I seem to have run into some bad luck this holiday season. First, on December 1, I start showing symptoms of COVID-19; then, on Christmas Eve, I get pain in my gums that lasts several days; and, finally, on New Year’s Day, I get what I think are most likely hemorrhoids. What did I do to deserve all this bad fortune? I thought I had been a good person.
OK, maybe I’m to blame. I did lose 35 pounds in a little over four months. Maybe now my body is fighting back.
I had been looking forward to being slim not just for the last four months but for at least the last four years. Now I’m at my goal weight (I will write a post about my weight-loss journey soon), but it came at a price.
Still, I didn’t let these afflictions keep me from getting some nice winter photos today. After all, that is why you clicked the link, isn’t it? No, I shouldn’t have said that; my hemorrhoids are probably why you’re here. Well, I will be video conferencing with a doctor in an hour, so I will fill you in on all the salacious details. No, they won’t be examining my derrière over video. At least I don’t think that’s how it works. (Note: I will post the update after the photos.)
I’m starting to ramble. Here are the photos.
Update, 1/2/2021: I had my appointment with a physician assistant (not a medical doctor). We talked over the phone, rather than over video. Interestingly, I forgot to spend undue time making sure I had the right diagnosis, but I’m about 99 percent sure I have hemorrhoids. I’ve only had them one other time in my life—almost exactly 10 years ago—and the symptoms were the same as what I have now. I believe they went away within a week of using Preparation H, witch hazel, or a prescription (I don’t remember which).
The PA prescribed a medication, recommended fiber-rich foods, dispensed other home remedies and things to look out for, and generally answered my questions. I’m optimistic my pain will subside once I start implementing these treatments.
I’ll probably write at least one more update to this post once my body gets back to normal.
I just learned one hour ago via the web that my COVID-19 test came back positive. As noted with my positive test result, “this may sound scary, but most people who have COVID-19 can easily manage their symptoms on their own, at home.”
What follows is a chronology of what led to this point and how I felt then, feel now, and will feel over the next week or so. All updates will be added to this post.
December 1, 2020: I woke up with a sore throat. My first thought was I had strep throat, as I’ve had many times before, but I decided to wait a day before calling a doctor. I did not know a sore throat was a symptom of COVID-19. Because the weather was nice, I also went on a four-hour walk outside.
(Since I started checking my temperature every day several months ago with a Withings temporal thermometer, I will post my temperature for each day at the end of each entry.)
Temperature: 98.9 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 2, 2020: I woke up with a sore throat again. At this point, I was pretty sure I had strep throat. The first thing I did, after reading the Wikipedia article on strep throat, was call a clinic a few towns away from me because I knew they didn’t have an urgent care. I did this because I wanted to minimize my exposure to COVID-19, which I didn’t even consider I had. The receptionist told me this should be no problem and said he was going to reach out to my care team at the clinic in my hometown. He said they would be contacting me within an hour.
An hour later, I received a call from a nurse who had a grave tone. She began by asking me a series of questions, which, in my mind, was meant to screen me for COVID-19, so I could go in for a strep test. But I had it backwards. She was actually trying to determine I did not have strep throat. She then proceeded to tell me she thought it was likely I had COVID-19.
I was shocked! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, as visions of agonizing sickness passed in my mind. And death. Yes, death! I thought this was the end point for a disease that would soon spiral out of control. As I tried to maintain my composure and focus, the nurse scheduled a video appointment with a doctor within an hour or so.
There were technical problems when the doctor tried to call me for the video appointment. The clinic used Google Duo for the video appointment, and, despite following their instructions to set up the app (which was already installed on my Android smartphone), she wasn’t able to call me for about 10 minutes. Apparently, I needed to have Google Duo open on my smartphone at the time for the call to go through. Nevertheless, the doctor called me via a regular phone call, which was fine because there was no reason for the doctor to see my appearance.
The doctor had a significantly more placid tone, which was a relief. It turns out she had already been diagnosed with COVID-19 herself back in August. Like the nurse, the doctor said I likely had COVID-19 because cases had been surging recently. She told me my prognosis was “very good” because of my age and health (likely because I’ve recently lost a lot of weight—I will be posting on that soon). I was told to take 600 mg (three tablets) of ibuprofen twice a day for the sore throat. She said my sore throat was likely viral, rather than bacterial (as is the case with strep throat), because I hadn’t had much recent contact with people. While no one can say for certain where I encountered the coronavirus, it was likely from the grocery store or while going on long walks outside, as those were the only times I had recently had contact with people.
Finally, the doctor told me to schedule an appointment with a drive-up testing site at a nearby clinic for a strep and COVID-19 test. She said it might take 1–2 days to get an appointment for the tests, so I was relieved when I found out I could get in that afternoon.
Getting tested was simple and efficient, and I didn’t have to wait in line for more than a minute before someone came to get my driver’s license and confirm my identity. The COVID-19 test was first and took only seconds; the clinic worker, who wore personal protective equipment (PPE), though less PPE than I thought she’d have, simply stuck up a long Q-tip in both my nostrils before handing me a pamphlet on the COVID-19 test. Next, another worker came up to my window to give the strep test, which seemed to require a little more effort to get a sample from my throat. Again, the worker handed me a pamphlet about the strep test after finishing. I then left the clinic before the time for my original appointment, as I had gotten there early.
I got back the results of my strep test within a couple hours. It was negative, which disappointed me, because now I had to worry about the sore throat being COVID-19. I was informed that it would be 3–4 days before getting my COVID-19 test results.
Later that day, after taking ibuprofen, my sore throat stayed the same or maybe got slightly better. I couldn’t really tell. I did notice some problems with breathing, which can indicate a severe case of COVID-19, but I attributed that to anxiety, as I have a history with anxiety and panic attacks. I didn’t even contact the doctor about it, because I was pretty sure that’s all it was.
After hearing I likely had COVID-19 that morning I did, of course, make sure to isolate from my parents (whom I live with).
Temperature: 100.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 3, 2020: I woke up with what I thought was a more mild sore throat, which was likely being masked by the ibuprofen. Otherwise, I had a normal day. I did not notice any symptoms other than the sore throat.
Temperature: 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 4, 2020: I woke up and couldn’t really notice much of a sore throat or any other symptoms, for that matter. I decided to reach out to the doctor to find out if the ibuprofen was still necessary. Within a few hours, I heard back from my primary care physician, who told me the ibuprofen was only for symptoms and that I could stop taking it, which I did.
Temperature: 99.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 5, 2020: Now off ibuprofen, I couldn’t notice much, if any, of a sore throat when I woke up. I didn’t notice any other symptoms, either. In fact, I felt good—just like my regular self. I spent most of the day hoping to see my COVID-19 test results, which I now thought could be negative.
I got the news at 4 p.m. An email appeared in my inbox informing me that test results were in. The email directed me to their website, just as it did for my strep results. I was optimistic that the results would be negative because I was told I would receive a phone call if the results were positive. But my excitement soon turned to disappointment when I saw the word “detected” in the table at the top. Two lines down it read, “You’ve tested positive for COVID-19.” Man, what a bummer. After telling my parents (I actually opened the test results as I was talking to them), I went on Facebook and Twitter to post the news and to let my brother know.
And now here I am, writing this blog post. In fact, from now on these entries will be in the present tense. I must say, despite the unfortunate news today, I feel fine. Also, I feel that writing this post is therapeutic. I’m optimistic my case of COVID-19 is mild and expect a full recovery within six days (though my clinic still hasn’t called me to discuss my positive test results). I hope you find these entries as helpful as I find them therapeutic.
Temperature: 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 6, 2020: I am still not experiencing any symptoms, other than maybe a slightly noticeable sore throat when I swallow some of the time. Aside from the occasional anxiety I get, I feel like my normal self.
The clinic called me this morning to discuss my positive COVID-19 test results. The clinic employee who called me (I think it was a nurse) had a serious tone again. For example, I was told that even though I’m not experiencing symptoms now, I could still wake up in the middle of the night struggling to breathe. I was also told that, because I was diagnosed with asthma as a child, my asthma could flare up. That being said, I don’t have an inhaler and I can’t recall any time in recent history when I might have had symptoms of asthma.
But I think this person was mainly calling to make sure I, and the persons with whom I have had close contact, don’t spread the disease. I learned that anyone with whom I had close contact in the 14 days prior to my first symptom onset (which was on December 1) should self-isolate for the same period as myself (through December 11). I told the person from the clinic that I couldn’t think of anyone other than my parents. After I got off the phone, though, I remembered I had seen a dermatologist on November 19, so I sent him a message letting him know he’s instructed to self-isolate. I didn’t like the feeling of imposing on someone—or, worse, potentially spreading the disease. But I don’t think I really had much of a choice.
After I got off the phone, I got a text message that began, “Answer the Call: State and local public health department staff will be calling you with important information about your health.” I ended up getting the call shortly before 5 p.m. There was no question it was the government calling me, since the phone call appeared on my phone as “MN Public Health,” as if they were in my contacts. This call was significantly longer than the one from the clinic, lasting nearly 19 minutes. This person spent most of the time asking me questions, with an emphasis on making sure I, and the persons with whom I have had close contact, self-isolate and don’t spread the virus. For example, I was told my parents are supposed to self-isolate for 14 days after their last close contact with me. I opted in to have the interview recorded and answered all the person’s questions, even though I didn’t have to do either of those things.
It will be a long six days, as I count down the days until I can leave my self-isolation. But it will be nice to add another entry to this post at the end of each day. It’s like a surreal Advent calendar that is just oh so 2020.
Temperature: 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 7, 2020: I felt good today. No symptoms. Just five more days of hiding!
Temperature: 99.0 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 8, 2020: Again, no symptoms.
Temperature: 99.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 9, 2020: No symptoms.
Today, I tried out a new thermometer I ordered from Amazon. The thermometer is made by a Chinese company called Femometer, and the oral thermometer I ordered by them is the #1 Best Seller in Oral Thermometers on Amazon. I would’ve liked something by a more reputable company (preferably Target, CVS, or Walgreens), but I doubt they would have had any in stock. I actually did have a Target oral thermometer, but I just recently gave it to my mom (along with several alcohol wipes for sterilization).
Nevertheless, the Femometer seems to give reasonably valid and reliable results. In fact, I’m not sure which is more accurate, my expensive Withings temporal (forehead) thermometer or my new $7.99 Femometer oral thermometer. It was at least nice to see that when my Withings thermometer gave 100-plus-degree readings today, the Femometer was a full degree less. It seems the Femometer is always at least a fraction of a degree less than the Withings.
Since I started worrying about COVID-19 one week ago, I’d been checking my temperature multiple times each day (usually two or three times). Today, I took my temperature a total of nine times with the Withings thermometer. I did this because I was worried about treading into fever territory this afternoon. These are the temperatures I recorded today (in order): 98.6, 99.7, 99.5, 100.0, 100.2, 99.7, 99.2, 99.4, and 99.0.
Whenever I take my temperature with the Withings thermometer, I check the temperature at least a few times and try to record the median value. When I post my temperature at the end of each of these entries, I take the value recorded in the Heatmap in my Withings portal, which I believe is the highest recorded temperature for the day (or the least average temperature—a slight distinction). So, for today, that means…
Temperature: 100.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 10, 2020: I had a slight headache in the evening; otherwise, no symptoms. I’ve actually noticed slight headaches in some evenings recently, but I didn’t think they were worth mentioning.
One thing I had been thinking about ever since I tested positive for COVID-19 was what kind of T-shirt I would want as a souvenir for overcoming the illness. When I took a quick glance on Amazon, I didn’t like any of the offerings. I wanted something basic (no ugly COVID-19 particles) that just said “COVID-19 Survivor.”
My dad got his test results back today: negative. My mom will probably get hers back tomorrow, and I assume hers will also be negative. I think they might be disappointed by this outcome, since they were hoping they were both about to make it through asymptomatic cases of the virus and wanted the added benefit of temporary immunity.
In other news, today is my last day of isolation. My first trip outside my house tomorrow will be to McDonald’s for breakfast.
Well, there isn’t much more to say. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you for reading. It’s been nice being able to write these entries every night. It’ll also be nice to look back on this post years from now to remember what it was like to live with the virus during the pandemic. To the reader: Be safe and take care of your health; you can make it through this.
Temperature: 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
December 12, 2020: My mom also tested negative for COVID-19.