Sharing everything from the first “innocent symptoms” all the way to his current situation. He is STILL at the hospital.
This is not meant to scare anyone. Hopefully we shouldn’t be any more scared than what we have to be in order to take this thing seriously in order to be cautious. Stay home. Stay safe.
Credits: Michael Bane
For those reading this article “text only”, this is, Mr.Bane’s experience.
For all those who have asked the question “Does anyone even know anybody that has gotten the coronavirus?”, if you know me, you do now. My positive test for COVID-19 has been relayed to me, and I wanted to share what my experience with this illness has been. The TL;DR version? It’s brutal, and I have no doubt it can kill you. Anyone who is saying it’s just a bad cold has either had a far different personal experience than I have or is parroting stuff they found on the internet. For those offended by adult language or themes, you may way want to stop here.
I’m a 42-year-old male who is relatively healthy. I exercise regularly, and generally avoid being ill. On March 3 I went to a routine doctor’s appointment. My wife works at this medical institution, and I thought it would be nice to surprise her with random flowers. On my way, I have an exceptionally brief encounter with someone believed to test positive a short time later. I don’t see my wife, but leave the flowers in her office after being escorted to it.
Fast forward to March 12. I’m at home eating spicy Chinese food (ignore any apparent irony) and my nose starts running, very mildly. I’m assuming it’s from the hot and sour soup. I don’t have to wipe it, blow it, or anything. It goes away within an hour and wasn’t something that would have registered if not for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday, March 13 –
Nose is slightly runny in the morning. Clears up shortly, nothing else. I have no need to wipe my nose or use a tissue.
Saturday, March 14 – Slight sore throat. No sniffles at the moment, but I assume it’s from post-nasal drip or possibly due to sleeping without the humidifier, which is normally on at night. It disappears momentarily. I cough a little, but I figure this is also from post-nasal drip, possibly an allergy (although to what, I have no idea). I see a post that says if you can hold a deep breath for 10 seconds without coughing, that’s a good sign. I can, and I venture out into the increasingly difficult-to-navigate world of grocery shopping. I tell myself I’m being responsible, as I stay as far away from everyone as I can, and I don’t even cough once.
Sunday, March 15 – My cough is more persistent. The sore throat is worse, but it goes away quickly again. My nose has stopped running. My Google searches tell me it could be COVID-19, but it could be any number of other things. I am slightly worried and try to trace back to where I could have been exposed. My wife works at a hospital, and there have been confirmed cases, after false negatives. These patients were allowed to wander around the hallways of the hospital, several floors of which my wife worked on. I assume if I’ve gotten it, that’s how. She’s not showing any symptoms. I am mildly annoyed but figure I should probably consider avoiding work tomorrow. We’ve suspended all in-office operations, but senior management was scheduled to come in to try to evaluate the first day of working remotely as a firm.
I can’t sleep. For whatever reason I just cannot get comfortable. I keep tossing and turning trying to alleviate this backpain on my left side, but nothing is working. At 1 am, it occurs to me this might not be normal backpain. I’m sleeping in the guest room at this point, because I don’t want to keep my wife up. I take my temperature. It’s 100.5, a slight fever. Figuring it’s better to be cautious, I email several people I work with and let them know I will be avoiding the office on Monday. Maybe it’s COVID-19, maybe it’s the flu. Whatever it is, I shouldn’t get other people sick, so I grudgingly elect to stay home. My symptoms are now fever, pain, and legit coughing.
I call Rush’s 24-hour corona-hotline and am told to schedule a video appointment tomorrow. I download the MyChart app and attempt to do so but realize I can’t until the morning. I can’t sleep, so I pop three Advil to alleviate the fever and pain. It doesn’t work, and I toss and turn for hours. I remember seeing 5:10 am on the clock. I’m woken up at 5:30 by a text from my wife asking if I’m going to work. I tell her I’m not. She is staying home as well.
Monday, March 16
– Scheduling a video appointment is difficult, as I keep getting the “we’re at capacity, please try again later” message. I finally manage to secure one ($49, pre-paid), and find myself face to virtual face with a physician’s assistant about two hours later. She reviews my symptoms and circumstances (worsening cough, annoying fever, bad pain), and due to potential for exposure, says I should get tested. She puts a request in with the hospital and says it will be 1-5 days. I should head to the ER if I start having trouble breathing.
I participate in a conference call with my firm and manage to get an appointment scheduled for the morning of the 17th to be tested for COVID-19. My mom and dad had recently been to our house, so I call them to make sure they are okay. That may not have been the best move, as they’re now worried, possibly needlessly.
My fever continues to worsen. I’m trying to work here and there, but effectively got no sleep the night before. I’m freezing cold. I double up my blankets in an attempt to stay warm. The constant pain is wearing on me. I Google if letting fevers run helps fight germs. I find some evidence it does. I suck it up and add more blankets. Someone posts a meme on Facebook that masturbation boosts your immune system to stop COVID-19. I immediately think that either:
a) This is obviously not true
b) I’ve saved myself from certain death.
I hit 101.6 on the thermometer.
My daughter is listening to I’m a Little Teapot downstairs. A verse comes on about three little fishies. I become legitimately angry at the teapot for announcing the presence of the fish to the world. Maybe they wanted to stay hidden. Why is the teapot making these choices for them? I am in a half-conscious rage. I come to and am baffled by my own thoughts. I feel very weak.
My fever is 102.5. My left hand is tingling, my oxygen saturation is down. I tell myself this is because of an increased respiratory rate due to the fever, not because corona has attacked my lung function. I’m right, but the thought still worries me. My wife tells me to take Tylenol or Advil. I tell her no; I’m going to kill the virus off with heat. I tell the virus to buckle down, because it’s about to burn in Hell. My wife brings me an immune booster shot containing ginger, turmeric, cayenne and something else. They say the worse it tastes, the better it is for you. This is undoubtedly the healthiest stuff on the planet. I think I fall asleep again.
My wife hears me laughing at something. I don’t know what. She asks me to take my temperature. I adjust myself on the bed and an arctic blast hits my body. My skin is on fire. This doesn’t feel right at all. I run various death scenarios through my mind to see if this situation fits. I feel that bad. I check the thermometer, and my wife again presses me for the temperature. Not wanting to admit that maybe I let this go for too long, I just say “high.” She’s immediately at the door demanding to know, and I relay that it’s 104.4. The pain is excruciating, more due to the fact it will not let up than its intensity, which has also been increasing. I take four Tylenol, and my wife insists that I get in a room-temperature bath, which she draws for me. I try to get in, but it feels like ice. Clearly my wife and the virus are working together to kill me. After about 15 minutes, I submerge myself and stay for another 30. I get out and feel a lot better. My temperature is 102. I pop three Advil to attack the fever a different way. I go to bed.
I wake up at around 1:30 am with a sudden desire to use the facilities. As I’m sitting on the commode, I smell something bad. I realize I’m also soaking wet. The smell is me. I have sweat so much my shirt is drenched like I’ve just done the polar bear plunge. It’s disgusting. I strip out of my pajamas and find another pair. I return to the guest room and find half the bed also soaked. I’m so tired I move to the other side of the bed, vowing to do laundry tomorrow. On the bright side, my temperature is a perfect 98.6, and I feel great. The fever has broken, so it’s possible it’s all over. I’m not sure if I even need this test.
Tuesday, March 17
– I need this test. The fever is back, 100.8, and the cough is worse. I feel better than yesterday, but I am dreading what’s to come. I shower and get my daughter ready for daycare. I don a mask and drop her off. I have 30 minutes to make my testing, which is plenty of time to show up the required five minutes early. My wife calls me, angry, and tells me she’s been furloughed pending the outcome of my tests. She also let me know that she traced my contact to the day I brought her flowers. They were very well received, and her co-workers are jealous, but a small part of me wishes I would have just gotten a drink instead.
There is traffic on 290. We’re stopped some of the time. How is this happening? Isn’t everyone staying home due to the national emergency? Even if they weren’t, why is there this much traffic at 10:00 am on a Tuesday? Maps tells me there’s an accident up ahead, but this just seems to be a default more than an actual reason.
Ten minutes later I discover the problem. The back gate of a Ryder truck popped open, and hundreds of cases of liquor have spilled out the back. It is a fantastic catastrophe. A guy is clearly trying to salvage what he can, and there’s stacks and stacks of boxes on the side of road which clearly can’t be saved. There’s broken glass everywhere, and the ground is soaked. The earth itself has to be drunk from this one. I lament that I drove by too quickly to get a picture.
I call the testing site and let them know I’m five minutes out. I tell them a liquor truck has spilled booze everywhere, hence I’m a couple minutes slow. They do not seem impressed. They confirm what kind of car I’m driving, what I’m wearing, and tell me to pull in front of the security car into a reserved spot. I arrive and do as I’ve been instructed. The security guard outside shoots me a look, and I tell him I’m here to be tested. He nods, satisfied with my answer. I stay in my car, as I’ve been previously told to do.
A hospital employee steps out in a mask and motions for me to get out of the car. My own mask is on, and I do. He immediately instructs me to put my hands in my pocket and not to remove them. He unlocks a door, and I follow him inside. I am again told not to take my hands out, and it’s added that I shouldn’t touch anything either. This seems redundant, unless he is telling me not to touch the insides of my pockets, in which case, I am not in compliance.
The doctor at the end of the hall is dressed like she’s about to enter Chernobyl. She asks me how I’m doing. I try to think of a clever response, but whatever I mumbled is largely ignored as the doctor muses to herself she should stop asking that question. I cough violently. I’m led into a room, and the doctor points to a chair and tells me to stand in front of it, but not to sit down. She places a paper down on an exam chair and tells me I will pick it up before I leave.
I feel bad for her, she’s undoubtedly been exposed to people with COVID-19 and has a high chance of getting it. She explains the nasal swab process and says that the probe is going to go in REAL DEEP. She repeats it for emphasis. I nod, and cough. I weigh whether knowing is worth this nasal intrusion. I lower my mask below my nose and look up. It’s mildly uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as I was expecting.
She puts my sample in a vial and opens the door while instructing me to take the paper and put my hands in my pockets. She yells “Clear?” down the hallway and a few seconds pass before an affirmative “Clear!” is shouted back. I exit and try to look extremely cautious, avoiding everything and anything that a person could possibly come in contact with. The doors are opened for me, and I head back to my car, hearing the click of the lock to ensure it remains a secure facility. I was in there for a few minutes at the most. Now it’s 1-5 days of waiting. I take Tylenol before going to bed, having seen a statement made by a WHO spokesperson against Ibuprofen. I have a small headache.
Tuesday, March 18
– It’s been two weeks since I was exposed. I wake up drenched in sweat again and take a 5 am shower. I go back to sleep for a bit and am rudely woken up by an alert on my phone. My test results are back already. That was fast. I go to the app to find out that I am negative for Influenza A and B. Okay, not what I was expecting at all. I didn’t realize they were also doing a flu test (makes sense) and had convinced myself I had caught Flu A from a co-worker. No such luck.
I participate in a work conference call but feel weak and don’t contribute anything. My wife asks me if I can keep an eye on my daughter which she goes downstairs to cook some food. I watch her as best I can through open doors across a hallway. My wife comes back upstairs, and I close the door. I cry alone in my room for a while. I haven’t been able to interact with my daughter in four days. I am heartbroken.
My temperature is going back up, but the pain isn’t as bad as the previous days. I don’t know. The cough seems worse. I’m trying to work but keep having to rest. I keep forgetting to eat. My wife brings me some beans and rice in a bowl. I put spoonfuls of it in my mouth and mostly just swallow. I don’t have the energy to chew.
Around 6 pm I have a horrible coughing fit. Every one of my shallow breaths is met with a corresponding respiratory spasm as the air is forced back out of my lungs. It goes on and on and on. My wife asks me if I need to go the hospital. That seems like an overreaction, but my coughing doesn’t allow me to reply. I wave her off and continue hacking and wheezing. I’m fighting for air, but I believe it’s going to pass. I get enough of a break to take two types of cough medicine, Tylenol, and use an old rescue inhaler we found in the house. My wife brings me some hot tea, which helps. Within an hour I feel better than I have in days. I try to watch some Netflix but can’t concentrate. I go to bed early.
Thursday, March 19 – It’s been a week since my first possible symptoms. I wake up freezing cold, and in horrible pain. My left lat seizes up, feeling like it’s trying to rip itself in half. As I attempt to figure out how to relax it, my foot cramps painfully as well. I am massively dehydrated. I’m drinking a lot of water, but the lack of food is keeping me from retaining much. There’s water next to my bed on the floor. I need to drink, but the continued pain and lack of energy is keeping me from acting. I begin processing the movements necessary in my mind to reach down and take a sip.
Twenty minutes later I still haven’t moved. I feel broken, I don’t know how much fight is left in me. It’s like I’ve gone ten rounds with a heavyweight and he’s throwing all the punches. I can’t defend anymore, can’t do anything to lessen the blows. All I can do is get hit and hope that my natural vitality outlasts his ability to keep swinging. I eat shot after metaphorical shot. I consider the hospital again. Maybe they can put me on a morphine drip, buy me a few hours of comfort so I can fight some more. I think about all the people in Italy who may have died alone this way and begin to sob uncontrollably. Then the entirety of my arms, as well as the muscles around my eyes and lips soon begin to contract and tingle as I hyperventilate.
When am I going to turn the corner? When is this all going to end? To everyone who said it was just a bad cold or like the flu, or that people were far more likely to be asymptomatic: fuck you. You have no idea what you’re talking about. This is not the cold. This is worse than the worst flu I’ve had. This is the Grim Reaper knocking on my door. I imagine him floating outside my window and flip him the bird. There’s more fear than bravado behind it. I cry some more, until a coughing episode forces me to get it under control.
Two weeks ago, I did 13 pullups and ran a sub-seven mile. I ran 6 miles of a marathon with a partially torn tendon in my foot. I fractured my ankle and walked around on it for two weeks before bothering with the doctor. I am in shape. I am a tough guy. I tell myself these things as I gear up for my next, big challenge. I grit my teeth and roll to my side. I grab the water and take several large gulps. The icy liquid hitting my empty stomach is a shock, but I keep drinking. Okay. I did it. I have something to build on. Not dead yet.
12:00 pm – I feel great. I think I’ve turned a corner.
2:00 pm – I have not turned a corner. The drugs have worn off. I cough through some work phone conferences before realizing I’m going to have to call it a day. My fever is returning, and I find out it’s Thursday and not Wednesday. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I pile on blankets and put on a sweater. I hit 103 on the thermometer. My wife demands I get into a lukewarm bath. I object like a petulant child, but in end submerge myself for a good 40 minutes. She’s much smarter than me, and currently, probably quite a bit stronger. I spare myself the humiliation of being dragged into the bathroom by my ears, and spend my time trying to figure out when my breathing is labored enough to warrant going to the hospital. This is not a fun thought.
Friday, March 20
– I’ve kind of found my stride. When I feel a fever/pain coming on, I take Tylenol. When I start coughing, I take benzonatate and use an inhaler. I can deal with the fever to a certain extent, but the coughing has gotten to the point where if I don’t take something it’s difficult to get air. There’s a slight crackling sound happening when I’m breathing in and out. I am worried, but I’m keeping myself more comfortable than I’ve been for a while.
I get into a few arguments with people on social media regarding the term “Chinese Virus” and the inherent racism behind it. My opinion as an Asian-American is quickly and skillfully invalidated with well-crafted lines of reasoning such as “Just another snowflake” and “KISS MY ASS” (caps not mine). Clearly, the only thing I have proven is that I still haven’t learned what a waste of time arguing on social media is.
Saturday, March 21 – Breathing is getting harder. I don’t exactly feel near-death, but more like life-adjacent. My arms and neck are tingling all the time due to a decrease in oxygen. I haven’t eaten much for three days because the food is making me nauseated. Showering and shaving have become more of an optional thing due to my weakness. My wife yells at me to go to the hospital. I don’t want to; I haven’t gotten my test results. She sends me a story about a 39-year-old who died waiting for hers. Okay, that does seem scary. I concede and pack a bag to head to the ER.
I reach my exit to get onto 290 and find it blocked off by a police car. Of course it is. I’m going to have to take some backroads to get over to the next entry point. My light turns green and I press down on the accelerator. A homeless man decides to jump into the street in front of my car. I slam on the breaks and lay on the horn. Is this even reality anymore, or is it reality’s cruel joke? I find my way onto the freeway and continue my journey as my control over my hands diminishes with my oxygen level.
Some jackass is tailgating me. I’m sick you asshole. I floor it. 70. 80. 90. I am reckless. I switch to sport mode and tectonic shifting. I am out of fucks to give. Maybe if a cop sees me, I’ll get a police escort. The Tucson purrs along with more get-up-and-go than I expected it had as I weave between a couple of slow pokes to exit. I pull into the emergency receiving area and check in.
Triage is weird. I’m told to go sit in a chair in a barren, cement room. The woman across the way does not look good at all. A man I can only assume isn’t mentally stable tries to check his dog in with him. He’s screaming a lot. There’s a couple of tents set up, and an area you can go stand in (6 feet away from the desk) to complete registering.
My phone rings. The Illinois Department of Health calls to tell me I’m positive for COVID-19. I laugh and reply that I could have told them that. Thankfully I’m already at the hospital because I feel like I’m going to die. I try to think of the last time I was this sick. It was probably 40 years ago when I had meningitis. The doctors thought it was going to kill me. We’ll see what they think about this one. The hospital calls a few minutes later to give me the same report.
I text my family, a few close friends, and my boss. Everyone is very kind. My boss lets me know they’re going to have to inform the office someone tested positive, but they’ll keep my anonymous. I tell him to use my name. It’s a scary message to get, and if people have questions maybe I can help. People may take social distancing protocols more seriously if there’s a face to associate with the illness. By the way work people, expect a message sometime soon.
I get into the ER and they take a chest X-ray. I have bilateral pneumonia. This explains the crackling sounds I’ve been hearing when I breath. My fever is 102. I’m admitted, stuck with an IV, and a host of medications are prescribed to me both intravenously and otherwise. They hook me up to the heart monitor and take my blood pressure every 30 minutes. It spikes when I hear I have pneumonia. The doctor is surprised I haven’t traveled anywhere. Unfortunately, we’re beyond that now. He thinks I’m about halfway through it.
So here I am, in the hospital on the 13th floor with a lovely view of the city. Take that isolation! The coughing won’t stop, and I’m waiting for the drugs to arrive. My prognosis seems reasonably good, I don’t need oxygen yet, and the monitors will keep an eye on my levels.
The point of all this? It’s not real for some of us until it happens to us or someone we know. I appreciate the well-wishes I’ve gotten and am bound to get, and don’t want your sympathy. Please please PLEASE take this seriously. This could kill me. Practice social distancing. Our office shut down and I became homebound when the national emergency was declared. I wish it had happened weeks sooner. I wouldn’t have gotten this, and I wouldn’t have exposed countless other people to it while I was at work and other places asymptomatic. There is a high degree of guilt associated with that. I’m worried about my wife and child.
People have died. People will die. It might be people you love. Please stay inside. This is horrible, brutal, devastating and it feels l might be cashing my chips in. Protect the people you care about as best you can. I love you all.