Although we’re all eager to acquiesce back to a pre-pandemic lifestyle, this virus still seems much less understood by our medical community, less predictable, and more pernicious than something like the flu; just saying. I’m writing this entry as a gentle reminder to continue respecting the potential implications of catching or spreading Covid 19. I also wanted to share my personal story with those who may be going through something similar.
First let me say, I am vaccinated and boosted for Covid 19 with the Pfizer product. I’m a middle-aged, white man, which I’m only mentioning for statistical relevance. I have been pretty good about wearing a mask in public places, washing my hands, and even trying to stay healthy. I’m a physically active person, I eat a fairly healthy diet, work out, don’t get sick often, etc… I don’t smoke, don’t drink much, am not overweight, don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure, nor do I have any pre-existing conditions or a compromised immune system. So, with this, I have been feeling, well I might say confident, that if I did contract Covid that it wouldn’t be a big thing. I wasn’t really hoping to get it, but on the other hand, if I’m totally honest, I would say I was sort of thinking like, “let’s just get this over with, I’m going to get it at some point.” Although I’ve not been acting irresponsible, I haven’t really restricted myself socially in any way for the last year or so, frequently meeting with friends, going to restaurants, and other events.
Well, with all that said, I did recently catch the Covid 19 virus, and here’s a short description of my journey. As my memory serves me, somewhere around February 6th, 2022, I started feeling a little “buggy”, a hoarse & scratchy throat, a little feverish, nothing too uncomfortable, almost like bad allergies or a simple cold. These symptoms ebbed & flowed for about 3-4 days and I started to feel pretty good again. I didn’t think much about it and just kept churning along, pretty much not changing anything in my daily routine.
By February 11th, although still a little congested in my sinuses and in my throat, I was ready to move on, no fever, persistent cough, with my energy normal, feeling whatever it was, probably wasn’t Covid. Then the following day, I started to get this very strange headache, it was a bit like a sinus headache, but it had some other features that I hadn’t experienced before with a standard headache, like a sensitive scalp, some pressure in my ear & jaw, and a fairly acute throbbing throughout my head. By Monday morning, February 12, it was significantly worse. If you’ve ever had an abscessed tooth, it was much like that but it was happening all over the left side of my head; not very comfortable. I’m thinking ok, “maybe a sinus infection, I’m still congested particularly in my nasal passages,” and I start dousing it with Ibuprofen (no choice). The Ibuprofen helped a bit, however, as soon as it started wearing off this whole-head headache would come rushing back. A couple more days go by and I finally start to get a bit worried as my jaw and ear are feeling darting pain, my scalp is throbbing and tingly and in the middle of my head there’s a whole different headache going on. It’s hard to sleep, concentrate, do anything. I’m feeling like I had better take this to a medical professional. It’s getting late on Thursday with no chance of getting into my primary care physician, I decide to go to the local urgent care facility. They take my vitals and test me for Covid with a molecular test. Vitals are all fine, although my BP is a bit elevated from the Ibuprofen and just being there, all else looks good, no fever, lungs are clear, and blood oxygen level is excellent, no real persistent coughing. The doctor looks in my ear and throat, nothing significant, gives me some cognitive tests to see if there may be signs of something direr (tumor, stroke, etc…) but I have no cognitive issues to speak of, besides being a slow learner :). However, they then tell me that my Covid test is positive, I definitely have Covid. Now I’m assuming that I’ve probably had it since I started feeling less than well on February 6th. The doctor writes a prescription for Naproxen, which I understand is just a longer-lasting version of Ibuprofen, for the headache pain. He says, “see your primary care Physician, go home and rest, and if anything worsens consider going to the ER.”
24 hours go by, the Naproxen is doing nothing, the headache is not getting any better, and alarmingly this is all occurring just on the left side of my head. Fearing the worse, I head to the ER, hoping they’ll do CT scan for me or something to identify what is happening. The ER triage person greets me and listens to my symptoms, as soon as they hear the word “Covid”, I’m, of course, quarantined in a tent by myself. After some time, an ER nurse takes my vitals, and does some cognitive tests on me, just like at the urgent care. Nothing! All seems normal. A doctor comes and does a little more probing and tells me, “well it’s possible you have a secondary bacterial infection in your ear or sinuses, so let me prescribe you some Amoxicillin. Other than that realize that Covid can take more than 14 days to get out of your system and headaches are a common symptom. So, go home, rest, drink more fluids, and finish the course of Amoxicillin just in case there is a secondary infection occurring.”
A couple days go by, I’m feeling a little better, but not much. Just hoping the Amoxicillin kicks in and starts to beat down whatever is happening in my ear and jaw, which now seems to be the center of the pain. It’s been about 13 days since I began feeling not well, which again I’m assuming was the start of my Covid journey. Now it’s Sunday evening (14 days from start) and I begin feeling numbness on the left side of my face like someone’s jabbed me in the cheek with a syringe full of Novocaine. By Monday morning, still numb on the left side of my face, I notice that my left eyelid is not closing when I blink my eyes and my left lip is not doing what I’m telling it to do. Oh shit, I think, I’m having a stroke! I quickly get myself back to the ER. This time I tell the ER triage person what’s happening, show them my face and within about a minute I’m in an ER situation room, or whatever they call them, surrounded by about 5-6 people, asking me questions, looking into my eyes, measuring vitals, etc… What’s puzzling again is they’re seeing no significant issues with vitals, no cognitive or visual issues, no weakness in my limbs, no fever, no significant congestion in lungs or sinuses, etc… In unison, I hear more than one of the people in the room say, “Bell’s Palsy”. The Doctor in the room then tells me that thankfully, he doesn’t think I’m having a stroke, but they’ll do a CT scan immediately just to make sure. The room quickly empties with the exception of a single nurse. She whisks me down the hall and within another couple of minutes, they’ve completed the CT scan. The doctor comes back into the room and tells me the scan is not showing anything that would indicate, stroke, tumor, or any other more frightening possibilities. He feels confident that the Covid virus has forced my immune system into overdrive and caused a significant amount of inflammation of the “Facial Nerve” in my head causing both the persistent headache and now the Bell’s Palsy. Although the left side of my face is now fully melted from my forehead to my bottom lip, I’m relieved and happy with the diagnosis. They tell me this condition almost always reverses over several weeks, even if it doesn’t it sure beats having a stroke or something similar, which apparently does occur in some as a result of contracting Covid. Nonetheless, it’s been a shitty 2-plus weeks for me, enduring a lot of pain, not working, and now I’ll be on another journey of filling my body with more drugs including an Anti-viral by the name of ValaCYclovir and everyone’s favorite steroidal anti-inflammatory Prednisone.
So, do you really think you might just want to get Covid to get it over with? My advice, from experience, is to try and avoid it, respect others that don’t want it or are compromised, and if you do get it, take it seriously, even if you’re vaccinated. Looking forward, if you see additional posts on my blog dated later than this post, that probably means I’m in the clear for a while. If not, well things either went South, or I’ve just been too lazy or uninspired to write anything.
Lastly, I like to think it may be good to try and find a little humor and inspiration in things that happen in my life like this. First, I’ll say I was genuinely impressed and inspired by the ER room staff during both of my visits (Sequoia Hospital, Redwood City, CA). It’s a very difficult profession, so to experience such kind and truly caring people, who have dedicated their lives to be able to quickly and professionally try and help someone in their time of need is truly noble and not at all lost on me. I can only wish I had the smarts and fortitude to be you, and I’m so thankful that you do have what it takes!
Now, on to humor. What really has me cracking up, and honestly, a bit frightened, is just how outrageous and comprehensive the “Possible Side Effects” warnings can be on prescription drugs. There’s always the obvious and expected stuff, like, “may cause stomach pain or nausea, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, skin rash, hives, etc…”. Childs play! Let me summarize the most bizarre warnings from the myriad of drugs that were prescribed to me on this journey. I won’t associate any of these things with the particular drug so as to not make you fearful if you need to ingest them one day (and to protect myself from the wrath of big pharma). Here are the warnings that made my shortlist (I mean, am I really going to be ok?):
- Big Weight Gain
- Throw Up that looks like coffee grounds
- Unexpected Hair Growth (I’m bald, so hopeful of this one)
- Changes in the way you act (My friends & colleagues will probably like it if this happens to me)
- Seeing or hearing things that are not real
- Phsychotic Symptoms
- Vomiting that doesn’t stop
- Rupture of a Tendon!
- Headache (Not really funny, but I’m taking this one to get rid of a headache)
Stay hungry, and healthy, my friends! Be good to your family and friends, and those medical professionals too.