110 Days of Covid

I’m attempting to capture my experience and journey with SARS-Cov-2 and Coronavirus-19. In part I am writing this for posterity. It is easy to forget details or timelines, and future me may find this helpful. I am also writing it for others. Even 16+ weeks after contracting the virus I believe that it is still affecting me. Writing this out will make it easier to share how the virus has run its corse with me, and to share where I currently find myself. You can also read what Jordan’s experience has been like (my wife).

Some general health stats to start off:

  • Age: 36
  • Height: 6′ 2″ or 188 cm
  • Weight: 175 lbs or 79 kg (peaked at 185 and now down to 182)
  • BMI: 22.5 (high end of normal)
  • Blood Type: Not sure, I got typed once but forgot. Been healthy enough to not need to know.
  • Known health issues:
    • High Cholesterol ~ 245 (genetic)
    • Depression (since age 14)

There are photos at the bottom as an award for your reading!

Before things began in France

24 Days until Symptoms
By mid-February it became clear to Jordan and I that this new virus would get to Paris. On 26 February I bought 10 kilos of rice in anticipation of a lockdown here similar to what we saw happening in Wuhan. We began to pray for Gods will be done, and both felt as though we would at some point get sick.

Rumors of cases in France started to pop up around the end of February but there was not anything concrete yet. There was a growing anxiety you could feel around town. As March began a number of people started to leave the city (I saw estimates that up to a quarter of Parisians left the city).

9 Days until Symptoms
I believe I was infected on Thursday 12 March. I had a late morning coffee in the 4th arrondissement. The city was exceptionally quite by this point. We knew the virus was circulating but had not yet really gotten much of a foot hold that we knew of (struggles with testing were already present). I was walking home just after noon. I was walking behind Notre Dame on Île de la Cité. The street and sidewalk were completely empty except for an older man walking towards me. He was probably at least in his mid 60s, all white hair and a head shorter than me. He was well dressed in a mismatched three piece suit, and well groomed but his eye brows were out of control.

As he was just about to pass me by he coughed right into my face. It was wet, and I felt it all over my face and into my mouth. I instantly held my breath, in shock, and looked around as this man kept walking. It felt like I was getting punked as he had not coughed in the minute before we passed each other. I walked quickly to the bridge over to the left bank (Pont de l’Archevêché) and spit into the river trying to get whatever landed in my mouth out. I got home a couple minutes later and washed my hands/face.

Confinement in France, and getting sick

‌5 Days until Symptoms
The following Monday (16 March) evening the French President announced confinement would start on Tuesday the 17 of March. I spent much of Sunday and Monday stocking up on food for the confinement (it was clear that this was coming). We went out Tuesday morning to enjoy the last moments before we are confined to home. I took photos around town as everyone headed inside. We had been scheduled to be heading to Den Haag for a Communitas Leadership Summit. Thankfully that had been canceled with the pending global travel bans which would have made it difficult for many to arrive, and more difficult for many to return home. During that week there were a few all staff web meetings to pray and get updated on some organizational news.

Symptoms start on 21 March
My first symptom appeared on Saturday (21 March) around 4am. I woke up with a dry cough. It was soothing to see the beautiful face of my wife about 6 inches from my face, sleeping so sweetly. Yet… I just viral loaded her face. She would develop a cough 3 days later.

In the beginning we were skeptical that my cough was Covid-19. Come Sunday though we were starting to suspect that it was. I connected the dots to the old mans cough a week earlier, and checked timelines which seemed to line up with a smaller viral load taking longer to develop symptoms. At this point we did not yet know about pre-symptomatic spread of the virus. It could have been any number of people from my shopping trips the beginning of the week before confinement. But the old man is a better story, so it is the one I am going to tell.

I had worked the whole week, and gotten good at muting video chats before I would cough. The nervous/anxious glances were noticeable as I would cough every few minutes. By Saturday the 28th I was feeling remarkably chipper. It annoyed Jordan enough that she noted it in our little log of covid. My cough was starting to go away. I was so excited to be overcoming the cough. We had been taking our temperature with a thermometer that we had bought a few years ago and never registered a fever despite the intense chills and many full body night sweats during the week of coughing. My side of the bed looked like I got into it straight from a pool.

I believed that I was going to be one of those young mild cases.

Symptoms get worse

9 Days since Symptoms
The next day (Sunday the 29th) I woke up with dull intense lower back pain. It was mainly on my left side (the side I normally sleep on). It was on Monday when I noticed a rattling in my chest as I would breath, and had developed intense stabbing pains higher up on my left side, and a bit on the right. I commented about this on facebook. A friend, who is also a nurse in France, messaged me to learn more and I shared what I/we had been going through. She told me that I had a suspected case of CoVid-19 and to stay home.

At this point in France the hospital and testing infrastructure was overwhelmed. They were turning people away from hospitals if you did not need supplemental oxygen, or to be ventilated as that was all they could handle. Our nurse friend checked in with us every day to see how we were holding up, and reminded us that if either of us were gasping for breaths to go in immediately. There was no way to be tested at this point since every test they had was being use for people admitted, and for essential staff.

10 Days since Symptoms
Tuesday the 31st was Jordan birthday. With my cough gone, and having not had chills in days I had ventured out to get some more special food for dinner. Looking like a cowboy with my handkerchief mask. My breathing was not great, but still not terrible either. We even got dressed up for dinner at home, slow danced to some music, and took a few selfies before jumping back into pajamas. It was the first of our two confinement birthdays, and it was oddly special.

11 Days since Symptoms
April 1st hit me hard. I woke up exhausted, and my lung capacity was notably less than the day before. I’m worried, but since I am still breathing on my own I stay home. This was also the day that I noticed my first cognitive issues – confusion, inability to focus, and general brain fog. This would last for weeks. I reached out to my work colleagues to tell them I could not work until I felt better. I felt stupid for pushing myself when I had a cough, and still wonder if that might have made my coming symptoms worse. My back and chest hurts all over. It is mostly that dull pressure, but my left side feels like there are dozens of blades stabbing me all the time.

12 Days since Symptoms – Possible Heart Attack
The following day (2 April) I woke up with even less lung capacity, but the back pain was less. Middle of the day I noticed shooting pains in my left arm and partway across my chest, and I broke out in chills for the first time in over a week. Several days later I would recognize that this several hour episode was likely a heart attack. The rest of the covid symptoms masked the other class signs (shortness of breath, light headedness). Looking back on this day, I should have gone to the hospital for observation and help.

14 Days since Symptoms
By Saturday the 4th I noticed I had to alter my speaking cadence. I was no longer able to get in the amount of words I used to when I spoke. I estimate that I was around half my normal capacity, but I am have no idea how to really judge this. Speaking was exhausting. I am growing more frustrated because I don’t really ‘look sick’.

15 Days since Symptoms
Sunday we had our monthly Urban Monastics time of prayer, communion, and conversation. It was tough, but I made it through okay. This becomes my new normal. So I’m going to skip ahead a bit. We also discovered that Jordans phone had the ability to test blood oxygenation levels. Mine was regularly around 92-93% dipping as low as 90. It’s an add on feature for her phone though, so not sure how accurate it is.

24 Days since Symptoms
14 April I wake up with intense aches and sores in my legs and hips. We assume this is due to being in confinement for nearly a month. I walk in circles around our 50 square meter apartment, and stand up playing some Nintendo Switch. The next day is not as bad.

CovID Clinic and getting tested

It was normal for Jordan to have lingering coughs after getting sick. This happens some winters. After getting better she would have a dry cough that would sick around for a couple months. After her cough began to get worse again we decided to go up to the Covid Clinic that was opened in our city hall.

‌46 Days since Symptoms
On Wednesday 6 May we went to the clinic. At this point I felt like I had regained some of my lung capacity but I still had a very shallow breath, spoke with my altered cadence, and felt/heard a rattle/rasp in my lungs. While we went primarily for Jordan to ensure she was not developing a secondary pneumonia they said they would check me out as well. My initial blood oxygenation came in under 90, so they changed meters and hands trying it again, and it got up to 90. I explained to the doctor what I could remember of the last 45+ days of symptoms. I forgot to mention my heart attack because I had emotionally blocked it out.

After she listened to my lungs she walked around the curtain, called for her colleague and I could hear her mumble in concern over hearing my lungs. She came back and expressed concern that I had a suspected case of covid (just like our friend had said) and that they were concerned it could be a different type of sars-cov-2 since I was still having lung issues after so long. That was cool. We were sent to get CT scans which showed no active signs of covid (also, I have tried to research if CT scans can show damage to lungs from covid but have not found anything after the initial infection is gone).

48 Days since Symptoms
We return to the clinic on Friday for the nasal swab, to review our CT results, and the standard work up. Jordan had a fever, I did not. The told us to do a lung test where we take a deep breath, count while we exhale, and we should be able to hit 20. I got to 16, and Jordan got to 14. They gave us a prescription for blood work (antibody test) and told us that these tests are only right half the time. But that we should get it anyway. Since it was a holiday weekend we struggled to find a place to get the blood work done. That would have to wait until Monday.

51 Days since Symptoms
Monday the 11th of May we went to two different labs. By the time we got to the second they had already taken all the samples they could process that day and it was only 1:30 pm (they should have been open for another 2 hours). We returned the following morning bright and early, got our blood drawn and went home exhausted.

After taking a walk around the city for some sun we went and got our second takeout meal since confinement started – Szechuan!

The worst night

52 Days since Symptoms
While we were waiting for our takeout to be made Jordan received a call. It went to voicemail and we could only understand parts of it. We took the food home, sat down, started to eat, and she got another call. It was one of the doctors from the clinic. We needed to go to the ER incase Jordan had an embolism which was possible due to an elevated level in her blood work (they ran more tests on her than me). She told us that we could not wait for the morning, so we put dinner into the fridge, and went got a taxi to the hospital.

While this portion is more her story to tell, after 3-4 hours and a few tests they are confident that there is no embolism in her lungs, and they send us home. We were told during this time that if we were in this hospital and did not have covid, that we would now have covid. We arrived home around 2am, drained and exhausted.

At this point the covid clinic is done with us. Anything that is still going on we’ll need to find other ways to get help with.

A new normal.

110 Days since Symptoms
I’m writing this down now in early July. I am still not better. While my lung capacity has returned (I can now exhale count up to 28 verse 16 at the clinic), I still get winded doing ordinary things like walking to the store, or around the neighborhood. My focus has also yet to return and I struggle to get more than a few hours of meaningful engaged work done in a day. I get confused mid-sentence during meetings, and have to restart trains of thought. I am exhausted most days, but struggle to fall asleep most nights. My chest and left arm also have been hurting again this week.

For all the good intentions of folks telling me it will get better given time, I cannot assume this is the case. I’m in a hard place right now. Before I felt like I could do anything I gave my mind and attention. Now I do not feel that way. Right now I am trying to figure out what I need to let go of to move forward. At the moment I am juggling a lot, and cannot see a way forward holding all of these things.

I do not need to get better for you. If you are one who prays, please pray for wisdom and guidance for me/us as we navigate this time. One reason I wrote this out is because the couple times I’ve had to retell this story in parts has been exhausting, and stole away the energy I may have had left that day. It took me 3 separate attempts to finish writing and review this.

TLDR:

I believe I was infected on 12 March with symptoms starting on 21 March (bad dry cough that woke me up). The cough, and chills ended around 30 March but the pneumonia had already been growing in my lungs for a few days. Lung capacity keep declining for a few more days until it stopped about half gone. Stayed like this for over a month, and then slowly started to get better. Lungs now seem normal 110 days later (July) but I still struggle with brain fog, confusion, chest tightness, becoming winded, and exhaustion. At this point I am assuming many of these to be long term.

Photos from my Covid Journey

  • The daily view while I had Covid-19
  • 10kg of Rice I bought. This is too much rice.
  • Huge line at the store before confinement
  • We eat eggs every morning. This is ~55 eggs.
  • I missed a package and the next day they closed city hall
  • This hotel is still not open as of July 9th.
  • He was our buddy.
  • This is the St Germain and Place Maubert. A busy corner in our neighborhood that was nearly always empty during confinement.
  • It is hard to describe just how empty Paris became. The streets were completely empty.
  • To keep people from gathering the sidewalks by the siene had been closed to everyone.
  • Everything was closed because of covid. So weird seeing the city feel so shut down
  • These ducks were hanging out at the bakery around the corner. This is not normal.
  • Yay for masks. Getting actual medical masks felt like winning the lotto.
  • Covid Clinic in the 5eme City Hall. The staff here were fantastic.
  • Masks, hand gel, thermometer
  • Waiting for the CT scan.
  • Paris was one of the last regions in france to have the parks re-open.
  • It wasn’t until many weeks later that I was able to collect my package.
  • This was soooo good. Duck, potatos, bread, and an amazing tomato and buffalo motz salad.