COVID-19 positive: Day 38 and counting

About the writer: Karen Sprinkel is a psychotherapist in private practice in Oakland, California.


My brief PSA: I tested positive for COVID-19 and never had a cough, congestion or chest pain. I’m likely on Day 17. The virus is still unstudied so information is not completely accurate. Please stay home, help flatten the curve and assume you have it. I would have done things differently if I wasn’t only checking for the three signs: cough, shortness of breath, and fever. Any unusual change in your body assume you have it, and if you have a powerful immune system or genetics with no noticeable signs, still assume you have it. More later. Stay healthy & love hard, even remotely.

My symptoms:
-18 days ago bad sun burn in Brazil (out of character)
-17 days ago, horrible and scary spiked fever and profuse sweating, dizzy, almost passed out. – at the time we all thought I had heat stroke.
-16 days ago through today: mild-severe headache, body aches, very exhausted, recent eye twitch, winded with activity, and then some hours of reprieve with no symptoms except the headache. Never once a cough. Never a sore throat or chest pain. And only a fever the first two days.
-Returned to Oakland 12 days ago.
-Person traveled with in Brazil confirmed positive 11 days ago.
-11 days ago Kaiser wouldn’t test me as my symptoms were considered mild.
-Thursday, at day 14 of sx, I was tested as I’m a health care worker and still symptomatic at day 14.
-Received results within 24 hours
-Been in isolation for 12 days and only offering tele-medicine to clients.
-Feeling very lucky and blessed (but still the blahs for sure)

4/7/20 update

-on day 26 my symptoms are exactly the same, and in some ways worse. Body aches, exhaustion, winded with activity, and an all over sick/blah feeling. There are waves that come that are more intense than other times. Never experienced these feelings with any other flu or cold I have had.

-Mild-severe headache, and this past weekend an increase in severity (2nd worst day since they beginning). Had an urgent appointment with neurologist due to likely brain inflammation, and anecdotal brain cases from COVID-19. There is no treatment, but now I’m taking lots of ibuprofen due to the inflammation which is worse than fear of ibuprofen vs paracetamol.

-My husband is presumed to have it but does not qualify for testing as he has no symptoms except severe exhaustion, can sleep 15 hours a day, and winded with any movement.

My two cents/observations/deductions (take it or leave it, but I’ve been asked):

-the rate of symptom/disease is equal to: 1) genetics, 2) level and frequency of exposure, and 3) immune system response due to both genetics and health.

-doctors really have no idea right now. All three doctors I’ve dealt with through this have been honest that they simply do not know anything. This is like no virus they have ever seen before. The guidelines and suggestions will keep changing.

-for those who think they have had it and recovered, great, but don’t assume you have the antibodies until the antibody test. There are many viruses. Be safe.

-for those afraid to get it, decrease exposure, load up on immune support and practice breathing exercises. It’s actually a good time to be sick if it’s mild or moderate.

-for those that want to help someone with COVID-19 in isolation, don’t ask what they need, just drop something off outside their home or mail it. Don’t call, chatting is the last thing needed, it uses energy. Send a note, inspirational video or funny emoji.

-Deep breaths, meditate. Deep breaths. Meditate.

-Use this time to create your will/trust. Not to scare you. But this is an existential threat time and best to prepare for your loved ones. Once in isolation you will not have a witness.

4/8 update

Yet another update from personal messages I’m receiving that their friends and family are not taking it seriously enough and believe that people that are infected either have bad health issues or deserved it because they traveled or were not being safe…so…

My health: is considered excellent; cardio exercise avg 5x a week my entire adult life, a vegetarian for 30 years, gluten-free for 15 years, little to no dairy intake, etoh, socially. No drugs, never. No pain killers, never. No smoking, never. Daily vitamins, no pre-existing conditions, had complete blood work done in February all within normal limits, and have had a full medical make up of all organs, all within normal limits within the past 6 years. It is dangerous to believe you are too healthy to get this virus.

Travel: we traveled to Brazil before any shelter in place orders to a country that had no known cases at the time we went, had less cases than America when we returned to the first state with the statewide shelter in place order. We were obsessed about sanitizing and washing our hands and anything we touched we sanitized immediately afterwards. So no I have no regret about our travels. It is arrogant to believe that this virus effects ‘others’ but not you. We have no idea how we got it and we just as easily could have gotten it from a piece of mail delivered to our mailbox here in good ’ole America.

Please, recognize we are all interconnected, and you are human, not above being human, and also because we are human, we will persevere.

4/19 update

On day 38 since the first fever I still have brain inflammation and am moderately fatigued, but all other symptoms of body aches, blah and sickly feeling, heat waves, eye twitch and malaise is subsiding.

Neuro inflammation is common in about 13% of COVID-19 patients and for me it’s presentation is worse than headaches and migraines. It feels like every part of my brain is pushing against my skull such as in any viral brain inflammation disease or maybe a concussion. The neurologist does not know how long it will last as there is not enough reports from other countries yet and it’s obviously too new of a virus. We also do not know if there will be lasting brain issues but hopeful as the trajectory is better each day with some occasional peaks.

Despite some concern for my brain, my spirits continue to be positive and I feel very blessed.

My husband is on day 7 of feeling essentially 100%. He tried to get an antibody serum test but his doctor said he doesn’t qualify as his symptoms were too mild but presume he had it. The doctors are aware I want to participate in any serum antibody study when the time is right, but right now I’m still symptomatic.

Please stay home and feel lucky to have your health. Health over money any day. Home, staycation, personal retreat, connect to Mother Earth, connect remotely to loved ones. We will get through this.

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