Q&A with a coronavirus patient
By Elizabeth Lande, Managing and Copy Editor
Editor’s Note: this story is written by a member of our staff who knows someone who contracted, dealt with, and survived COVID-19. The person does not live on Vashon, is now fully recovered, and will remain anonymous for the purpose of this story.
On March 12, as the Seattle area was firmly coming to grips with the severity of its COVID-19 outbreak, a man living in Bellevue flew with his wife to visit his son’s family, including his 19-month-old granddaughter, in Las Vegas. At that time, the city had only reported 16 cases of novel coronavirus, and the risk of travel seemed low.
Aside from his granddaughter showing a small temperature on the first day, the family visit was normal. He and his wife returned to Seattle five days later. However, in the last hour of the flight, his back muscles began to ache. The following day, his wife, as well as his son and daughter-in-law in Las Vegas, got sick.
“My symptoms were mainly very severe skin tenderness, headache, and slight congestions,” he said. “Things were mild and I rode my bike for 90 minutes one day and did an hour hike another.”
By Friday, March 20, his symptoms worsened and his temperature rose to 99.8. His son reported similar conditions, and all four adults were tested. The tests returned positive for COVID-19.
Over the following 16 days, his condition worsened to extreme skin tenderness and headache. Overwhelming lethargy made activity of any kind almost impossible.
“I laid in bed all day, just getting up to go to the bathroom and take a Tylenol, which was minimally helpful,” he said. “I couldn’t eat and eventually lost 12 pounds. The image I remember was a very dark sky with the silhouette of tree branches [through my window].”
The next weekend proved even worse, and slight sounds or bright lights were intensely uncomfortable. A friend of his son’s, a doctor, suggested that he be taken to the emergency room.
“I don’t remember the next part but [my wife] does,” he said.
“Apparently I came up to the bedroom and told her 9/11 was coming. She followed me downstairs and noted I had a lot of trouble walking. The ambulance came and got me and my memory of the day restarted while I was in the ER.”
Reports of delirium have been common among COVID-19 patients, though some cases of it are more severe and last longer than others. This encephalopathy kept him hospitalized for 35 hours. Fears about the possibility of fatality were very real, but doses of hydroxychloride and Kaletre, an HIV drug, improved his condition for a relatively quick release.
“Back home I was still lethargic and my skin really hurt, and again I just laid in bed all the time, not eating, trying to drink water,” he said. “Part of the not eating was that things tasted wrong.”
Food tasting different, or loss of taste and smell entirely, has also been reported by novel coronavirus patients. His son and daughter-in-law, the latter of whom experienced such a loss of smell and taste, suffered from more severe respiratory issues as well as low fevers. The granddaughter, who likely spread the disease to all four adults, did not show any more signs of illness.
By April 3, his son had been tested again, this time with negative results. By the following Monday, all four adults felt relatively normal, but feelings of lethargy remained for the next week.
Currently, the lasting effects of COVID-19 are not well known. However, patients who develop more serious conditions while suffering from the disease are believed to be at a higher risk for health issues later in life. These conditions include acute respiratory distress syndrome and general impaired lung function and can lead to problems with the heart, lungs, and kidneys. Additionally, patients who require more intense care or prolonged hospitalization may be more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and even PTSD.