I have said in many posts that I have been blessed and thankful for my health. I was never joking about that but at a few points in the year, I was a little concerned that in fact, I was sick.
I’m an asthmatic, a lifelong asthmatic. While many will grow out of their childhood symptoms, I’ll be stuck with mine until I go off into that good sweet night. Now, asthma is no excuse to not workout or not move around and I honestly am very lucky. My asthma is pretty mild and there are only a few moments in my life I can think of where my asthma has never held me back. I was not able to climb an active volcano, I could not make short walk up mountain and every once in a while an exercise was too difficult to do without a rest.
Being asthmatic does mean I am prone to respiratory infections: one of the reasons I have taken the COVID-19 pandemic so seriously. I am already incredibly prone to bronchitis, pneumonia and upper respiratory infections and I do get sick a decent amount of times per year depending on the year. Con plague is a condition I’m very prone to because you will get sick after being in a room full of sweaty nerds all weekend. I get a chest cold usually in the winter as the weather turns cold. Walking pneumonia isn’t super uncommon for me in the summer but I always manage. I’m lucky. My asthma is usually fairly under control and I can be active if I so choose to be.
During the start of the pandemic, I maintained physical activity the best I could. I’d go for walks, play Pokemon Go outside, play Just Dance; I moved and had no problem doing so. I think it was during the summer when I lost my job that I also came down with a pretty common summer cold that I just couldn’t shake. I got winded much easier than I normally did and thanks to my depression it got easier and easier to ignore my need to exercise. I got weaker and weaker over the months as my new job allowed me to continue to work from home. That’s when I noticed the shortness of breath. It was harder and harder to talk to my car, go to the grocery store; just to live. But I brushed it off and assumed it was part and parcel of the chest cold. The symptoms ebbed and flowed for honestly, months, but the weakness and lack of stamina was the issue I was most troubled by. I couldn’t work out or move around more if I wanted to. It was like my body just quit on me. If my body was willing to quit, I was happy to let it and I slid further and further into a somehow even more sedentary lifestyle.
It was in November that I had noticed the swelling in my feet and ankles; I assumed it was an injury but quickly I learned that it was from poor circulation due to a lack of movement. I ordered compression socks online and some desk pedals hoping that I could will myself to move at all. Both worked with some success but not in enough time for my symptoms to be gone by the time I visited home for Christmas. My aunts of course noticed my fat ankles and lack of ability to maintain breath while going through the entire grocery store aisle by aisle. My aunts doted on me and that only added to my distress and discomfort about not being as well as I used to be and that feeling of self-hatred made it much easier to continue to push down the fact that really, I should see a doctor. I did my best to ignore that I wasn’t feeling well and hide that from those closest to me.
It wasn’t until I got home for Christmas that I realized I was backpedaling further than I already had. By New Year’s Eve I was exhausted and couldn’t breathe. After New Year’s I was having a hard time going room to room without having to take a break or having to stop and catch my breath. Friday night I did a telemedicine appointment which reminded me of all the reasons I hate going to the doctor and was given a pretty inconclusive diagnosis. It was either COVID-19 or Pulmonary Edema; neither answer was great. Saturday I drug myself to a local urgent care to get tested for COVID-19 and figure out what was wrong with me.
Arriving at the med clinic was less than fun but with my symptoms I was indeed tested for COVID-19 because cough, shortness of breath and being tired all ring the COVID-19 bell. I waited for my test results while another storm brewed (one that may be discussed later). I tested negative; a weight that honestly I could feel leaving me and I was left with a much more reasonable solution: it was either pneumonia or a severe upper respiratory infection; conditions I’ve lived with my whole life as an asthmatic.
I’m finally on the right combination of medicines that make me feel less like I’m dying and more like I can actually breathe. It took longer than usual to get the right medical help thanks to the pandemic but I’m glad to be on the mend. I’ve been sleeping a lot, watching a ton of reality television and trying to make sure I eat because of the literal brown paper bag full of medication I was sent home with. But that’s the story of how I got sick during the pandemic and I must admit, I do not recommend it. There’s a strange kind of hell that people with pre-existing respiratory illnesses have been in thanks to a pandemic that has made coughing, being short of breath and being tired all the time as small pieces of social shorthand for disaster. Spoiler alert, asthmatics will cough. Asthmatics will be short of breath. Asthmatics will be tired; our lungs don’t work, give us a break. I understand the pandemic is scary and bad but jeez, it is exhausting having to feel like every time I cough due to something completely innocuous and feel an entire store’s set of eyes on me.
Well, that’s the story of how I got sick during the pandemic and somehow, it wasn’t COVID-19. I hope this little bit of vulnerability is helpful for y’all.
Stay safe and healthy out there.