We had COVID-19, and We Are Still Recovering

I know; we are all sick of hearing and talking about COVID-19. I get it. Frankly, so am I. But, we’re not talking enough about one important aspect — what COVID-19 recovery is like and how our quality of life continues to be potentially impacted days, weeks, and months after initial symptoms.

Que fall 2020.

With the cold weather returning and fears of COVID-19 spikes in cases locally, we held firm on many public health mandates. Were we perfect? Unfortunately, no. Do we have regrets? Yes.

For this reason, I am sharing my family’s personal experience hoping you can learn from our mistakes to keep yourself and your family healthy until we are all able to receive a vaccine.

We had COVID-19, and We Are Still RecoveringFor us, notable symptoms began the week of Halloween. Overall, I felt similar to what I experienced previously during run-of-the-mill sinus infections. My husband and daughter initially had no symptoms. For the two of them, it was not until many days AFTER a positive confirmation that we noticed obvious symptoms.

These early days are what I look back on to be my biggest regret. In retrospect, I wish I would have assumed it was COVID-19, immediately requested a test, and taken steps inside our home to limit interactions within my family.

Instead, I was in denial, choosing to believe there was no way I could have contracted the virus.

Why do you ask? I never had any of the primary symptoms – no fever and no cough. I thought I was in the clear and just needed to tough out a seasonal virus.

The following week was a wake-up call.

Symptoms fully hit and other members of my family tested positive. I missed an afternoon and one full day of work, as I was unable to sit up long enough to function effectively to complete tasks. My husband and daughter also noted symptoms that were more prevalent.

For us, throughout the entire experience, none of us ever had a fever, and coughing was limited to a sporadic need to clear our throats, not an intense, burning cough commonly reported.

Looking at the individuals in my household, the virus presented with the following symptoms:

  1. Extreme fatigue
  2. Headache
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Body aches
  5. Head congestion
  6. Loss of smell and taste (This came much later for me, at day 12. No one else in my household experienced this symptom.)

Five days after the initial onset, while able to work (remotely) periodically, I still required several rest periods and felt extremely tired after minimal effort. Alternatively, since my husband’s position required him to be in-person, he was placed on a mandatory 10-day isolation period. During this time, he was able to thoroughly rest and recover, which in turn, I believe, allowed him to recover more quickly than my daughter (who continued virtual schooling) and me (who continued to work).

For weeks after, our main complaint was the COVID-headache. While my taste and smell returned after three weeks, the headaches and fatigue lingered.

Let me pause here. These headaches were unlike anything we had ever experienced before.

The words “burning”, “searing” and “stabbing” were common in our conversations. Also, location differed from standard tension or even sinus headaches. The pain for the three of us centered in our face, eyes, and nose. At full force, the headaches were debilitating.

While we could not stop the virus in its tracks, we had taken precautions to be prepared for extended home isolation.

I highly recommend having the following on-hand:

  1. Touchless thermometer
  2. Oximeter
  3. Liquid IV
  4. Facial tissues
  5. Cleaning supplies
  6. And yes, toilet paper

Now, more than two months later, we still feel “off” in many ways.

Fatigue comes out of left field knocking us down from time to time. The headaches, while much less frequent, continue to return, often after periods of stress or rigorous activity. Our ability to perform physical tasks (exercise, lengthy household chores, extended work hours), remains diminished.

Here are other odd symptoms we’ve experienced:

  1. Elevated liver enzyme levels
  2. Skin rashes/new allergic reactions
  3. Forgetfulness
  4. Eye pain
  5. Earaches
  6. Recurring head congestion
  7. Metallic taste
  8. Gastrointestinal cramps and abnormalities

I hope our experiences can be of value to those who have yet to contract COVID-19. With continued vigilance, awareness of symptoms and care protocols, and maybe a little luck, you might just make it to the finish line.

While some studies are underway, I pray our scientists continue to have access to the funding necessary to study the long-term effects of this illness.

I fear we have only tipped the iceberg below the surface in our understanding of COVID-19’s full cost.

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Amber grew up Eastern Iowa. Coe College brought her to Cedar Rapids, but her love for the city and community made her stay. She and her husband of 15 years, Shannon, share a home in Marion with their two children (13 year old daughter & 10 year old son). Her passions include outdoor activities in our city’s many parks and trails, exploring unique, locally owned business, as well as all things creative. If you ask her about her bucket list, she’ll share endless travel destinations! Amber spends her days as the Director of Fundraising Marketing, leading a talented team of creatives for nearly 18 years. She is also a devoted advocate for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and other underrepresented causes.