Take it seriously even if you will never know for sure

My last column was about me being sick and waiting for my advised quarantine to be over. It was still early in how hard COVID-19 was hitting the country and there were some folks who were suggesting to ride it out for the economy’s sake. I wrote about being opposed to this idea.

Two weeks after my column went out, I think America has learned not paying attention to the seriousness of this virus in the beginning has caused nothing but hardship. As I write this, over 20,000 people have died. The most of any country in the world.

This happened with many places going into a lockdown. I can’t even fathom how many more would have died if most governors had not been responsible in shutting down, even though they knew it would hurt their economies.

Unfortunately, I have learned how brutal it is for anyone getting sick with flu like symptoms during this time.

I was scheduled to be out of the 14 day isolation on a Thursday and that morning I woke up with a low fever. Nothing very high or it didn’t even crack a 1000 but it crushed my chances to come out of quarantine.

Good thing the fever hit when it did.

Although I was not happy about extending my days by myself, three more days was not really a big deal. I was still feeling a bit run down on Thursday, so I figured it would be good to rest since my body had been pummeled the week before.

That Friday, I felt better and no fever. Great.

Saturday morning I took my temperature and was fine. I put myself to bed early in the evening just to be on the safe side.

On Sunday morning, I didn’t feel bad but I did feel a little off. Then the afternoon came and all of a sudden, I felt feverish and chills coming on. Got in bed around 2 p.m. and the monster hit me in a way it never had before.

I sweated through four t-shirts, six sweatshirts and three hoodies before the sweats subsided at 3 a.m. That was not the worst of it. Around 10 p.m., my lungs decided not to do their job. I had felt tight in my chest several times during the sweating but my breathing had not been effected.

During the past weeks of me being sick, I had never felt my lungs were under threat. That was not the case as I lay in bed wondering what was next. They were, without a doubt, under siege.

I had stopped taking any flu/cold medicine after Thursday because I was determined to have my body fight off whatever bug I had naturally. It was all Chinese medicine, green tea and vitamins. I realized I needed to get my lungs open again because I could really feel like something was trying to close them.

It didn’t take me more than about five minutes of lying there, feeling the shut down coming, to make me proactive.

I got up and took some flu medicine specifically for respiratory issues and did a prayer.

I wasn’t sure either was going to be enough given how quickly this all came on.

Honestly, I don’t remember all that much until I started breathing normal again. My guess was my lungs opened in about 20 minutes, but I am not sure.

When my breathing returned, it made me happier than I can ever relate, but the sweating continued for several hours. My fever was still mild, which was strange considering how much I was sweating.

Finally, the sweating quit early Sunday morning. It was like a faucet in my body turned it off. I had been drinking water the entire time, so I assumed I flushed out what was attacking my system.

I fell asleep soon afterwards.

Sunday was spent in bed. I did feel somewhat better, but I was weak. I had soup and fluids which I helped.

When I told my sister what happened, we both agreed the sweating was a good sign that I might finally be getting this bug out of my system.

Late Monday morning came and there was marked improvement. That was a good thing because I had stories to write.

Joshua Wood, the editor of the Sun, never pushed me to hit deadlines on stories, making it clear my health was the most important thing. He was the one who told me I should consider going to a clinic to make sure this was not a bacterial infection.

The clinics up north are not open on Mondays, so I called Saratoga.

Susan Foley got on the line and went over my symptoms. She told me anyone calling in with what I was describing should treat them like they had COVID-19. She allayed my fears it might be a bacterial infection. What she did say was that I was destined for seven more days of quarantine.

A person has to wait that time after the symptoms disappear. Also, my fever had to be gone for three days without help from any cold and flu medicines or ibuprofen. The last thing she said about being able to get out of quarantine was I had to feel like I was better. I understand why now. Before that Thursday, I had been dragging, but since I had no fever or real cough, I just figured it was from my first bout of dealing with the bug. Obviously, it was not done with me.

The question is, did I get COVID-19?

Unless the U.S. testing system changes in the future, there won’t be a way to know for sure.

Since three weeks ago, when I first starting showing signs of being sick, the world has changed tremendously and so has the information about COVID-19.

On March 18, when I went into quarantine, there was one case of COVID-19 in the state.

When my mother died on March 6, she had a fever of 104 that came on quickly, but as far as we knew her body had shut down because she was elderly and diabetic. There were no cases in the assisted home she was in at the time she died but I have heard that has changed.

One of the biggest reasons I was convinced I could not have contracted COVID-19 was my sister never showed any symptoms at all and we were together most of the time I was in Colorado. If I was exposed, it made sense she would have been too.

Now we know people can get COVID-19 and not show it. That doesn’t mean she did get exposed but it is more of reality than we ever gave any credence. She has been in quarantine for the most part the past three weeks because of her job and she lives outside Denver, where the state is effectively on lockdown. Like myself, she will unlikely be tested.

The reason I decided to write again about being sick since my last column is to drive home the point this virus is out there more than we realize. I remember Susan telling that she had others that had problems at night like I did. Like myself, they can’t get tested unless they take a turn for the worse. Then there are the people who get exposed and have no idea they are carrying it.

It is great they might never have any symptoms at all but it is not great as they make contact with vulnerable people. Another thing we are learning is the virus can stay in your system for several weeks. Two weeks is the norm, but for some it is shorter and others longer.

In serious cases the virus sticks around six weeks.

Six weeks!

I know the country wants to get back on track as soon as possible but, as Americans, we have to be patient. There is no doubt in my mind more people have it than is being reported.

This isn’t Taiwan where they jumped on testing immediately. They have an excellent health care system that is ready to face pandemics.

My friend Darby Doll, who hails from Carbon County, is living there with his wife and daughter. We have talked weekly. The schools, restaurants, bars and businesses are open. When you walk into any store, your temperature is taken. He has to enter his daughter’s temperature online at night and in the morning before she can go to school.

Testing is available to all and, if someone tests positive, they are immediately quarantined and all their contacts are traced and quarantined. They had their first case back in January and have had about 380 cases to this point. The death toll stands at six.

The country has 24 million people and the cities and towns have people living in close quarters. It could have easily spread if the government had not taken the challenge to stop the virus in its tracks.

We can’t go back and change how this country started getting infected. I said that in my last column. What we can do is be realistic that right now way more people have this virus than testing is showing.

I have no idea when we will get control. I hope soon.

I do know, I wanted to be better after 14 days and get back to my life. If I had gone out in public after that time frame and not payed attention to my light fever on Thursday, it scares me how many people I could have infected with whatever I got.

After learning what we have learned these past three weeks when I first started feeling achy and flu like, I have come to realize I am almost a poster boy for a victim of COVID-19. Mother died of a high fever that came on quickly in an assisted living facility in Colorado just as the virus was starting to hit the city of Denver. I was in her room for hours going through her things. I got sick about a week later and got a fever of 101 a few days later. Just as I was coming off the 14 day quarantine, I got another fever and a few days later actually had trouble breathing one night.

As I write this, I still have some days to go before I can get back out in the world. I am still going to be careful and try to keep contact with others to a minimum because that is what we have to do for a few more weeks anyway.

Without being able to test all our population for this virus, and since we know many people are asymptomatic, we have no choice.

Cliff Jones, a teacher and coach at Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow, has said he hopes that, years from now, we won’t look back at all the opportunities lost during this time but rather how America came together in an incredibly difficult period, helping each other where we could and staying safe.

I couldn’t agree more.


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