Prayers, Sunshine and Encouragement Got Me Through a COVID-19 Infection
I debated whether to share my experience with COVID-19 because I certainly wasn’t looking for sympathy plus I wasn’t too sure how my story would end. I decided to document my journey day-by-day because there wasn’t a whole lot of other first-person accounts out there that I could read for some inkling as to what to expect as the disease progressed.
So, I kept a daily journal of how I felt and the symptoms that emerged. Mine was considered a mild case but honestly there were some dark days sprinkled throughout the course. I’m not 100 percent recovered but I am on the other side of it and that’s something to be grateful for.
Day 1 It started with a tickle in the back of my throat on a Tuesday night. With every deep breath I drew, a dry cough ensued thereafter. Inhale, cough. Inhale, cough. This annoying pattern lasted into the early morning hours. Day 2 Morning brought a few new symptoms: a low-grade fever, a throbbing headache and a severe back ache. Deep down, I knew this was COVID. I drove myself to a drive-though testing site and waited the 24 hours for the results I already knew deep in my gut.
Positive and considered contagious.
Even though I highly suspected my symptoms were the result of a coronavirus infection, seeing the results in black and white sent a surge of anxiety through my body. Fear of the unknown and whether I’d be among the 80 percent of people who experienced mild symptoms and successfully recovered at home weighed heavily on my mind. Being 57 and devoid of any serious underlying health issues was on my side but being a writer and having researched for articles on how this virus can impact people tested my ability to think positive and stay hopeful. I was fully aware of the potential for this virus to wreak havoc and take lives.
Anxiety is not your friend when you’re battling a virus that needs an immune system unencumbered by stress, which can certainly make things worse. That, I did not need. And so I prayed and meditated and binge-watched baking shows and Christmas flicks to keep my mind from circling back around to the list of things that I knew could go wrong in a matter of hours.
At the end of the day spent entirely in my bed, sequestered from the rest of the family, I counted my blessings. I could still taste and smell although I knew losing my senses could be just around the bend.
Sleep had not come easily, and I woke feeling spent. A low-grade fever kept me oscillating between being chilled or too warm, and the aches and pains throughout my body were a constant reminder of the sinister virus replicating inside every nook and cranny of my being.
A vial of essential oil next to my bed was used to gauge my sense of smell. The comforting scent of lavender and the exhilarating peppermint blend offered proof the virus had not yet robbed me of my senses as it typically does for so many COVID patients. At least for now mine were still intact.
Knowing that my senses could vanish at any moment, I jumped at the chance to indulge in a filet mignon when my honey offered to prepare it for dinner. It was the best steak I’ve ever eaten, not just because it was cooked to perfection but because I was so grateful that I could still taste it.
For so many recovered patients who’d lost their senses, some have still not yet regained their smell or taste even weeks later. And that real possibility played on my mind.
As I drew the heavy blanket up around my chin, I offered up thanks for the best-tasting filet mignon ever. And for the sweet, masked man who prepared and delivered the meal with words of encouragement and a gentle brush across my cheek with the back of his hand. The whirl of a nearby space heater and humidifier drowned out the silence and delivered a comforting sound that eventually lulled me to sleep.
Day 4 I purposefully slept on my stomach or on my side as recommended by the health experts and ultimately harnessed a better night’s sleep. The low-grade fever had also disappeared, which may have contributed to improved sleep. I wake pain-free but with a little more congestion in my nose and chest.
A pulse oximeter I had purchased in June because I tend to like to plan for worst-case scenarios was put quickly into service. The device, which measures blood oxygen levels, took its place on the bedside table between the essential oils and thermometer along with an arsenal of other paraphernalia: cough drops, zinc and elderberry lozenges, Kleenex, Tylenol, Mucinex, Pepcid AC and Extra Strength Simply Saline with Eucalyptus.
After having coffee and toast with jam and swallowing a plethora of supplements as directed by my physician, including Vitamin D, Vitamin C and zinc, I swaddled myself in a heavy blanket and sat on my balcony in the sunshine for about 20 minutes. I had heard sunshine somehow helps and for me, it did seem to lift my spirits and make me feel normal.
I forced myself to go up and down the stairs a few times throughout the day and walk around my bedroom to keep my blood flowing.
Being infected with coronavirus is a strange thing. I’ve had sinus infections, bronchitis and flu, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt this odd before. Not sure if it’s all in my head, knowing this virulent invader is circulating throughout my body, or whether its invasion has psychological ramifications even beyond the obvious physiological symptoms. Without a doubt, I decided, it’s unlike any other illness I’ve had.
At the end of the day, I once again counted by blessings for friends and family who I’d shared about the COVID diagnosis and who took the time to either call or text to pray with me and for me.
Day 5 Another rough night of sleep deprivation, but vitals are good during first morning-light’s check. Still, I feel weak and anxious. Loved ones who know about my diagnosis are keeping tabs on me with a text here or a call there. They offer to do something to help, yet we know there’s not much one can do when you’re quarantined, and so all I could ask for were their prayers I wouldn’t worsen.
Thank goodness for mild outdoor temps and lots of sunshine! I was able to get in two 20-minute sessions in the sun. I feel so much better when I’m out in the sunshine. I imagined the rays seeping into my pores and ambushing the virus like a platoon of soldiers crushing out the enemy.
But as the sun dipped lower in the sky, I found myself dreading nightfall. Appetite has all but vanished, but knowing I need the energy to continue to fight this enemy, I force myself to eat. Surprisingly, I can still taste and smell.
Day 6 I had a better night of sleep. Still have my senses. Blood oxygen levels are good. No fever. A little bit of a runny nose but not a lot of congestion yet.
As the day wears on, however, the low-grade fever has returned as well as the anxiety. Time to start the Z-pack my doctor prescribed as I began to fear the prospect of pneumonia or some other secondary infection.
As day turns to night, gripping fear starts to get the best of me. I pray for Jesus’ strength to get me through the night, and I fall asleep doing breathing exercises while meditation music plays softly from the Echo device.
Day 7 Although my vitals are good, I wake feeling completely wiped out. Uncontrollable shaking had plagued me throughout the night and not because of fever. My temperature was normal, but I couldn’t quiet the shakes. I read online some have called it the COVID shakes. It was if my core was vibrating and the ripples were radiating to all my limbs. Was strange and uncomfortable. I wondered whether the shakes were adrenaline coursing through my veins as my immune system kicked into overdrive.
I sat again in the sun, bundled up from head to toe. This time, I envisioned the Son’s healing power seeping into every cell in my body and overwhelming the virus into submission. I cursed the virus out loud and announced that victory was mine. “By His stripes, we are healed,” I declared. “Thank you, God for my healing!”
It was this day that my sense of taste and smell began to fail.
Day 8 Wake. Blood oxygen? Good. Fever? None. Blood pressure? Acceptable. Senses? Stunted.
I wander out onto my balcony for my 20-minute daily dose of Vitamin D. I feel strong enough to shower although I immediately crawl back into bed to rest afterwards. Walking to the bathroom or up and down the stairs as well as showering are tiring, but I’ve forced myself to move to prevent my body from stiffening. These sporadic moments of being vertical feel good and elevate my mood.
Exhaustion calls me to bed early. And I answer swiftly and affirmatively. Sleep does not escape me.
Day 9 New morning. Same routine. Check vitals. Test senses with my essential oils: lemon, lavender and peppermint. Still stunted.
I roll out of bed to my feet and pause to test my stability. No more dizziness. Congestion in nose and very little in the chest. Thank you, God! Shoulders are aching, and I attribute that to simply laying around so long in bed hunched over my iPad.
I push my way through the muscle and joint heaviness and head downstairs. An ounce of energy stokes me to clean the kitchen. Wipe down every surface with disinfectant and empty the dishwasher. The simple chore needed a follow-up timeout in the recliner. No doubt the fatigue and weakness are major hurdles to clear as I continue to recover from an illness unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before.
Day 10 I made it through the second phase of the illness (days 7-10) when things have the potential to go very wrong. My eyes well up with tears and I whisper in the early morning hours before the sun breaks over the horizon: “Thank you, God, for waking me up this morning!”
Rain pelts the cushions on the outdoor furniture on my bedroom balcony, where I’d sought solace in the sunshine for so many days. Today, the sunshine would have to come from within because of the downpour. I reminded myself as I peered through the rain-drenched windows that I would soon be virus free and no longer contagious, and on the other side of this insidious disease.
Hubby delivers a cup of coffee. I get hints of the roasted flavor on the back of my tongue: a glorious and hope-filled sensation. Prayers for a hedge of protection around my lover have so far been honored, yet another reason to rejoice in this gray and rainy day that gets me one step closer to feeling like myself again.
It’s Christmas Eve. We all sit masked (my daughter, my stepson and my hubby) in the living room, socially distanced and opening our gifts. The kids are also sick with coronavirus and have been isolating as well. Both are on the mend and progressing on a similar course as me, although their senses waned much sooner than mine.
Day 11 Christmas morning! Happy birthday, Jesus! The room-darkening curtains can’t completely block the faint glow of a golden orb rising on the other side of the sliding glass doors separating my bedroom from the balcony. Beautiful sunshine slips in past the edges of the curtains and casts slivers of golden beams onto the wall in front of my bed. Thank God for the sun. And for His Son!
One by one, I sniff the essential oils on my bedside table. Lemon, lavender and peppermint. I’d read that smelling essential oils may help stimulate the senses and wake them up. From Day 1, I used the essential oils as my measuring stick for gauging how well my sniffer was reacting to the virus. And I think it might have made a slight difference in preventing a complete loss of smell and taste.
A whiff of each of the vials delivers hints of the scent. My senses are waking up! And I even believe I caught the aroma of roasting prime rib in the oven as I descend the staircase after a long, steaming hot shower.
Hubby had started preparing our Christmas feast. I edge my way into the kitchen to begin the casseroles.
Our dinner table crowd was much smaller this year, but I couldn’t have been more grateful for the meal and the ability to help prepare it. It was delicious even though my senses were less than 100 percent.
I never considered COVID-19 to be a hoax. Ever. From the beginning, I can honestly say I feared falling prey to it and so I followed all the precautions. I wore my mask, I avoided large gatherings, I social distanced, I washed my hands diligently and I stayed home if I in any way felt ill. I likely depended on others too much to do the same. It’s hard to tell exactly where I contracted the virus. But like so many others who were just as diligent and still became infected despite their best efforts, the dreaded coronavirus got me.
Every day forward is just one step closer to feeling normal again. And I pray I experience no lingering effects. Time will tell.
Over the course of my COVID-19 experience, there were times I felt my God had gone silent on me as I battled this illness. I couldn’t hear his voice speak to my heart as I prayed in the darkness for comfort and strength. Now, I realize…He was holding my hand through it all and loving me through the comforting words of my friends and family who reached out every day for an update. Knowing I had a cheering squad and prayer warriors on my side made all the difference in my recovery.
Lord, let me never take that kind of generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness for granted. Ever.