Health & Fitness

COVID-19 | Was I exposed to this?

Wonder if somehow I was exposed to COVID-19 before it hit the news and literally became this viral thing.

Back in October of 2019 I decided to get the flu shot. I NEVER get one of these things ever however the news outlets kept reporting that it was going to be a bad year and for some reason I felt driven to get one. Because it seems EVERY YEAR I get a bad bought of the flu and knocks me out of work during the month of December in which I miss out on company holiday parties and gatherings. So went down to my local CVS and got a flu shot after my workout and then thought nothing of it afterwards. Was going to do whatever I could to NOT get sick that year.

[UPDATE: Can safely say that I am now fully vaccinated with MODERNA as of April 2021. This blog entry just outlines what experiences I had in 2020 that I just wanted to document because there was no real understanding of this virus yet and no treatment/vaccines available at that point in time.]

I worked in Boston, MA within the Financial District. Most times during my lunch hour I would walk all over the tourist trap areas like Downtown Crossing, Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Seaport, Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston Public Garden (Boston Common), North End, Back Bay and such. Somewhere around the last 2 weeks of January I came down with something that felt like it was NEVER going to leave my body.

I took a sick day from work, in particular on January 24th, figured I could do so because I was not inundated with work and could use a day of rest. Do not think I was running a fever but was extremely tired and lethargic (nothing I have experienced before) but also had written in my time-off record “pneumonia like symptoms” which scared me after the fact once COVID-19 was blasted all over the news outlets a couple of months later because the series of symptoms that they were broadcasting to watch out for, matched ever so closely to what I had experienced.

Had acute pneumonia years ago so I was pretty aware of what that felt like and how that was treated. However this felt weird and nothing like the experience I had in the past. Could feel fluid building up in my chest like a normal head cold but it started to move further on down and when I got up to walk around I could feel it moving around which oddly lasted for a couple of days. I remember telling my father it felt like “little ringlets moving around” in my upper chest area. Months later, would come across health news articles that would talk about how fluid would fill the small air sacs of the lungs and cause all sorts of issues.

Whatever this was, started innocently yet ever so slowly when it came on and moved downward. So the first thing I can recollect was when I was working at the office, had really dry sinuses at the time and was going along my day and doing my work when I felt as if a bug flew up my nose or something. It was the weirdest sensation but I just moved on and did not think anything of it later. [UPDATE: So we now know and understand this is an airborne virus that attacks the nasal olfactory first. The only way to test for this was an invasive nose swabbing deep into the sinus cavity. So some people have described the exact same symptoms similar to this as the start.]

I also remember at around the start of this I had a terrible tinnitus episode come over me. Do not recall if it was the same day or the day afterwards. It was as if in one moment I lost my hearing and then it faded back in but with this terrible high pitch buzzing noise that took over everything in the environment. Literally thought my eardrums were going to burst. This episode lasted about 2-3 minutes while I was sitting at my desk. Was a bit worried and not sure if I should of reached out to my co-worker and ask for help. Then all of a sudden as quick as it came over me, it left just as quickly. My hearing was a bit echo like for about a half hour before it kind of resolved. Usually if this happens I can assume it’s correlated to high blood pressure, so I am not sure where this came out of since I was not stressed and was seated.

The next day is where I had a day or two where my head felt a little cloudy (brain fog), as if something was going to present itself but nothing ever did that day. I could function but not really focus, not quite feeling as though I was “sick” enough to get up and go home. It felt like half of me was sitting by my side on autopilot. I was sneezing quite a bit and several others in the office around me were as well.

I can recollect having a dry cough that many state is the initial start of this thing but chalked it up to being indoor allergies, as it is common for me during the winter/spring seasons to have something like that occur. Then maybe a few days later, followed up with a really mild headache that lasted around noon time and into the evening. Thought I was just working too hard on a project that day, looking at code or something and my eyes were strained but felt quite a lot of pressure behind them. I wanted to get home and just lay down with the lights off in complete silence. Think my GI was inflamed as well because I absolutely had no desire to eat dinner that evening.

So the next following day after the start of a juicy head cold and more sneezing moved in, it was becoming ever more present. Something was going through the office that week and thought I was just another lucky one in the bunch of a petri dish of office space that contracted it. Had quite the urge to cough a lot but was able to control and suppress that through some breathing techniques that I am aware of. Have issues with silent acid reflux (LPR – reflux in the airway) and coughing can aggravate this.

Also had this weird pressure in my upper chest area, as if I had a pectoral muscle pull is all I can relate it to. I know of a set of stretches that are guaranteed to help release this kind of discomfort but nothing was working at all. Thought maybe the last time I worked out at the gym I overdid it with a move or some set of weights that targeted that area but when I looked at my workout routine in my app for that prior weekend there were no exercises that targeted that area at all. So was absolutely baffled why this happened and in quite a lot of discomfort. In addition this virus was probably starting to settle in my lungs at this time.

In the news some folks mentioned that they felt a fever come over them. However for me I either didn’t have it or did not recognize it. My eyes were a little glassy at times (possibly a slight yellow film to them which I saw in the mirror) but thought most of it was due to the head cold. Although after the freezing spell I experienced (which is explained below further) I do remember one evening feeling really warm for a while which may have lasted for about a half hour or so. I actually did not mind it because I could actually feel heat for once. Did not think anything of it to even consider taking my temp. Logic side of me thought the bedroom was getting a bit warmer because it is the warmest place in the house and the heat might be on a bit high. Eventually that sensation dissipated by next morning.

So to stop the runny nose and sneezing or any other symptoms, I began taking Severe DayQuil/NightQuil for about 2 weeks straight every 4 hours taking doses. This has the stuff with acetaminophen that curbed some of my symptoms and probably precursor to any high temps that would come on. During the work week I was constantly colder than usual and found it hard to warm up (I was wearing huge cable knit sweaters and layered thermals underneath). The office space is known to has issues with HVAC which would cause the place to feel like a freezer at times, so another thing I chalked it up to be was the building. Even the portable heater I was using under the desk was becoming useless. I even had another sweater wrapped up around around me and nothing was keeping me warm. I was constantly chilled and felt my core shivering as if I was standing out in the cold weather with no jacket on. Can also recount one night trying to go to sleep and having the chills all night long and shaking under an electric blanket set to the highest setting possible and waking up in a cold sweat. All this occuring within a couple of days. [UPDATE: This I now know as RIGORS. Lucky to have been wearing a night guard because when it gets bad enough, people have been shown to have had broken and chipped teeth from clenching their jaw while going in/out with rigors. Not only was I experiencing this at night but also during the daytime.]

Food was another issue now that I look back, have swallowing issues already, due to LPR. So normally, would eat salads for lunch and found it a little bit tough to eat. Think for a day or two nothing was appetizing or tasteful, so kept it so bland that I ate oatmeal most mornings and some sort of chicken noodle soup for lunch. Can now understand the “tasteless” sensation most folks were talking about as a possible symptom. Thought this was just due to the constant runny nose and influx of mucus just making things more difficult for the time being ( …and maybe it just might have been for all I know). This is usually something I would naturally experience with a cold/flu most of the times. Why would I think anything more of it? (A month later on or so I was constantly smelling smoke. I kept thinking something in the house was on fire, this might have been my sense of smell coming back?)

Same symptoms persisted during the next following week. Normally if I am in a funk like this I am able to just push myself through it but on Thurs, January 24th, decided to take the day off from work and just sit in bed all day, may have stayed home that Friday as well but cannot recollect. The fluid in my upper chest area was very prominent that day and through the next following weekend (another missed workout session that weekend). I have a pillow wedge that I use to sleep on at night to help elevate and keep me from refluxing but one of those evenings for some weird reason I decided to sleep completely upright. I knew with any fluid like feeling in my upper chest area, lying down was not a good idea instinctually. During the daytime I was having enough breathing issues that were tough to deal with. So for some reason I just so happen try laying on my stomach and turn around every so often. [UPDATE: This we now know is called PRONING, a treatment hospital settings were using because the lungs are actually sitting on your upper back. This kind of eased some of my breathing a bit but only lasted for a day or two. I remember coming across an medical article much later that sitting-up and leaning forward over with your head and arms down on a table would provide the same relief.]

Often hear another symptom of COVID-19 is shortness of breath. With LPR (silent reflux) that is such a common symptom that occurs for me depending on what food I ate that day or if my GI is inflammed for some reason. So many symptoms of COVID-19 could be accounted as anything else.

However with this thing hanging around I felt more-so lethargic than ever and body aches were coming on, getting out of bed seemed like an effort. The day I took off work, I literally could not sit up and get out of bed, it felt like my body was hit by a truck. Even that weekend I listened to my body signals and did not attempt to go to the gym and work out (have always had a rigorous schedule of going every weekend even if under the weather and working out for hours). Even though I felt somewhat ok walking around the house a day or two after I just did not have it in me for any endurance workouts and did not want to push or exert myself further. Just going for a walk into a retail store, I would feel so winded from it.

[UPDATE: So the day I felt like I had some energy to head out of the house is when I think I felt what is considered the COVID crash that some talk about. Went to a retail outlet with my mother that afternoon, just walking into one store and around felt like a marathon to me. We did not stay long and got back to the car. She had asked if I wanted to goto another store but all I wanted to do was go home, crawl in bed and lay down. So we left. As we were in the car I kind of told my mother I was having a lot of trouble breathing and thought it was due to LPR. But one item I kept from her was that I felt like I was going to faint and pass out at any moment. I didn’t want to panic her so I kept quiet and just wanted to get home as quick as possible. As soon as I crawled into bed I felt somewhat comfortable. My brain was very active but my body was clearly not. I was surfing the net on my iPhone but I just could not hold my phone up any longer. So I just dropped it and not sure if I was just laying there passed out? It’s like my mind was so active but my body went limp. This might have been the crash that health articles talk about where there is this loss of oxygen, also known as “silent hypoxia” – be very aware of it.]

Normally with a head cold I would work out because my symptoms were initially above the neck but the sluggishness and achy-ness that settled in below, was what did me in but otherwise I felt fine but I was not going to chance anything. (I would end up not working out for the month of February but would go back for the first time, one week prior to the country going into an initial lock down. I could not sustain a simple 30-mins walking slowly on a treadmill without feeling like I needed to take a nap afterwards. I was so wiped out just experiencing that. I thought it was rather odd that a month of skipping out on the gym could be that hard on the body?)

On another note, my workplace had a yearly seminar that it puts on and this was to be held on Jan 29, 2020 at Big Night Live in Boston, MA. Whatever it was that I had, happen to be interacting with a lot of folks that day. This event normally draws over a little more than over a thousand folks that come to network and watch a conference on commercial real-estate subject matter that is trending across the marketplace. My job that day was to help with registration by handing out passes to attendees, so really hope I did not have this and unknowingly was a spreader. (This event was held just one month prior to the Biogen Medical Conference in Boston.)

Eventually this whole thing passed but I did take note to myself that whatever this was lingered a lot longer than a normal cold or flu that I have ever had in the past. Believe what I had going on was a really overactive immune response and experiencing what they call “cytokine storm” syndrome symptoms.

Part of me thinks I had it and the other half of me says, maybe not? I traveled into Boston on a very crowded MBTA redline daily and during my lunch hours, would forage the salad bars at either Roche Brothers in Downtown Crossing or Cafe de Boston in the Financial area. Pretty sure hundreds of hands were touching the same tongs at the salad bar and handles on doors to the retail outlets I would visit often. If I did get it, it would have been through those interactions.

Also I live in close proximity with my parents who are at the age in which they are more susceptible to this disease. So I worry if I was a carrier of this, did they or would they get this? My mother had quite a lot of interactions with me in particular during this time I was sick, so if I had this she would sure have shown signs of this early on since this thing is very contagious. [UPDATE: I think my father showed some different signs of having it but were very minor. From a massive migraine to a some sort of swelling and rash on skin. So I am unsure what symptoms persist with those who are diabetic?]

The other thing, with these symptoms they are so vague. Through various news outlets it was mentioned that it is possible that another variant of the coronavirus family is what most folks may have been exposed to? Was I? If I was exposed to COVID-19 it would have eased my mind to know if I might have be immune to it and could possibly donate blood for plasma therapy that is being tested now. Apparently I have a rare blood type of being RH- so I wonder if that would be useful? But there is no way of knowing as of now.

Too much time has passed to possibly get tested unless you have symptoms of COVID-19 now. What I wish was available at this point in time is ANTIGEN TESTING like so many others, to feel as though I am safe around others. At this point in time I have to treat this virus like everyone else, as if I never had it and try not to get exposed to it.

[UPDATE: Later in 2021 (a year later) I did get a quick rapid test done at CVS to check for antibodies but it came up inconclusive. To them it appeared I had already been exposed to someone but some part of the reading read otherwise, which did not read right to them. They did note that this has happened for a few people in the community. However I had not taken a PCR test at the time as that was not available yet and because I have not shown any symptoms since and there has been way too much time that has passed.]

This is such a scary time to be living in right now.
Never thought in my lifetime I would be living through a pandemic and one of this scale and magnitude. It has literally disrupted everyone’s lives globally and economically.

My hope is that this does not return in the fall/winter as some scientists are predicting. Only hope that if anyone who has had it cannot get it again as that would be a blessing.

A few months later…
So in 2020 and from what I can further recollect I was still feeling some sort of side effects back in April. I just could not work out like I use to, even at home. I was so out of breath very easily with a short amount of time walking around (I didn’t even want to consider trying to jog) and would also experience a lot of fatigue and just want to sleep at random times. Concentration was very difficult to deal with. I put away working on the computer for awhile and took up sewing for a good month or so straight, it allowed my mind to rest for a bit. It felt like it took a good 3-4 months to recover from whatever took over me.

Good News… by the end of the year in 2020 I really felt like I was back to normal. I am able to moderately workout and not feel tired and concentration on working and learning new things feels as if I was before. I think what I was feeling during that earlier time were the effects of “long hauler” symptoms possibly because of of a couple of things. (1) Concentration was an issue months later. (2) Hair loss and dental canker sores (which appeared week after week) were some experiences I was having a couple of months later which we now know is due to stress and how the body copes with it later. (3) Weird muscle twitching that came out of nowhere time-to-time. (4) Lastly, some sort of restless leg syndrome because it felt like something one evening was crawling up/down my legs continuously for an hour or so. It got so bad that I was was moving my legs in a back and forth motion that I thought maybe I had a leg clot or something going on. Since that episode nothing more has happened. Everything ceased there-after. So I am in a much better state now and feel quite “normal” again.

[UPDATE: I still take precautions and wear a mask even though I am vaccinated. Very cautious until who knows when because I never want to go through what felt like an eternity like I did in 2020 ever again.]

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