The initial hospital plan was similar to the first. I didn't feel good and couldn't do much at all initially. I could sit up for a very short time and I could stay hydrated. The first small ER room that I was in didn't have a bathroom. This meant that I would have to remove the oxygen and walk a little further to the bathroom. Luckily, it was not far at all and I could do this. My oxygen levels would go down during this process but they would also rebound nicely once I reapplied the supplemental oxygen (2L). I really think this was a benefit even though it was a little tough.
After a while, I got moved to a bigger ER room. While I was being wheeled to the new room I kept my eyes peeled to know where the bathroom was...ha ha! Jackpot....it's close! I was starting to feel a little bit better and could sit for just a little bit longer too. I enjoyed my walks to the bathroom and at least seeing some different walls. I did also pass one hallway that at least let me see a small part of the outside world.
I don't remember exactly how long I stayed in that room, but late one night I was transitioned to a real hospital room. I felt like royalty! It was hhhuuugggeee. It had it's own bathroom and guess what else....a shower, be still my beating heart! Needless to say, I had been in the hospital for a couple of days and had not had a shower. Bet I smelled some good!!! I think it was the next night when my "Sweet Pea" nurse asked if I wanted a shower. I let her know that the oxygen tubing from the wall would reach into the bathroom but not quite far enough to get to the shower. She got some extra tubing so that it would reach without any problems. There was also a bedside commode in the shower that I could sit on if needed. They also gave me clean socks and a clean gown, soap, a couple of towels, etc. It felt so good...the hot water, the feeling of clean. It was hard though. Who knew that a shower was exhausting? (Actually many people know that after they have been in the hospital or had a total joint surgery. The shower feels good but it is tiring too!) The worst thing was when I turned the water off. Then I was cold and shivering. Did you know that it's hard to breathe when you are shivering and can't expand your ribcage or lungs? Now you do! But I was able to dry off, get dressed and lie down. In no time, my breathing was back to normal, oxygen levels were ok and I felt like a human again.
One thing that I didn't mention previously is that the second hospital was actually considering sending me home earlier than they did. This was earlier in the day before I was moved to the "real" hospital room. I didn't think that I was ready. I wanted to be home but my fear was that I would go home for a day or two and then be back. I was not going to let that happen. They were going to send me home with oxygen but I still thought it would be best to stay at least one more night. I learned my lesson from before and this is one example of being stubborn being a benefit! I talked them into it and stayed as you know. WHEW! However, I figured I would be going home the next day...no ifs, ands or buts about it. And I thought I would be ok. However, my doctor had different plans. He came in the next morning and could tell that I was basically in the same place. I actually pushed to go home this time versus stay. He explained his reasoning and I knew he was right. There may have been some disagreement between him and his PA the day before about discharge, but I am not sure.
I really did WANT to go home at this point. BUT I also knew it wasn't the best thing for me or my family. This was probably my lowest point. I was lonely and isolated. I needed to see my wife and my family. It makes me tear up now even thinking about it! My wife is so wonderful. We aren't really ones to do selfies, etc. But I needed to see her and looking at older pictures on my phone wasn't enough. I needed something to at least give me the illusion that I was seeing her each day. So...I asked her to take a selfie and send it to me each day. It was amazing to see her beautiful face! I would just sit there and stare and cry tears of joy. (I guess my secret is out....I am a big cry baby!) Those pictures were such a benefit and helped to get me through.
I also had a visit from Respiratory Therapy in the "real" hospital room. If I remember the timing correctly, he came in the first morning I was in that room. We walked around a little bit with and without oxygen. He actually turned the oxygen up to 3L after he finished my assessment. I am sure this is part of the reason for the doctor knowing that I needed to stay at least one more day. I knew that I needed to start to do more so that I could get home quickly and safely. So I started to progress my recovery plan.
I couldn't lie prone since I had another IV. But I could work on increasing the amount of time sitting and walking around in the room. I always had a pulse oximeter on my finger so I could use that determine what my body could handle. I kept my phone with me and would start the stopwatch feature when I would sit up. I could only sit for a minute or two before my oxygen levels would actually decrease a little bit (low 90s). I took this as a sign that my body needed to rest and I would lie back down. The oxygen level would go back up to the md 90s. Ok, that's good to know! After a resting for a bit, I would get up and do laps from the door to the bed. Initially, it was probably on 2 laps before my oxygen levels would be around 90 or so. This was my cue that it's time to stop. I wanted to provide my body with a signal that it needed to improve. However, I had to make sure that I did not dig a hole that it could not recover from. After all, it was already working hard in just dealing with the virus and viral pneumonia. The last thing I needed was to add another stress/load for it to deal with. I figured that I could give it a gentle nudge as long as I kept my oxygen levels in the 90s. I knew I could listen to my body and not push too hard.
Around lunchtime that day as my IV antibiotic was getting close to finishing, I sat up for it to finish and ate lunch. Total time 30 minutes and my oxygen levels were good. I figured that was enough and laid down for 5 minutes. Oxygen levels even better and I don't feel tired. Ok this is looking good. Now it's time to walk. I did several laps, probably 4-6. Oxygen levels decreased some but still in the low 90s. Well that's enough, time to rest and lie down. Oxygen levels go back up quickly. After 5 minutes of rest, I sat back up for 30 minutes. I repeated this process the rest of the day and the results were amazing. As I mentioned before, I listened to my body. I never pushed to the point of being tired. If I even thought my oxygen levels were going to drop, I would lie back down. I also would not make big jumps in the time sitting or in the number of laps I was performing. I just kept trying to gently nudge things upward. I eventually did 16 laps from the bed to the door with no ill effects on my oxygen levels (to the door and back=1 lap). I don't think there is anything magical about the exact numbers that worked for me but I think there is gold in the principles. If you or someone you know is recovering from Acute or Long Covid, these principles can be used during your/their recovery. (Of course, this is not medical advice and I will have a disclaimer at the end of the post) Our bodies are amazing. Many times we just need to supply them with the right nutrients and signals and get out of the way!
Two Key Points
There was definitely one big change from the beginning of this hospital stay. I was hungry and I could actually eat. I had barely eaten anything up to that point. I tried but I just couldn't do it. Initially, the food that sounded good was not the healthiest. I ate french toast, bacon, orange or apply slices with coffee and OJ for breakfast. It was delicious and I love BACON! I think I had chicken tenders and fries for lunch. Again, not health food but at least I was eating something. Getting something in trumped getting the healthiest thing in. By dinnertime, things were changing. I was definitely feeling better and had more energy. I was also starting to crave healthier food choices. I think I had pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans and some fruit. Things were getting better. My breakfast options were limited but I would keep getting some fruit for the extra nutrients. My usual lunch was grilled chicken and a green salad. I would use ranch dressing on the chicken and the salad to increase calories. Dinner would vary regarding the protein source (chicken, fish or pot roast), but I would always get at least one vegetable and have get some fruit with each meal too in attempt to cover my micronutrient status. Maybe things would have been even better if I could have ate healthier from the start at the hospital. We will never know. But what we do know, it's better to get something in versus nothing at all. Being able to eat and be full is what helped give me the energy to do what I did later on to recover and the desire to eat healthy again! To give you an idea of the effect not eating had on me, the last I remember weighing a day or two before the whole process began I was around 193 (morning with empty stomach). I weighed the other morning and the scale said 172.2. Apparently, not eating for over a week had taken a toll on my body. Luckily, it is already rebounding in a good and healthy way!
The other key point is that my sleep is messed up. It is fragmented now and has been since day one of this experience. I guess it may have been the first symptom that I noticed. There are many reasons for this and I have no doubt it will improve. It will just take a little time. My body is not doing as much as it was before I was sick. I was very active and I can't be right now, but I keep doing a little more each day. Remember, nudge gently! So, I probably don't have the same requirements. I am also still taking a steroid and they can affect sleep. It did from a physical standpoint early on. It contributed to me sweating through my shirt and sheet in the hospital. It's hard to sleep when you are soaking wet. (Two of the nurses at the first ER were wonderful in taking care of me during this time and didn't even appear to be grossed out. Big thank you to them!) This has also been a huge stress and new experience for me. That leads to questions and a need to process everything that has happened. I have more of a monkey brain now. Before I seemed to be able to shut my mind off and go to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. Yep! I was one of those people. Sorry to everyone who struggles with sleep as I know that makes you hate me. That is definitely more difficult now. I have all these thoughts swirling around in my head. It's getting better already but I am taking steps to help. It seems like the thoughts and the shaky feeling first thing in the morning just means I need to get the Ya Yas out. Once I do, I'm not shaky and I can relax and go to sleep.
This seems to be the usual pattern now. I normally go to be bed early and do now too. I will get about 3, maybe 4 hours of good sleep. When I wake up, I need to use the bathroom. Remember, I am still hydrating well and even more than I did before this ordeal began. The good thing is that I am not tired when I wake, but actually feel rested. The thoughts do start though. This is actually the time that I have been using to write these posts. (Normally, you would not see me up at 1 or 2am, but I would have been up between 4am and 5am to start my day.) Again, writing this down helps to get the Ya Yas out so that I can relax (I absolutely refused to have a "To-Do List" before but now it is invaluable!). After a while, I start to get tired and can often go back to sleep for another hour or so. After that, I am ready for the day and go make coffee for me and my wife. I have done this daily for years and I am so thankful that I can do it again now!!! I have also needed another nap either just before or after lunch. The good news is that my body doesn't feel tired or worn out when it sends me this signal. It just feels like I need to sleep some more. Normally this will be another or hour or so. I am probably getting 7+ hours of sleep which isn't too bad for total hours and I don't think it's limiting the recovery/repair process either. The process was also occurring in the hospital. I decided to take advantage of it though. Once I was awake in the hospital, I would start the recovery plan. I would time my sitting up, rest 5 min, do my laps, rest 5 min and repeat. I would keep doing this until I was ready for bed. I am still doing this now. I don't just use this time to sit and type, I will lie prone, walk around, sit up etc.
As I said, I try to take advantage of this time but I am also taking steps in an attempt to avoid disrupting my circadian rhythm. Before going into the hospital, I took NyQuil at night. It has helped me to sleep before when I was dealing with a respiratory issue. And I know how vital sleep is for me to recover. It worked well this time around to. It would help to suppress my cough so that I could sleep. Luckily, my cough would return in the morning and it has remained productive. I am still able to get the gunk out...win win situation! However, I'm not taking it now. The cough isn't the same issue now. Instead, I am changing my supplement schedule slightly to see if that helps my sleep. I am also using blue light blocking glasses. I will put them on when I wake up and before I turn on the light. Hopefully, by blocking the blue light, my body and brain understand that it is still dark outside and that I should be asleep. The other thing I am doing is keeping a notebook close by. I can write down those swirling thoughts. This way, I am not worried about forgetting something and I can share the different things that I think may be helpful for someone.
That's All for Today
Well, that's probably enough for now. I will continue to write about the recovery process at home. I am in the process of setting a well-rounded team to help me with my recovery. I have a feeling that I am going to be superhuman when it is all over with....WOOHOO!!!
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.