Let me, at the start, state that I’ve not had Covid-19. Given my health, if I had you wouldn’t be reading this. At the same time, there seems to be a lot of dismissiveness when it comes to the risks associated with Coronavirus. People have become lax owing to the number of deaths dropping (for now, and inching up), while too often ignoring the condition of the survivors.
People survive, but are never the same.
Now, THAT, in the context of the lungs, I know something about. If you want to know about the side effects of Covid-19, they’re well documented. This is my debacle tale. It’s also my cautionary tale of being left broken in the wake of a lung ailment.
Prior to 2009 my health was excellent. I’d never smoked. I lived in Wyoming at the time and often played tennis and walked. Each day I rode my bike several miles to work. That all changed in May 2009 with breathing difficulties.
June arrived and I woke up one morning gasping for air. After the stunned staff at a clinic read my oxygen saturation they sent me to the hospital’s ER down the street. They stabilized me and recommended I see my regular physician. I didn’t have one. My health had been outstanding and Casper had a doctor shortage.
I found one. I wish I hadn’t. An X-ray was performed. Knowing what I know now about my condition that was a red flag. Performing an X-ray was fine, but by itself it was grossly inadequate. In July 2009, based on the X-ray, it was concluded I had COPD. I was given an inhaler.
*Keep in mind, that was the wrong diagnosis. If the correct diagnosis had been made at the time my life would have been completely different. Too, my decision making, because of oxygen deprivation, was compromised.
Despite my complaints, by December 2009 my condition had deteriorated to the point that I struggled to climb stairs, required frequent rests, and was losing five pounds/month. They performed another X-ray. Same conclusion.
Well, sort of.
They concluded my decline was all in my head. Yes, the diagnosis, in not so many words, was that I was a hysterical female. I was sent to a psychiatrist. I had no tolerance for Zoloft so she recommended a leave of absence so she could give me additional drugs. That’s right, additional drugs so I could take additional drugs so I could take Zoloft.
I took the time off. I never went back to that job again.
On May 6th, 2010 I was rushed to the hospital and placed in the ICU. I weighed 85 pounds, was hallucinating, and my legs were swollen to elephant size. The ER doctor’s conclusion was that I was mere hours from death.
The remainder of 2010 was a battle to stay alive and survive doctors who overdosed me with Prednisone for three weeks. I turned a corner that November when I was sent to National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Even so, the battle continued through 2013. The next year I relocated to Missoula, Montana. In January 2017 I found the pulmonologist who changed my life.
So, what happened in 2010? Of course, I never had COPD. Instead, I had a bacterial infection in my lungs. If I’d been given antibiotics in 2009 my lungs would have been saved. When a bronchoscope was performed in the hospital they discovered my lungs were full of both streptococcus and staphylococcus.
The result? The bacteria destroyed my lower lobes permanently. There’s scaring. My lung capacity is 67% of normal. I had an oxygen tank for four years on continuous feed. Crossing a room winded me. I was told my active lifestyle was over.
Wiser, I refused to accept that diagnosis and fought back. I went for walks while pulling my oxygen tank. I rebuilt my strength. I relocated to Missoula. I found the pulmonologist who gave me back a portion of my life.
I’m permanently afflicted with Chronic Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis (HP), an autoimmune disease that coats my lungs in sticky mucus if triggered. That happened just last January. Ten days of antibiotics. A week of illness.
Yes, Covid-19 would be deadly if I contacted it.
I still struggle with my weight. My lungs/heart work harder during everyday activities. My immune system is shot. Twice/day I perform a self-pulmonary function test, track my results, and use a steroid inhaler to keep my lungs from failing. I walk to keep my lungs from contracting.
In short, despite everything, I count myself lucky. In moderation, I can walk, bike, and do yoga (which also helps my breathing). Even so, I lost seven years of my life and my HP is forever.
So, yeah, think about it before you decide surviving Covid-19 will be the end of your ordeal. My journey was (needlessly) horrific and Covid-19 is worse.