Plasma Donation attempt.

Young woman in a chair with arm connected to plasma donation machine

I want to start simply by saying that from early March I was extremely proactive regarding this new virus that was being announced.  I was wiping down everything with bleach wipes including my shopping cart.  My shoes, all my equipment.   I was keeping socially distant from my clients.  I was using hand sanitizer and washing my hands and even was videotaping to show clients my sanitation procedures.  I saw a total of about fifteen people in the four days I was out of the house.  I was very careful.  March 20th, I got my first symptom.  In the next four days, I became very  ill, having so many symptoms – which shifted and changed, sometimes daily.  A very dry cough and fever came first, unlike many I had a lower fever of about 99.9 never going above 100.5, it came and went off and on throughout the day, evening, sometimes skipping a day.  Bizarre to think you are getting better to then crash the next day.

I was able to connect with my own doctor’s office through a virtual appointment and was prescribed some medicine to ease the symptoms and given a prescription for chest x-ray and Corona Virus test.  It turned out I didn’t need these, but who knew that at the time, the whole world was in a bit of chaos and better safe than sorry.   Of course, no one else would see me for an x-ray so off I went to the Emergency Room at our local hospital as of course.    The hospital was efficient, prepared and quick within one hour I had been triaged, sequestered from other ER patients, provided a doctor, had a chest x-ray, had someone swab my brain for Covid-19 and was on my way home.  A big thank you for BRILLIANT WORK IN A DIFFICULT SITUATION to all the Nurses, Doctors, Staff and Techs at Community Medical Center, Toms River, NJ. (March 24th)

On Monday morning, the hospital called.  I was a confirmed Covid 19 case – Crap.

Every day after this the symptoms came and went and new ones were added.  The fatigue and listlessness was so difficult.  Next I developed more trouble breathing, the smallest of activity caused me to need to rest for hours, and I mean 18 hours + of sleep was a normal day.  By this time, I had absolutely no appetite and to be honest I didn’t even want water, stomach distress and loss of taste and smell didn’t help at all with the need to eat.   I ate and drank because I knew I must, but that was the hardest part of my day.  It meant I had to stand in the kitchen to heat chicken stock or wait for the pastina to cook, this caused huge coughing fits and difficulty breathing that I almost couldn’t eat.  There were days when I had to sit on a chair in the kitchen simply to heat up a cup of tea.  My muscles ached so much it was hard to stand for long.

My friends and family supplied me with medicines, food and whatever I needed that was not already stockpiled in my home.  Walking out to the fence to get the deliveries was a challenging job.   Of course they wanted to see me and how I was really doing, checking in and taking care of someone from a distance is not an easy thing to do.  Of course you want to be brave and look healthier than you are, but it was almost impossible to have a conversation or walk to the fence to pick up a bag without difficulty and so my welfare check ins were a huge part of my days.  A BIG THANK YOU to EVERYBODY who called to check in or came by with food or anything else during these 45 day it was quite a blur to me.   Living alone, I simply couldn’t have done it without you.  Megan, Joe, Marirene, Lisa, Tina, Donna, Carl, Kasey and Big Doug and Paulette to mention only a few…

In my opinion the most important item for me was the oxygen meter (aka Pulse Ox) that my friend Lisa loaned me.  So grateful to Tina for telling Lisa that I had mentioned having one would make me feel better.  Lisa (my personal Florence Nightingale) gave me the confidence to trust “the numbers” and not over or more likely under react and end up on the floor from lack of oxygen and not be able to call 911 – THIS – THIS was my greatest fear.  After walking 25 feet out to the fence to pick up the pulse ox and some dinner from Lisa, I walked inside, sat down and checked my oxygen level for the first time – with my nurse (Lisa) words ringing in my ears..  “If it is in the 80’s you go to the hospital – that is all!”   Pulse ox meter says 82…   CRAP…….  Reset machine, check again…82… double CRAP.   Call Lisa and tell her what happened.    Dear Lisa says calmly, “You just walked to the fence and back, that is called exercise intolerance, wait 15 -20 minutes, don’t do anything, don’t talk.  Then test it again.  If it is in the 80s go to the hospital.”  My brain said whew, okay and CRAP!  That was the longest 20 minutes ever.  Pulse Ox meter said – 90 just barely enough to keep me home, from that point on Pulse Ox was my security blanket – no kidding.

I forced myself whenever I could to go out and get the mail, when I could, sometimes that was once a week. It is a short walk of perhaps 30 feet each way.  I couldn’t even chat with friends for more than a few minutes. I lay in bed and worked as much as I could. It kept my mind busy. Slowly and carefully trying to “stay moving” instead of giving in to the virus.   Looking back at my steps on my phone, there were days I walked less than 300 steps, many days and for most of 45 days I was well under 1000 steps a day.  Pulse ox remained in the low 90’s and tanking to low 80’s with any real movement.  So many days getting worse, I made a plan for when I would need to go to the hospital.  I was scared and so sick.

  • I packed a bag for the hospital.
  • I jotted down my current med list.
  • My health issue list. A doctor contact list.
  • I updated my emergency contacts in my phone my medication allergy list too.
  • I made a plan for my pets to be cared for if I had to go to the hospital.
  • My phone was never not charged and with me.

Then came the day when the movement was so much harder, a few days of being unable to do anything but sit in my recliner or propped up in bed/couch. Sleep and more sleep.   I went to bed saying to myself, okay tomorrow you are likely going to the hospital, I think it is time, not sure I can do this here on  my own anymore.

In the morning, something seemed better.  I am not sure what, maybe the tightness in my chest, maybe the fatigue maybe the fever finally let go.   That was the day the disease began to release its hold on my lungs and body.  It took over 30 days for me to be considered “symptom free.  April 16th I was considered by my doctor to be symptom free”   I then had a two week continued quarantine to be sure the symptoms did not reappear as they often do.  Good News End of April – 45 days later, no “symptoms” and I was free to socially distance and stay home like the rest of the people in the world.  All if he above is a blur to me, I was simply existing.   Literally; living on the bottom rung on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – which is very humbling to think about.

Arm with huge bruise near elbow bend due to failed plasma blood donation  As soon as I was considered recovered, I signed up with numerous companies, hospitals and the American Red Cross to have the opportunity to donate convalescent plasma for critically ill patients.  It took me quite some time and numerous contacts to even get a call back. I showed up on the first available date.  I was excited to be able to help… to DO SOMETHING!  Unfortunately, the process for plasma donation is much like a blood transfusion, the blood has to go out, into the machine and then back into the same vein.  After the first cycle my vein could not stand the pressure of the blood return, the vein was infiltrated and we had to stop.   I was so very disappointed.  The team at the blood center tried so hard to find a vein that would work, but we just couldn’t make it happen.  So very sad about not being to help.

And so I began to work more normal hours processing and try to restart my dog training online as best I can. I began singing to work on my lung capacity, doing live online via Facebook and giving small updates about my illness to keep people connected to this disease and sharing my story.  It seems like that would be the end of the story.  You get sick, you recover, you are better.   That is how all of this works, we all know this, it is normal.  But lest we forget, this virus, this upper respiratory infection, this possibly vascular disease – this thing that effects so much more than “just” your lungs….  IS NOT NORMAL!

The rest of this story is what has been going on with me SINCE my last “symptom”.  Please remember I am one of the 95% who is considered recovered and I do realize I am SO VERY LUCKY.

Since early May my doctors have considered me clear of the virus.  It is very, very hard to keep talking about how your body feels when you are told by well-meaning and relieved family and friends that you are “better”  “resolved” “recovered”.  It begins to make you doubt yourself, your “non-symptom, symptoms”.  Maybe I am crazy? Maybe I am just depressed. Until you read more about other “survivors” struggling with..  Here is what I am still struggling with as of July.scented double cup daffodils

  • Memory pocketsgrasping for pieces of memory, most seem to be missing short term memory pockets. I can’t seem to explain it better than that.
  • Bizarre Random blood results In April my inflammation markers were much higher than my already high levels due to my auto immune disease.  Two different kidney tests showed moderate kidney damage levels where I have never had any issue before and then the kidney was normal in May.
  • No sense of taste – What a simple thing, for but what a loss it feels like.  I  basically I can taste sweet and salty and that is about it.  I definitely have spicy, bitter or sour, acidic.. Nothing except sweet and salty It feels like there is a coat fuzz on my tongue and mouth when I eat that blankets everything.  (July 7th)
  • No sense of smell – Who knew this would last so very long.   I have smell two different flower scents – once each in May – WHAT A JOY.  Who knew I would be smiling cheering and laughing when I realized I could finally smell a dog fart?   (June 27th)   By the way, the same day as the dog….  I could not smell the fresh bakery goods filled with blueberries my friend said it was amazing.
  • Lung capacity – I still I am not breathing or feeling like I am getting as much oxygen.  I yawn when not tired and feel I am trying to take in more oxygen by doing so.  My pulse ox meter says 95, and when I am doing things it doesn’t go much lower than 90-92 now.  (June 28th)  So much better, but I am typically 99% girl when I go to the doctor, even when I am sick with bronchitis so what is going on there?  I am asking for a follow up chest x-ray just to have a “baseline” picture post Covid-19.
  • Muscle Weakness – Many survivors report this is continuing.   I personally am not sure if that is part of what I am experiencing or not.    What I feel seems like it is my auto immune disease issues feel normally, with some new nerve spasms in my legs.  Only time will tell what if anything this has to do with Covid-19.

Image of a pulse ox meter showing 95 % oxygen level when resting     image of pulse ox meater showing 92% oxygen level under a minor bit of exercise.

So here we are, July 4th weekend this week.. I just got off a virtual doctors appointment follow to discuss the Post-Covid issues I am experiencing.  My doctor has referred me to a pulmonologist to have some testing done for lung function.  Having a new chest x-ray tomorrow and doctor on Friday.  We want a good picture of what my lungs look like now my Covid 19 illness.  By the way and totally aside from my experience – My poor doctor.  She shared with me the feeling of helplessness and uselessness that she and her co-workers feel.  That they can’t do more – that they don’t have any answers for their patients…  And how extremely tiring that is for her to handle every single day.  I could see the tired and sad in her eyes.

All of this makes me think deeply about the lasting effects of this disease on everyone.  My cousin was read his last rites during his 19 days on a ventilator.  He is home and recovering – that is a miracle!   His Mom, who is over 90, suffered only two days of abdominal distress.  His sister was in the hospital on oxygen for 3-4 day and his brother in law had flu like symptoms and stayed home.  I believe his wife developed no symptoms at all.   All assume they contracted the disease from my cousin since they were all in close contact yet 5 completely different illness outcomes.

Maybe my stubborn – don’t just lay down and give up attitude may have saved me more lung issues, or maybe I just got lucky.   Whatever it was, and whether or not I have immunity doesn’t matter.  I simply do not want anyone else to suffer with this virus.  I am simply not willing to bet your life or your parents or children’s lives on my ability to stay conscientious about sanitizing everything I touch as I move from client to client training dogs.

I am not in fear I am going out and staying safe,  but if I can do my job and share my expertise virtually, there is simply no need to take this extra chance until we see what happens with the reopening here in our and surrounding states.  If it was just me, I would likely get back out there.   When I move from home to home – I have no control over whether you choose to social distance when you go out, or if you choose to wear a mask.  For me to take those possibilities into another person’s home and bring along anything I “didn’t sanitize” well enough – now that is a moral and ethical problem for me.

I am watching the reopening numbers, I am paying attention the reopening guidelines so that I am ready when I feel ready both physically and otherwise to do so.    I hope you will be open to trying something new – that is very successful Virtual – Distance Dog Training.  If you are not interested, then I can contact you when we reopen OR I am glad to provide you with references to other trainers locally who offer similar services to mine.

Be well and care for each other as you care for yourself and your own family.

Peace,  Kelly

Woman in pink shirt wearing a facemask  I mask up for you