My four sons… the day I went to get my test.
(All mostly-recovered from COVID-19 by this time!)
February 9, 2022- Wednesday
Since I have been transparent about our health journey throughout the pandemic, I think it is important that I share that I had COVID-19 shortly after the holidays! Luckily, the timing worked out — so I was just beyond of the conservative “10-day window” (for being contagious / needing to quarantine) by the time my January / February cross-country tour rolled around…so I was “thankful” – for the timing – actually!
The first week of school back after the holidays, we had chosen to keep my disabled 13-year old son home from middle school, because there was too much of a risk for both him and the teachers (we were really concerned for the health and well-being of our community’s teachers, as well as the potential for a teacher shortage with younger kids returning to school after the holidays – especially since the younger kids tend to fidget more and may be more likely to not wear a mask properly throughout the day).
That same week we decided to let my 16-year-old (Avi) attend classes. He is only enrolled in 8 credits this semester [at Portland State University] – so that is about 8 hours of class a week. He is always very vigilant and mindful about maintaining social distance. He also always double masks and in fact – because he has OCD – washes his hands far too often. He was also fully-vaccinated and boosted…
Shortly after classes at PSU started back, Avi got an e-mail that “a student in one of his music classes tested positive for COVID-19“. [I am actually so thankful that they implemented this tracking and alert system there.] Apparently the student was not symptomatic – but, given some people are singing and others are playing horns and other wind instruments… the potential for transmission is a bit greater than in other environments… but I was still hopeful that Avi would be okay because he was fully-vaccinated and boosted.
Avi also has a significantly compromised immune system – however [he is on an injectable biologic designed to actually “turn off his immune system”]… so we knew there was a degree of risk in sending him back to school. We also knew how important it was for him to continue in an in-person school environment, given his extremely limited opportunities for socialization over the past two years. We weighed the risk and benefits – and decided to send Avi to college, and to keep Charlie home from middle school [for the first week of school, at least!].
Then, a few days after we got the contact-tracing notice from the school, the symptoms hit Avi hard! As I noted, above – he has a compromised immune system [as a result of being Lead-poisoned as an infant]; this means that when he gets sick he usually gets very sick! As his mother, given my extreme concern for Avi (and the fairly significant impacts of his symptoms the first few days – including very high fevers), isolating from him was simply not something I was willing to do. I still have limited mobility after breaking my leg last year and mostly sit here on the couch in my office, testing and writing up posts for the website when I am home (I.e. not on the road helping families in person). But instead, we spent three days together with him snuggling by my side most of the time (while I worked!) so I could help take care of him, even with my limited mobility.
Photo my husband took during this time
(please continue reading below the image!)
So yeah… extended close contact with a COVID-19-sick-kid = mama gets COVID-19, too!
After Avi came down with symptoms, Charlie (my 13-year-old) became symptomatic [barely – because, in many ways, he is healthy as a horse — since he is so big and strong for a 13-year-old, and eats a mostly pretty-healthy, plant-based diet). Then I got sick, and my husband got sick, too…
We tried to buy tests to confirm we all had COVID-19 – but if you will recall from early January, there were absolutely none available anywhere AND we couldn’t get a test scheduled at any of the hospitals or clinics, either! (Photo above!) Everyone’s testing schedules were completely full, and at that time, there seemed to be no drop-in testing availability here in Portland at the time, either! [We’ve since ordered our free set of four tests from the Post Office and those arrived yesterday!]
Luckily, the week we all got sick I had a medical procedure scheduled. As part of that process my doctor had (a month earlier) scheduled me for a drive-through COVID-19 test at the Portland Raceway(!), to make sure I would be COVID-19-Free for my procedure. As a result I was able to get tested in spite of the lack of resources available for testing across the country! Of course, we knew I was going to test positive [I was very sick and about four or five days in from the start of symptoms at that point] — but we were eager to get the confirmation via a test, anyway (even though I knew it meant we would need to cancel the procedure for sure)! My husband (Len) came with me for that drive-through test (which was my first test not in a doctor’s office and quite an experience all on its own!) — and when we informed them that I had symptoms, they agreed to test Len, as well…
When the test results came back the next day, I was positive (we knew that), and Len’s test result (for no discernible reason — since he was also symptomatic, and we sleep together in the same bed!) was “negative”.
We didn’t actually ever manage to get the kids tested – since that wasn’t an option! – but proceeded with the confident assumption that they both had it (based on the same cluster of symptoms — which started coincident with the PSU contact-tracing e-mail), and kept both kids home from school AGAIN (until 10 days after the onset of each of their first symptoms).
This really sucked for Avi (given he is in college — because he got far behind in classwork and homework, which caused him an extreme amount of anxiety)… but in one respect, the timing of that “quarantine period” was actually kind of fortunate — because it overlapped a bit with our two older children visiting. Despite all their precautions over the past two years, my older two sons (who live in Boston) also each had gotten COVID-19 on the East Coast, just before Christmas — and were (by the time of our visit) in the “cannot likely transmit to others” phase of things. All-in-all things worked out as my older sons were able to help with their little brothers while everyone was sick AND the little brothers got to spend some extra time at home with their big brothers — when they might have otherwise normally been in school during the day and consequently not seen them as much during their visit!
For context, I have the following “co-morbidities”:
- am obese
- am 52-years-old
- have reactive airway disease — and regularly develop pneumonia following any kind of respiratory illness – such as a seasonal cold or flu.
- have DVT blood clots [since my surgery on my leg a year ago]
Day 1: I could tell I was getting sick – headache; some coughing, but not so bad
Day 2 & 3: “Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” list of symptoms (intense abdominal pain; body aches; inability to sleep due to uncontrollable coughing; headaches; difficulty breathing; no appetite; etc.) — I literally could not move and felt like I was at death’s door…I really wasn’t sure I would make it; my husband called the hospital and asked if we should come in for any available emergency treatments, or if there was anything they could do — and they said “no”, that the treatments were only for people who were much sicker than they estimated I was at the time (even though I could barely breathe and could not move when he called them!).
Day 4: Began to feel a little better – and able to be a semi-functioning parent again, after having spent two full days “sleeping” most of the day (curled up in a ball in bed taking all the Advil and drinking lots of tea).
Days 5 – 10: still coughing intensely….
Days 10… onward (and expected to be for the next 4 or 5 months) still coughing / shortness of breath / significant chest pain, persistent abdominal pain, etc.
My history – and why I expect I am going to be coughing well into June of 2022
I have been extra cautious these past two years, because I have reactive airway disease. In my case, this means that I have very sensitive and compromised lungs. For the first eight years of my youngest son’s life, each year I got sick over the winter, and that “sick” morphed into pneumonia — with lingering symptoms that would last for 6 to 8 months before I was fully-recovered. I had a suspicion that this would also be my experience with COVID-19, and for this reason I am actually glad that I presumably caught the Omicron variant (that is apparently generally less damaging to the lungs) AND that I was fully-vaccinated before getting sick! [I strongly suspect that had I caught an earlier variant (before being vaccinated) I would have likely ended up in the hospital on a ventilator.]
How I deal with these breathing complications day-to-day
NOT medical advice… just my personal experience!
The benefit of having a long history of (I.e. a lot of experience with) getting really sick, and having a lot of scary difficulty breathing — which is something Charlie (my 13 year old) also experienced for most of his childhood — is that I have developed a protocol for managing my breathing and suppressing the intensity of my coughing reflex when I need to (like when I need to work or sleep).
This protocol includes lots of caffeine, and one strategically-timed maximum dose of Advil a day (either before work or before sleep, depending on how bad things are). The caffeine keeps my airways stimulated and helps me breathe more effectively than any medicine (prescription or otherwise) that I have tried to help with this condition. I also do try to avoid the Advil on days that I can get by without it. When things are really bad (like they have been for the past few weeks while I was on the road working and really physically pushing myself) a shot or two of espresso before bed is ironically just the trick to open up my airways so I can sleep better at night.
Dairy consumption (any form of dairy) also aggravates my lungs significantly and makes me cough and noticeably increases my lung pain — especially when my lungs are already triggered from being sick; even the smallest amount of (accidental) dairy can trigger spasms – so I have been trying to avoid all (both intentional and accidental) dairy — and have been ordering all of my lattes with unsweetened organic oat milk whenever possible. [If I am visiting with you in person and you notice me coughing it is mostly likely because I just – on my drive to you – downed a cup of cheap hotel coffee with a splash of cream, because I cannot bear it black!]
Given my history (and the current level of pain I have in my lungs — including right now today, as I write this — and my regular coughing fits / shortness of breath each night after a long day), I expect this cluster of symptoms may last for at least 4 more months or longer. However, being outside always helps, too (especially if the air is cool!) – so if I keep caffeinated, and keep active and breathing fresh air every day, I think I can stave-off pneumonia this year (fingers crossed!)
More specifics of what we learned / our experience with COVID-19
- 5 days or 10? The week that our family got COVID-19 was a particularly confusing time — right when the recommendation shifted from being10 days to 5 days (for returning to work after the onset of symptoms). We chose to wait a full 10 days.
- Are we contagious? We learned that (apparently) current scientific consensus holds that the following is true: For 90 days after the onset of symptoms (80 days after the first ten-day period since the start of symptoms) one has the highest level of antibodies and therefore is unlikely to build up enough of a viral load of COVID-19 to be contagious. So a person can basically assume they are no longer contagious / cannot possibly be contagious during that 80-day-post-COVID-19 period. [Said another way: by this theory you cannot get COVID-19 again nor give it to others in that 80-day window.] Knowing this offers my family some peace of mind (to the end of March and possibly beyond), for whatever that’s worth! [It’s like having a superpower – to know this,]
- What about masks? We chose to continue to wear masks when out in public, and to continue to social distance whenever possible. We have also continued to limit social gatherings (with 95% of my in-person gatherings being work-related; limited to small numbers of people in well-ventilated settings; and socially-distanced!)
- “Everyone” seemed to get sick in January! We also learned that so many others we know also had COVID-19 during this same time period, so many of our friends and clients were not concerned any longer (at least for the time-being) about being contagious to others or getting it again themselves.
- Can we get COVID-19 again? We learned over the past month or two that a surprising number of friends have gotten COVID-19 multiple times over the past year — so we have some concerns that there is possibly a lack of scientific “precision” in this “90-day immunity period” hypothesis. Separately we are also so “isolation-fatigued ” that believing in the “90-day-hypothesis” provides a measure of relief and solace – it just makes it all a little bit easier to live – knowing that (science demonstrates) we might actually have a little extra protection for the near future, based on the fact that we had the ostensibly-most-protective combination of full vaccination AND exposure to the ‘VID! <sigh>
As always, thanks for reading – and thank you for sharing my posts. I don’t know if any of this is helpful or useful to someone else, but perhaps it will be – so I wrote it up, just in case.
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
Owner – Lead Safe Mama, LLC
Dinner with friends on the New York City leg of the January 2022 Lead Safe Mama Cross Country Tour!