itsnotjusttheflu

a collection of first-hand accounts from people dealing with COVID-19. these are stories from patients, healthcare workers, families coping with loss and others

By Sarah

I was starting to think Covid was over, and life was going back to normal. My job had just opened back up, after being closed for 3 months. When I went to work or anywhere out in public for groceries or other essentials I always wore a mask and sanitized my hands. I washed my hands with soap and warm water obsessively. I thought “there’s no way I’ll ever catch Covid.”...

Then out of the blue on a sunny Monday I began to have slight vertigo, some fatigue, diarrhea, and severe pains in my legs. The next day I had a low grade fever, a sore throat, and a headache. The third day I felt like I had the flu, so I called out of work and got tested for Covid. After the third day I wasn’t able to leave my bed or the couch except to do the most basic of tasks like warm up a bowl of canned soup or feed my dog.

Taking a shower is exhausting.

Five days later I received my Positive Covid result.

My symptoms are all over the place, and will morph/come and go within minutes. Sometimes my nose is stuffy, and suddenly it’s runny. Sometimes my eyes burn and become red and watery, and sometimes it stops. Every day I have either a just slight headache or a migraine.

I lost my sense of taste and smell completely.

The diarrhea is insane and the fatigue is unbearable.

Some days I’ll have chest pain in the left side, and/ or heart palpitations.

Some days I have a cough, some days I don’t. The only symptom that’s consistent is the crushing fatigue and low grade fever, which I’ve had almost every single day for 25 days.

The worst part of Covid is being this sick all alone.

By kristen

I got lucky. My spouse and I were exposed in mid-March, just as everything started shutting down. I ran seven miles as part of training for an upcoming race (rescheduled now, of course) and a week later I got winded walking up a flight of stairs. I was strong and healthy heading into this, and was only really sick for four days before my fever broke and my symptoms started improving. He had a fever for over 30 days, and had more and worse symptoms than I did.

But my symptoms haven't fully improved.

I'm writing this on hour 47 of a 48 hour heart monitor test.

While I was lying in bed at the peak of sickness, I would occasionally feel a big bubble pop in my chest. I thought it was my lungs, maybe. This is a lung disease, right? I was too sick to really focus on it. My symptoms improved, but the bubbles kept popping. It felt like my heart was skipping a beat. That feeling when you fly over the second hill on a roller coaster, and your stomach floats up and your heart pauses. When you get awful news and your heart sinks. When your heart races with terror before you step on stage. All this at once, but just for a second and then I could return to my normal state of being blissfully unaware of the steady pace of my beating heart.

Those seconds kept happening, enough that they became minutes in my day.

I have been free of fever for months, returned to running and biking, no longer winded walking up the stairs. But my heart keeps skipping, flipping, hurting. The tightness in my chest comes and goes. And the running that seemed so easy just months ago is now a combination of running and walking, running then walking, running then walking to catch my breath.

By Rose

When I had COVID, I carried a “sick bag” with me from room to room. When I was still able to walk. Cough drops, inhaler, tissues, Pedialyte. Bottles and bottles of Tylenol. I had an arsenal.

The other day, I saw the bag hanging casually on the coat rack the other day, like none of it had happened. I've blocked out that time. I didn't write down my experience while it was happening as it was too overwhelming. Now I'll give it a try – as it may be helpful to others.

I'm a 35-year-old woman. I do CrossFit six days a week. I'm healthy, though I have anemia. Naturally, I continued home workouts while on lockdown in New Jersey. After a March 25 lifting session, I felt dehydrated and like a sinus infection was coming on. I went to bed thinking I'd just sleep it off.

The next day I said to my boss, “I may need to take the day off. I'm not feeling great. Don't worry – it's not COVID.” I penned the same message in an email to my father.

How wrong I was.

Those were the easy days, in the beginning. Just a headache and some muscle soreness. “Must be all those workouts,” I thought. But then came the fatigue, the fevers, and two long, hard weeks of feeling physically and emotionally shut down. At one point, I felt as though I'd lost my mind entirely.

For a while, it felt like my job was to get rid of the fevers. Tylenol. Cold compresses. Whatever it took. I would watch as my temperature rose to 101, 102, 103, and even 104. This, of course, would coincide with an inability to breathe.

I wanted to take cold showers, but it was too difficult. I only took three in the time I had COVID, and I only changed my clothes twice. I quickly became unrecognizable. Going outside was not an option – both for this reason, and because I eventually couldn't walk far. The mail piled up in heaps in the box.

One night, when another fever reached 104 and I was gasping for air, I decided to go to the ER. They did blood work, performed an EKG, and pumped me full of fluids. I had pneumonia, they said, but I couldn't get a COVID test. I didn't have any pre-existing conditions. After all, I was healthy ... right?

When asking me about my symptoms, the doctor asked, “Any diarrhea?”

“No, none of that,” I said, though I'd struggled with food. My taste and smell wasn't gone but altered. Everything tasted like the main ingredient in the item.

“Oh, you will,” she said.

The next week consisted of more fevers, the diarrhea she predicted, and an inability to move, breathe, or eat. I knew I wasn't getting any sustenance, so I would mix protein bars with water and just swallow. The taste made me want to gag, but at least it was something. Occasionally, I would be able to have chicken noodle soup, mostly the broth. Honestly, I saw no point in eating since I wasn't keeping any of it down. All told, I lost 8 pounds in two weeks.

Still, I tried to have a routine. Since I couldn't walk up the steps without hyperventilating, I couldn't sleep in my bedroom. So, I slept on the couch, the floor, and sometimes the pull-out couch. I would often go to bed at 7 p.m. in the hopes I'd be better in the morning. Usually, a fever would come in around 3 a.m., I'd battle it, and I'd wake up feeling okay. I'd pump myself full of Vitamin-C, try to eat half of a protein bar, and run to the bathroom. Typically, a fever would come in right around lunchtime.

The Sunday before I got better was a particularly hard night. The fevers were non-stop, and I wasn't sure I'd make it through the night. I had chills, aches all over, and I couldn't get in any air. I remembered the doctor telling me to “fight it out at home” since the hospital “wasn't a place I wanted to be.” I prayed aloud. I was mad. I didn't understand why this was happening to me – the healthy person. I kept telling myself, “If you get through this night, you can beat this.”

The next day felt a tiny bit better. Looking back, it may have been the turning point.

In the final stretch, I still couldn't breathe or eat, and then I started to cough. And cough and cough. I almost forgot how much I coughed because I blocked it out. Thank goodness I had the sick bag – everything I needed was in there.

Throughout my two weeks with COVID, people wanted to know how I was. I remember a friend kept telling me to check my mailbox. She had sent a package. I literally didn't have the strength to walk to the box.

Other friends sent batches of texts, and my family called daily. The support was remarkable but overwhelming. I would copy and paste responses. “No, I'm not better” was a common refrain.

In those moments, I felt like they'd never understand what I went through. Honestly, they probably never will.

It took me another four weeks to recover from COVID. But I still feel it now. My iron has dropped to low levels. I'm losing my hair. And sometimes my heart races in a workout. I'm convinced my anemia has something to do with why I got hit so hard, but I'm uncertain. That is perhaps the hardest part of it all – wondering what this might do long-term.

By Jennifer

My husband got sick in mid February with a horrendous chest infection. At that stage, we thought Covid was only in China (haha!). As an asthmatic I was already worrying that I would get it. The start of March hubby was getting worse and is in and out of A&E coughing up blood and I started feeling a bit unwell. Mid March lunchtime, my husband is in bed ill and I am watching our children and I suddenly become seriously unwell- faint, stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, it hit me like a tidal wave and from that moment life my life has been put on hold. The first few days were spent in bed feeling fatigued, nausea and developing a cough. I had a very unusual throat problem were it didn't hurt but I couldn't swallow properly or sit my neck up straight. Fast forward 2 weeks and I'm struggling for breath, coughing up buckets of green thick mucus and coughing so hard I fall to the ground in pain/vomit all at the same time. Repeat trips to A&E were met with , no test if you haven't been abroad and sent home with antibiotics. I had lost 1 ½ stone and spent most of my time in a stay of delusional exhaustion and hunger and excruciating pain. I had pulled all the muscles in my abdomen from coughing which made every cough like a dagger in my side. My peak flow went from 550 to 60 within days and I was finally admitted to hospital after 6 weeks of illness and was diagnosed with viral pneumonia. The hospital gave me oxygen, morphine and stomach tablets which helped get me under control. I tested negative for covid but the consultant thought i still had it but it was too late to test. I was dealing with the post viral effect of covid. As soon as the result came back negative i was told I had to go home in case I developed a secondary infection while on hospital. Since that day I have been recovering at home. I am on month 5 and my cough has largely gone. However I am still very unwell. My illness comes in waves, I generally get 3-4 days of feeling sick but fine and then suddenly I am overcome with extreme fatigue, nausea, breathlessness, heart palpitations, sweats, aches and pains. The bad spell can last anywhere from 3 days – 2 weeks depending on how extreme. I am unable to work, exercise, play with my children, speak on the phone (my voice is still very hoarse), socialise, basically enjoy life. I suffer from bad acid reflux as a result of this and I need to be careful about what I eat. I have no idea how long I will be sick for and repeat bloods have came back normal. I don't know what the future holds for me.

By Joshua

I specifically remember having a conversation in the middle of March about COVID-19 with a friend, via text, about how strange it was that neither one of us knew anyone that had contracted the virus, nor did we know of anyone that personally knew of anyone else that had caught it. Almost as if the whole thing had been fabricated.

One month later, in April, I get a text from my dad that his 70-year-old brother, my uncle, had fallen seriously ill and was showing symptoms similar to that of COVID. My uncle had sustained severe brain damage as an infant during the birthing process and this left him with a severe cognitive impairment. He was a sweet man that worked a simple job at the Pillsbury headquarters in St. Paul Minnesota and had been living in subsidized housing for all of his adult life.

When this had all happened and he started to feel sick and show symptoms of COVID, he stubbornly stayed in his apartment and did not let anyone know of his sickness, for fear that he would have to go to the hospital. My uncle was terrified of hospitals. His symptoms continued to get worse until one night he was alone on the floor, slowly asphyxiating. He was wearing a life alert necklace that one of his administrators at Pillsbury had demanded he wear in case he was ever in an emergency situation and he realized this was indeed one of those life or death situations. So regardless his fear of hospitals, he pushed the button on his life alert.

An ambulance showed up and transported him to an ICU where he immediately tested positive for COVID. He was then sedated and intubated. For someone so innocent to be living out their worst nightmare without any, in person, support of friends or family was almost too painful for me to think about. I wept nonstop for days, as did much of my immediate and extended family. I did not want my uncle to suffer any longer and I prayed for his death to be imminent.

Almost a week later, after communication with several hospital staff, my dad was told there was nothing more they could do for him and according to his documented wishes he did not want to stay on life support. They were going to unplug him, and my dad and his 3 other siblings were going to watch via Zoom.

The day that happened my dad said he and his siblings got on Zoom and shared memories, told my uncle they loved him all the while being heavily sedated and still intubated. Once they unplugged him from his breathing support he visibly struggled for air and eventually passed. It was a horrifically tragic way for such a sweet man to die. For many people the idea of dying alone in a hospital bed is an ultimate fear, and COVID-19 is tragically making that a reality.

By Bridget

(several kids got it from that experience). Her symptoms were a sore lower back and low-grade fever for about 36 hours. All my friends wondered when I was getting tested, and so even though I had no symptoms, I went ahead and tested. Came back positive—shocked me. I had NOTHING to identify possibility of C19 except for exposure to my daughter. I was quarantining already due to her positive test so I added on stay-home days for my own diagnosis. The ONLY thing I had was loss of taste and smell toward the end of my 14 days which came back 100% after about 5 days. That is all. I rode my Peloton and exercised the entire time I was in quarantine. My husband tested negative and then had body aches, fatigue, and also lost his sense of taste and smell. Obviously, he had a false negative. Since recovering, I want to know about my immunity status and antibodies but as usual no one has any answers — there are so many unanswered questions and so much mixed-up information. It's been extremely frustrating.

By Nozipho

My worry is i infected my 80yr old gran who has cardiac failure and she is really struggling. I blame myclf cz she never left the house at all, now she is sick cz of me

By Linda

When the lockdown started a few staff were told to shield and we were already short staffed so we were relying on agency staff to make up the numbers. There was a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment and confusion about how to use it. We were told that the manufacturer had increased the price of surgical masks by 1000% and we were to use it sparingly. We were told at one point that we couldn't wear masks and then told we could use a limited amount. 2 residents had been in hospital and were sent back without testing. We also started accepting new residents from hospital for end of life care. The symptoms started to show in several residents and then quickly spread.

I developed symptoms and tested positive on April 20th. Out of 20+ staff only 3 of us contracted the virus. We were off sick and our company would not furlough us and did not pay sickness pay so we were only entitled to SSP. I did not have the usual symptoms of fever and a cough but I had diarrhoea and nausea, terrible headaches which wouldn't shift, flu-like aches and pain all over my body, shortness of breath kidney pain and other symptoms. After 4 weeks I tested negative but didn't feel much better and then new symptoms started to develop. I could hardly walk, had constant pain all over, difficulty breathing, awful headaches and terrible fatigue. It is 14 weeks since I tested positive and I rarely have the energy to get out of bed and have symptoms nearly every day. On a good day I can walk to the corner shop but that wipes me out and I am back in bed the following day. It was difficult to get the doctors to take the symptoms seriously and lots of people believed we were exaggerating. Luckily it is now being recognised as a real condition as more people are sharing their experiences, especially on on-line support groups set up by other sufferers. I have just had some initial tests and my chest x-ray is showing some scarring on my lungs. I am waiting for further tests.

I have had to claim benefits to top up the SSP and am getting more into debt every day but can't possibly work as I can hardly get out of bed.

Everyday is different, some days are horrendous, others I just feel completely exhausted. There are many strange and scary symptoms that I have not mentioned like loss of coordination and balance, numbness or pins and needles all over, electric shock type feelings in all areas, a terrible metallic taste in my mouth, loss of appetite, brain fog – confusion, memory loss etc and many more. The anxiety about money, the insomnia, isolation and helplessness tend to worsen the physical symptoms. I am currently waiting for the new Covid Rehab Clinics to open as my doctor has referred me and I don't know when this nightmare is going to end.

By Laini R.

He presented with typical flu like symptoms, but he described feeling much worse than the typical flu. I initially wrote it off as him being over dramatic because “I have had the flu in the past, it sucks, but it’s not that bad.” Urgent care wasn’t testing for Covid unless you had been travelling or had been exposed to someone that had traveled from China. He soldiered through, but was waking up drenched in sweat nightly, with what we thought were his fever breaking. This went on for almost 2 weeks. A week into him being sick, I woke up with a fever and dragged myself to Urgent Care to get Tamiflu. They again wouldn’t test for Covid due to non travel, but I did mention that my husband works in the hospitality industry and had the potential to have been in contact with someone. The doctor assured me that it was the flu and sent me on my way. But I went down and I went down hard. I often joke about “everything hurts and I’m dying.”, but I have never in my life experienced muscle pain like I did. I couldn’t take a deep breath without feeling like my very skin was going to tear into pieces and holding my head up almost seemed impossible. I felt impossibly tired. Meanwhile, my husband was still experiencing night sweats and had developed, what he described as the “worst sore throat he has ever experienced.”

I “recovered” to the point where I returned to work, but I was still experiencing extreme muscle pain and overwhelming fatigue. Meanwhile Covid cases continued to surge and the schools closed. Then the statewide stay at home order was put into place. During that time, I was more often than not exhausted, but I wrote it off as anxiety surrounding the pandemic as a whole. I felt brain fog, but I wrote it off as well. I felt generally unwell but kept telling myself that people had it worse right now. Everyone was anxious, everyone was unsettled. Then we lost our insurance (which don’t even get me started about healthcare in the United States.) so there was nothing I could do about feeling off, and I just needed to press on. I told everyone, I wouldn’t even want to be near a doctor’s office anyway.

Currently, 4 months after initially being sick, I still experience random low grade fevers(almost daily), muscle aches, fatigue, GI issues (which differ from what I already experience having Celiac and Diverticulosis), wonky coordination, and brain fog. I often get winded walking from the couch to the kitchen. I have to mentally prepare myself for walking upstairs. There are times it feels impossible to keep my eyes open. After a full night sleep I wake up feeling as though I haven’t slept for several days. Most days I feel as though I just haven’t woken up fully. The only thing I know, is that none of this is normal for me, but no one is addressing it. And I currently am unable to get answers medically, because I simply can’t afford it. I hope that speaking on my experience helps bring attention for others experiencing similar symptoms and encourage those that are able to seek answers.

By R

Hello to all going through this same trauma. I have no real point to writing this post except to vent.

My 51 year old brother was admitted to the hospital with the usual Covid symptoms. He seemed OK when he was there and it looked as though he just needed a little help beating this thing. He did not have any pre existing conditions.

His 02 levels were OK at the beginning, then they went down to 52 percent, The doctors were able to get it back up to 65, but then he coded (heart stopped). They intubated him and apparently got his heart started again briefly, but it did not last and he passed away.

This post really won't accomplish anything for me personally, but I will pass on a little bit of advice. If you are a Black person as I am, Please take some Vitamin D supplements. It's been proven to help the immune system fight against respiratory diseases. Black people DO NOT generate enough vitamin D in many cases. It's strictly due to the melanin in the skin, etc.

Encourage people to stay home, the social distancing needs to happen. I don't want any of you to feel the pain our family is going through now.

Don't wait to go to the hospital if you are sick, please. I think my brother waited too long to go in.

Love your families, Love your friends, and look out for each other.