeling, and I don’t take it for granted.
We are all in this together. So that’s my tale. I hope I am getting stronger. I feel like I am but also know I’m not ‘back to normal’ or feel 100 percent. It might take awhile. I hope there are minimal after-effects. There is the brain fog…
And I have no idea why some of us work through it while others have it worse and must be on ventilators.
There is so much we don’t know about it. My heart goes out to people in the local ICUs and families who have lost loved ones. It’s devastating.
Thank you to all the health care professionals guiding us through this ordeal. They are putting themselves at risk to help us.
We have all experienced emotional exhaustion and collective grief. This has been hard. Of course I miss going to cinemas and theaters, meeting people for lunch and dinner, and hugging friends and family. I can’t imagine what a restricted funeral would be like for a family after having arranged both son Tim’s and my brother Matt’s services. (www.grief.com is a good start if you need help).
Now, the Biden Administration is forging through with plans to get this pandemic under control. I hope we can see results sooner than later but at least we are getting honest answers and information. Viva le Dr. Fauci.
In the meantime, trust science. Wear a mask. Stand apart. Wash hands. All of it really does help. Only you know how safe you feel.
When my 88-year-old uncle had COVID-19 in November, and we didn’t know it yet, I had sat with him in a doctor’s tiny examination room at BJC– but we both had masks on, and I weathered that with no ill effects. He wound up having a mild case – and he has COPD! We were certain the masks saved people from not spreading it.
Like I said, there are things we can’t explain about this disease. I just know it’s real, the fatigue is something else, and I hope we can get through these next few months by rolling out the vaccine to many people.
We have never been through anything like this, and lives have been forever changed. It’s not going to be over anytime soon, and we have to deal with it. One thing — everyone is in the same boat. Our way of life has been altered, and in some ways, we’ve learned a few things. And concentrated on priorities and what’s important. When we return to whatever passes for ‘back to normal,’ I have a feeling we will really appreciate the little things, the small moments.
My advice is to seek medical help if you have any symptoms – don’t wait. The goal is to stay alive.
We have to be patient. We have to ‘suck it up.’ We endure, adapt, move forward with resolve.
Take care. Stay safe. Use common sense. I hope everyone can be spared. It is a scary time. Godspeed.
Lynn Venhaus has had a continuous byline in St. Louis metro region publications since 1978. She is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic, currently reviews films for Webster-Kirkwood Times and KTRS Radio, covers entertainment for PopLifeSTL.com and co-hosts podcast PopLifeSTL.com…Presents, and writes features and news for Belleville News-Democrat and contributes to other publications. She is a member of CCA, AWFJ and St. Louis Film Critics Association. She is a founding member of the St. Louis Theater Circle.