3 Things Getting COVID-19 Taught Me That You Need to Know!

Now it's personal...

You can’t turn on the news without hearing about the virus. The worldwide effect is devastating, the numbers are staggering. When friends and family are touched sympathy comes easy. But when you're touched personally, it's different. This disease teaches you lessons you can learn nowhere else.

In this post, I’ll try to share what I’ve learned. I’m sure other sufferers can relate and offer their own testimonials. Caregivers who work behind the scenes for their loved ones must keep themselves safe too.

What is COVID-19?

There is much discussion on exactly what the virus is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov) is the best source. This post teaches lessons learned from enduring the disease firsthand. Let’s get right into that!

3 Great Things COVID-19 Taught Me

1.      What I learned about myself and my family

2.      What I learned about healthcare

3.      What I learned about caring for others

Let's discuss each one in detail and see what we learn along the way.

What I Learned About Myself and My Family

Tuesday, Dec 1st started like any other day. I went about my daily activities as usual without incident. I won't bore you with the details, I'm sure my day is no more interesting than yours. The key is that it was just another Tuesday. But the difference was how the day ended.

My loving wife had mentioned my loss of appetite and sluggish movements. But we made no big deal of it until the end of the day. I gave her a hug and without even realizing it, I groaned in pain from the exertion. I think we both joked about it at the time. By Wednesday morning, neither of us was laughing anymore.

I'm an early riser, don't hate me for it. I'm one of those people who believe we're like toast, we pop out of bed each day, eager and ready. I start each day like I planned it. Not this day, not Wednesday, Dec 2nd, I woke up a different person.

COVID-19 had already begun its attack on my body and it caught me completely off guard. Why? Because like most people, I had been following proper protocols.

·        We stayed in whenever possible, taking only essential trips outside the home

·        We practiced social distancing; we hadn't seen our family since the start of the

pandemic

·        We wore masks when outside the home

·        We diligently washed our hands and disinfected all surfaces regularly

The fatigue was only the beginning. Not only couldn't I get up, but I also couldn't even muster the desire to want to! No taste for coffee, no exercise, no desire for anything! The word to describe what I was feeling is malaise. It is "an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of the onset of an illness."

That may be the medical term, here's the personal experience. I had fitful sleep throughout the day and each dream was more anxiety-causing than the last. A nightmare is no way to describe these experiences. After the initial shock of awakening, reality usually sets in and the stress passes.

I woke up from dreams of complex, knotty problems that made no sense. My brain was constantly bombarded so there was no rest. Half asleep, half awake at various times, drenched in sweat, and completely exhausted. My mind and body were under attack.

Thankfully, I maintained my sense of taste and smell. But this proved to be a cruel joke from COVID as well. Though food and drink still had their usual appeal, I had no appetite for anything! From Wednesday the 2nd till Saturday the 5th, I ate absolutely nothing. I couldn't even taste a slice of my wife's prize-winning Sweet Potato pie!

There were other symptoms such as high fever, shortness of breath, and body aches. While distressing, they were by no means as debilitating as losing my mind. I felt completely out of control. Sufferers need to know confusion is part of the disease.

Under the best of circumstances, my family is wonderful. Despite the pandemic, we zoomed, we called and texted daily. We took this matter seriously despite the personal challenges it caused. So, it was like the red alert on Star Trek when my wife told my two daughters that I had COVID-19! What was it like for them?

·        Candace, my youngest, says this experience made the air around her seem nonexistent. She couldn't breathe and prayed that I could at least get one last hug from her before I died. It really was that serious!

·        My oldest, Carley, also prepared for the worst but stayed strong for her mother and sister. Tears fell between phone calls. She and her husband quietly decided that my wife would take their spare bedroom. "What if" was always in the back of her mind. What if something happened to the first man a girl ever loved?

·        I must draw special attention to my wife, Claudia. After 34 years, you think you know a person. I saw her as a wife go through intense labor. Then as a frazzled mother learn to manage her children.

Yet, seeing her become a true caregiver for me with an unknown disease was remarkable. She became a diligent research assistant and collaborated with virtual nurses and doctors. She learned intense dietary restrictions to maintain my body weight. She did all this while keeping my daughters up to date on the prognosis.

I once sat and watched her taking notes, juggling two calls, and preparing my meal all at the same time. What did I learn about my family? My family is stronger than this virus. My family is stronger because they were never alone. Family and friends rallied around and supported them. She described the sickness as a “vicious and wicked virus.”

What I Learned from Healthcare

I was pleasantly surprised by Amita Adventist Medical Center of Bolingbrook. From the moment I arrived at the ER, everyone treated me with dignity. Never was I treated as diseased or infected. Proper protocols were followed to be sure, but they treated me as a person.

Due to the large influx of patients, I spent a great deal of time in triage. That was not their fault. I was kept clean and comfortable until admitted to my own private room. Everyone acted in a professional manner.

My two regular nurses showed excellent personal interest. My first fever-filled night was full of intake information and tests. Still, the night nurse took the time to get to know me as a person. She discovered how long I had been married and asked how to make a success of it because of my experience.

The next morning, my day nurse smilingly brought herself up to date with my case. She made sure I had everything I needed. She was never more than a call away and often came before I even pushed the call button. I was constantly unhooking a line or needing something, even if just water.

It came as a shock to me when we discussed housekeeping. To prevent potential contamination, the nurses also did all their own room clean-up. This included regular disinfection and even cleaning up my constant diarrhea. Talk about embarrassing!

Again, I was never made to feel bad. Our conversations remained dignified. They shared experiences and challenges of caring for extended shifts with no complaints. I highlight these two especially.

But every tech who took samples, ran tests, or even brought a meal, made me feel more like a guest than a patient. I'll never view healthcare the same.

What I Learned About Caring for Others

This is not a disease of the body or the mind. It is a disease of the entire person. The entire person is being attacked and needs desperate care from so many. That help comes first from their family, they're all in this together.

The entire family needs the support of so many. This support can come in any number of ways. Don't wait to be asked, just do it! They can use whatever you have to offer.

Follow current medical direction. There is so much available whether virtual or in person. Appreciate all the essential workers. You have no idea what is going on behind their masks.

What lessons can we learn from contracting COVID-19? This is not one person's disease; this is our disease. We must fight it together. We honor those who have lost the battle and support those still in the fight. Share your story. Share your strength.