I followed the case of Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan from the beginning.

By Momma Belle

I followed the case of Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan from the beginning. Having read the book Hot Zone, and being a bit of a science nerd I knew how this virus had a potential of becoming a pandemic. I even stocked up on Lysol wipes and sprays when WHO declared a public health emergency back in February. I’ve always practiced good hand hygiene with my two sons (11 and 13) by carrying hand sanitizer anywhere we went, in the car, washing hands anytime we came in from outside. We’d all gotten flu shots. We are all healthy, no health issues.

So when March came and everything shut down, I took quarantine very seriously also; we stayed home, didn’t have anybody over, didn’t even let the kids play with neighbors or friends, ordered in, only went to grocery shopping maybe once every 2 weeks. Neighbors commented how we were being so strict; I explained how would you feel if I bring the virus home and gave it to someone and that person dies?

April and May came and went. Some of my friends and neighbors were starting to relax more and having gatherings and cookouts. We stayed in. Having watched what was unfolding in New York, I knew it was some nasty bug. Even though we were considered “low risk”, I wanted to do my part to try not to hopefully get it.

Then came June. Things started to “open up”. I was still being cautious and practiced what we were told to do – masks, social distancing – along with not having people over. I work from home, so when my clients came over we wore a mask and stayed reasonably apart. Kids only hang out with families who had been quarantined. Cases in our county seemed to have stabilized, too.

On Sunday, 28 June: I woke up with an annoying cough: Dry, almost like I was trying to get rid of something that was stuck in back of my throat. I didn’t think much of it, I felt perfectly fine otherwise.

Monday, 29 June: I started to feel like I was coming down with a cold; that “yucky” feeling all over, coughing somewhat lessened but still there. My temperature stayed around 99F° (I’m usually at 98F°). Convinced I was coming down with a case of summer cold, I sent my sons off to a friend’s house for sleepovers so they wouldn’t get sick. That night, I started to feel achey all over my body. Kept popping Tylenol in hopes of keeping the aches at bay. Kind of slept at night, sweating.

Tuesday, 30 June: The “yuck” feeling intensified. Fever stayed at 99F° with Tylenol. Coughing wasn’t bad at all. I tried to get tested but could not get an appointment anywhere. Ended up ordering a home collection kit from LabCorp via my insurance. Started to feel super-tired, and body aches intensified by bedtime. Crummy sleep.

Wednesday, 1 July: I woke up feeling the same, achey, tired, feverish but still 99F° with Tylenol. Occasional coughing, but no other symptoms. The home collection kit came, I collected samples from my nose and dropped it off in a FedEx drop box. I was so tired I just went home and slept. Body ache was getting pretty intense, it hurt when somebody touched me or even my clothes would hurt. Terrible night of sleep with aches and chills.

Thursday, 2 July: I drove my sons to their dad’s house about 45 minutes away for the weekend. I felt okay, just occasional coughing but after driving home I was spent; off to bed and slept rest of the day and night.

Friday, 3 July: I woke up feeling actually a lot better. I was convinced it was a summer cold and I was starting to get over it.

My sense of taste and smell had been off and on since January when I did come down with a bad cold – I was almost constantly congested since then. So if I’d lost it from COVID, I wouldn’t have known when I did

Then I got an email from LabCorp saying the virus was detected in my sample.

Imagine my total and utter shock. I was in disbelief. How could I have possibly gotten it when I did everything I was supposed to do?!? I started calling people I’d had contact with in the last 14 days, they were all shocked as well. But at least I was starting to feel better.

Saturday, 4 July: I woke up coughing more than before, but still felt okay enough to do some stuff around the house, and even stayed up to watch fireworks at night. Fever seemed to have gone away also. Just tired and coughing.

Sunday, 5 July: Coughing intensifies. Felt like I was coming down with bronchitis, so did a telehealth session with a primary care doc and she called in Z-Pak. Also borrowed a pulse oximeter from my neighbor at the advice of my paramedic friend. %SpO2 stayed at 95 throughout the day but coughing was getting pretty bad.

Monday, 6 July: My sons came home (they were with me when I first got sick so they needed to quarantine with me), but I kept myself in my bedroom. Coughing gets even more intense. %SpO2 still around 95 but starting to feel really tired. My sense of taste and smell came back this day, oddly. Sleep was difficult from coughing every 5 minutes.

Tuesday, 7 July: Couldn’t lay down without coughing, sitting up was the only way I could rest. Started to nod off while sitting up which I never do. I did another telehealth and they called in Albuterol. Fever crept back up at 100F°.

Wednesday, 8 July: Started to get out of breath when I got up to go to bathroom or down the stairs to get something to drink. %SpO2 hovered around 93, dipping to 90 when I exerted myself like going to bathroom but it came back up. Coughing stayed the same, but no chest pain.

Thursday, 9 July: Same as the day before except my fatigue intensified. %SpO2 hovered at 91-92 resting but dipped to 85 when I walked 10 feet to turn a lamp on. Fever still at 100F° with Tylenol. By mid-day I couldn’t carry on a conversation any more than 2-3 words at a time. By early evening %SpO2 resting was at 90; that’s when my paramedic friend said to call 911.

I was admitted straight away, with lab work and chest x-ray in works along with some oxygen via nasal cannula which helped a lot. After the lab and x-ray they said they needed to do a CT scan with contrast. My fever spiked to 101.8F°. I was just so tired but coughing had subsided somewhat. While in the ER I was given Lovenox (heparin) and antibiotics.

I ended up staying in the ICU “step down” unit for 6 days. First 4 days I spent sleeping off and on for 20 hours a day, waking only to eat and when it was time for medicine. They’d requested and gotten an approval to give me remdesivir by Day 2, which is a 5-day course. I was given 2 types of antibiotics, dexamethasone (steroid), zinc, Vitamin C, probiotic daily. Only people who came by were the hospitalist and nurses. I was able to get up and go to bathroom on my own while hooked up to the IV and oxygen.

After 4 days I was feeling a lot better, and was sent home on Day 6 with plethora of medications. I still didn’t think it was that bad of a deal and wondered why I ended up staying there for 6 days.

Only during my follow-up with a pulmonologist 3 the following Monday I was discharged, I found out how serious of a situation it was: Both of my lungs were infiltrated with “ground glass” opacity, my left lung nearly completely and right lung half way. They told me if I’d waited till next morning that Thursday, 9 July, I would have been put on a ventilator. My inflammation marker was way high (hence the steroids) and my blood coagulation study was way abnormal (hence the heparin).

That’s why I was admitted to the “step down” ICU unit: So that I can be just down the hall if I’d gone downhill.

Now it’s been over 40 days since first onset of symptoms. I’m recovering slowly, and thankfully both my sons have since tested negative. There’s a lot of unknowns on long-term effect from having a severe case of COVID that concerns me, but for now I’m just “taking it easy”.

Oh, I’m 46, BMI 24, no health issues.