My Covid Recovery Plan Part One
Updated: Sep 26, 2021
I want to document basically everything that I have done from Day One to get better. I will plan to break it down into a couple (or few?) parts to make it a little bit more manageable. It will be a work in progress on my end because if I don't write it down as I go, I am bound to miss a ton of key elements. Without further adieu....
I obviously don't know exactly when I was first exposed. I have an idea but there is no way to "prove" it. What I do know is that it started that Wednesday night with the indistinct symptom of my stomach just not feeling right. The worst thing about it for me is that it affected my sleep. Sleep seems to be crucial for me. If I can get my sleep, I can take care of my children when they are sick with the flu, stomach but, whatever and I will not get sick. However, if I don't get the same amount of sleep for a night or two, here comes the BOOM! This makes sense in many ways. Our body is doing a ton of work to repair and recover when we sleep. By missing out on this key time, my body does not have the same reserves in place to deal with my normal daily stress much less the new stress of fighting off whatever the kids were dealing with (in this example obviously).
Here's a quick (after writing it, it wasn't so quick) story to illustrate what I am talking about. My daughter had to have brain surgery several years ago (not a quick story but one that I do plan to share later, she's doing great so no worries there). Unfortunately, my youngest son ended up with the flu basically as my daughter was going back to the hotel after her surgery and hospitalization. Eventually, we make it back home, Christmas Eve (lots of stories here with me, my wife and daughter driving home and my mom trying to get my sons home and issues with the flight) and my daughter ends up with the flu and a fairly high fever. Again, we were blessed and there was no negative effects for her. But we all ended up with the flu. Everyone else was pretty sick like you would expect. But what happened to me....I was cold for one day! I tend to be pretty hot natured and never cold. My wife often tells me I am a radiator and she can't sit right next to me. But I was still able to sleep during that whole process. So there's one thing (SLEEP) you can do, that may or may not cost money, that can make a tremendous on your health and whatever you are recovering from!
The stomach issue and sleep issue continued the next night too. I still had good energy levels overall and did not know what was going on really. Then on Friday around 4:30 I wanted to go outside and take a walk. During the walk, I began to cough and it was a productive cough. Uh-oh! Something has definitely gotten into my body and my body is responding like it should, it's trying to get rid of it. I went the next day and got the positive test for Covid.
The First Five Days
We will say that the first day was the positive test just to make things easy. I couldn't eat much at all and I was tired. I was more than tired, I was exhausted. I had to take a nap after driving and sitting in the car for the Covid test. That shouldn't be strenuous, but it was! I could not do much of anything those first few days. I couldn't think clearly to be able to read anything. It seemed like I needed a nap if I walked 10ft. I thought that this fatigue was due to being sick but even more so to not be able to eat. Looking back, I am sure both played a role but the primary problem was the virus was replicating and doing it's damage. My wife did an amazing job in caring for me during this time. She did everything I needed and asked. She is wonderful!
I think it was around Day Three that I realized I would need to check on my oxygen saturation levels. Luckily, I am a Physical Therapist and Functional Medicine Practitioner. I know what I need to do to get better and have some of the tools needed to assess where I am, like a pulse oximeter. So, I went to my car. I actually park my car in a garage that is not very close to my house, So getting to my car was not the easiest thing and I was a little bit short of breath (SOB). I was worried that my levels may be low but I put the pulse oximeter on my finger anyway.....99%. YES! I am doing good. I went back home and went to sleep, that's obviously enough activity for one day, right? As an aside, it is normal for your oxygen saturation level to decrease slightly with activity. It should still be in the 90s but it may dip from say 99% to 96% as an example.
Unfortunately, those levels didn't last for very long. And in all honesty, it gave me a false sense of confidence and security. My breathing was already becoming more difficult and the fatigue was extreme. But I still thought it revolved mainly around not being able to eat. By the next day, my levels were in the low to mid 90s at rest. This definitely is not a danger zone by any means but it was foreshadowing what was to come.
I guess I was not completely oblivious by Day Three. I knew that I couldn't just lay around in bed all day. Lying down for extended periods of time will weaken our lungs. I did not remember the benefits of lying prone (face down) for my lungs and am grateful that our neighbor who is a NP and Crossfit extraordinaire reminded us of that! So I began to spend some of my time in bed lying on my stomach. I also started to use The Breather for a few breaths here and there. Before I would have been able to do 10 or more breaths at the highest levels pretty easily but now, 1 or 2 at the lowest level was plenty. So I tried to use the device several times throughout the day. I also started to leave the room that I was in and go outside on our porch. This was I could isolate myself from my family in attempt to keep them safe and I could sit upright. Just sitting up can help to minimize some of the deleterious effects prolonged lying can have on our lungs. I would also do some short walks back and forth on our porch. These walks were not long and were separated by a lot of rest. For example, it's maybe 20-30ft to go from the room I was staying in to the chair on the front porch. I would make it to the chair and have to rest. When I say rest, I don't mean for a few minutes. I mean 30 minutes plus. I would often have to sit there with my eyes closed working on relaxing. I could not talk during this time either, too much energy was required to talk. (That is not a good thing when your wife already thinks you don't have enough words) But after a while, I would at least be ok enough to walk on the porch for 20-30ft.
I did a lot of binge watching during this time. That is not something that I normally do at all. I will watch different shows but I don't have to watch them all at once. (The only exception to this is Ted Lasso. I actually walked around the house watching it on my iPad and stopped doing anything else.) In this case, I couldn't do anything else. I actually was in the middle of reading a book that I have enjoyed but there was no way that I could have read it during that time. The brain fog I was experiencing would have made it impossible to comprehend anything. I have not yet been able to resume reading that book, but I feel that is just around the corner. Can't wait, I love to read!
By Day Five, my wife was very concerned and set up a telehealth appointment with Dr. Kornweiss. Of course, my wife was very concerned before this time but she had had enough of my stubbornness and took action. She can be a little feisty sometimes (and don't tell her but she is stubborn too). He did a great job with the assessment and checked my oxygen saturation levels. I think they were 92-94% while I was lying in bed during the appointment. That's when he had me walk up and down the steps and recheck with the pulse oximeter. The total distance covered was probably 30-40ft. Not very far. Of course the steps add some difficulty but it normally would not affect someone the way it did to me. My oxygen levels plummeted to 84-85%. There were able to recover to 92% again with focused breathing and lying down but this recovery was definitely not immediate, it took a little bit of time. That's when I went to the ER for the first time ever.
First Hospital Stay
I just could not do much during this time. My body was so worn out and my oxygen levels were terrible. I was lucky enough to have a bathroom in the ER room I was in. The oxygen tubing would reach that far and that was a godsend! I did my best to stay hydrated. I knew I needed fluids for many reasons. One reason it to help keep whatever gunk is in my lungs as thin as possible. The thinner it is, the easier it is to get rid of it when I cough and I wanted it out ASAP! There are some other indirect benefits of staying hydrated. I had to use the bathroom pretty frequently. In my case, this provided a myriad of benefits. I had to sit up and stand up. Good for lungs? Check. Good for blood clot prevention? Check. Good for pressure sore prevention? Check.
Granted, I would have to lie down after going the 5-10ft to the bathroom, but at least I could do it. Yay me! I would also try to sit up for short periods but do it often. I could not lie prone while in the hospital due to the IV. I believe that I was on 2L of oxygen during this ER stay. My oxygen levels were in the mid90s, which was pretty good. On Friday, the hospitalist turned off the oxygen to see what would happen. I actually did very well....for a while. My levels stayed around 94-95% while he was there and he decided to send me home. He was not there for an hour or anything like that, but he also wasn't there for 30 seconds. I think he did the right thing and do not want it to seem like I am complaining. Unfortunately, as time went by, my levels started to drop down into the lower 90s. I didn't say anything to anyone because I wanted to get out of there.
If you read the previous article, you know that this experience was not the best for me. I will add a few details that I left out previously in an attempt to provide some context. The ER doctor and nurses never even listened to my lung sounds. X-rays were taken and showed that I had viral pneumonia from Covid. I don't remember if the hospitalist listened to my lung sounds or not. I think he did but I am not sure. It seems to me like this should have been done. I also deserve some criticism during this time. As I mentioned above, I saw that my levels were going down and I knew that I was basically the same as when I went in. I did feel better and have more energy but I knew I was not well and probably needed to be there longer. Yet, I didn't say anything. I don't regret my decision and I don't fault anyone else,. I think things happened the way they did because that is exactly what needed to happen. Maybe I should have included this information previously...I don't know. To me, the focus of the previous article was not the "Bad Experience". That section was only 3-4 paragraphs of a 13 minute post. The focus of that article was the wonderful people in our life and my new friends!
The Return Home
It felt good to be home, but it was exhausting getting out to the car and making the ride home. I had to lie down once I got inside. I also don't do well riding in cars and can get car sick. I don't have this problem if I am driving, but driving was out of the question! I have found, though, that if sit with my eyes closed I don't have any issue. By having my eyes closed, there is not the same stimulation and my body doesn't react. I continued with my recovery plan the next day. I didn't have the IV anymore, so I could resume lying prone. I also would go and sit on the porch. Rest and then walk for a little bit. Rest and binge watch something. When I would get tired or my oxygen levels seemed to be staying too low (90-92%), I would go inside and lie down. I did not have to sleep as much during this time though. I think that was a positive.
The next morning when I woke up, I checked my oxygen levels and they weren't good. I thought. "No worries. I will go outside and enjoy the early morning air. Sitting up will be good and my levels will increase." (Told you I was stubborn!) However, it was more difficult getting outside to my chair and I was breathing hard. I sat there for a few minutes and my oxygen levels never recovered. I also knew that I couldn't sit there until EMS arrived. Instead, I needed to lie down and rest so that I could do whatever I needed to once they arrived.
That's Enough For Now
That's definitely enough for now. In the next installment, I will detail what I did during my second hospital stay.
My name is Heth and I’m a husband, father of three children, Physical Therapist with 20 years of experience and Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner. I have witnessed the effects that chronic pain, chronic gut issues, chronic stress, etc. has had on my clients and on my loved ones, especially my wife. I have also seen how the conventional medical route is unable to adequately address these problems and provide answers. I have seen the disappointment and sense of helplessness that this can cause. I am sure that you have experienced this too.
However, I always felt there was hope…a different way to address these problems. After all, I learned that the key to treating clients in Physical Therapy is to get to the root cause of the problem, then the symptoms will take care of themselves. This is the same premise in Functional Medicine. I have seen the life transforming effect this can have on quality of life firsthand in my clients and in my wife!
During my career, I have treated athletes looking to return to sport, clients that are trying to recover from neurological insults like a stroke, clients that are attempting to return to their prior level of function following surgery and many other conditions. I have also focused heavily on the Nervous System and the treatment of chronic pain. This led to an interest in staying up to date on research regarding the role of the Immune System and Central Nervous System in pain. It also pointed out the important role that the Autonomic Nervous System and chronic systemic inflammation play in chronic illness.
This article is for educational use only. Nothing contained in this article should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This article does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions regarding personal health or medical conditions. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read in this article. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, you should contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and are experiencing a medical emergency, you should dial 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone.