The beginning of COVID-19 Fear
Maybe it was just the thought of the COVID-19, but I had no energy to get out of bed. I had a runny nose, shortness of breath (more than usual), dry cough, and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. I called the VA COVID-19 hotline, and they told me to go to the Lake Nona VA Emergency Department. My body hurt like hell and moving was arduous. Did I have COVID-19 Fear?
I felt terrible for a couple of days and was in bed. My self-diagnosis, “Not infected, just feeling like crap.“
Suddenly I thought back to my childhood. To a day when I said “crap“ in a sentence to my mother. Ah Oh!!! You would have thought the world had collapsed. Mom had me sit on the floor, facing her. She looked at me with a stern face, and she told me, “Ladies don’t talk like that.” I said, “Dad says crap.“
She cut me off. I could not believe what I heard next, “I don’t care how he talks; my responsibility is making sure you are a polite young lady.” I believe I was around twelve, “Wow, mom doesn’t care how dad talks.” I was confused—more stories to come in the future.
It did make me feel a little better thinking about my mom though. She passed away in 2013. Mom always said, “When I am gone I will be watching from just around the corner. “ Such a comfort, especially now,
Slugging out of bed
With that memory, I slugged out of bed and pulled on my comfy sweatpants, a long sleeve sweatshirt, and a jacket. Every other minute, I had to grab something to prevent falling, even off the bed. I just fell off the bed the prior week and found myself in the ER and was admitted. Boy was that embarrassing.
The more I moved, the more the room was trying to run away from me. I hate that feeling. My wheelchair wasn’t beside the bed where it belonged, so back on the bed I went. No accidents necessary!
What would I do without Kauri
I called Kauri several times. Then I looked down next to the bed and saw that Troy, my Service Dog, was not there. Normally he would have jumped up by now wondering what was wrong.. Boy my head — totally a mess! I remember now — Kauri is out for a walk with Troy. Is my memory worse than before or have I succumbed to COVID-19 fear?
I depend on Kauri a lot lately. She is seventeen now and such a great help. Without Kauri no food would reach my mouth — she is such a great cook. She does laundry as well. She is helpful, clever, and a magnificently funny young woman.
On my way
Kauri reminded me the weather didn’t warrent winter “garb. “Grandma don’t you think you are just a little over dressed for the summer.”
I told her, “It is barely spring. But, yes I know. However, VA Emergency Department is frigid. You should know; we have been there so many times. I am not going by ambulance. I will have to sit in the waiting room for who knows how long. It could be hours.“ I said. “Why don’t you go by ambulance, the Hotline said you could, Kauri asked a little agitated.
I said, “I am going to call Uber. The cost of an ambulance for an eight minute ride is too costly. I will be fine.“
I put a paper face mask on that I acquired at the VA. These masks are available on “Face Mask Stands” throughout the hospital meant for Veterans to take if needed. Hopefully, no hoarding!
Beginning of my COVID-19 Adventure with UBER
Once I got down the elevator, I called an Uber. I was lucky the Uber driver was someone I know, and he got me to the VA Emergency Room with no difficulty. He is always amiable, helping me put my wheelchair together. I felt this was the beginning of my COVID-19 adventure. I didn’t know what was going to happen. My heart beat rapidly.
When we arrived at the Emergency Department, the Uber Driver not only helped me into the wheelchair but pushed me up to the COVID-19 check-in station. He told the lady checking in to take care of me as I was a favorite customer. My heart warmed.
I told him thank you for all his help and entered the hospital. I was screened just inside the door and was given a piece of paper with tell-tell check marks on it.
“Take this paper to Emergency. Don’t go any where else,” the Screener said.
Off to the Emergency Department I rolled. What can we do for you, ask the Med Tech behind the computer?
I told him the COVID-19 Hotline sent me and they said you would be expecting me. He said, “What are your symptoms?”
I handed him the screening paper. “No different than what I told the hotline. Jones 2065; did you check the note,” I spouted off. “Oops,“ I thought. Be patient. “Sorry for my tone. I am tired and am in pain. But no excuse.“
He said, “It is okay, I understand strained times.“ He has registered me in the ER before. He told me to wheel around to the next person to get a wrist band.
Behind the dark thick red line
“Hello, can you verify your full name, birthdate and social security number,” he said. Then, I was sent to the back of the waiting room where there was an area about 10’ x 20’ that was marked off by a DARK THICK RED LINE (masking tape).
People behind the line were at varying stages of illness. If you weren’t ill before you got there, I bet you would be before you left. One gentleman was elderly sitting in a wheelchair like everyone else, wrapped in a blanket, clearly ill. He was coughing, sweating, and sneezing.
I felt like no matter where I went behind the red line, I could not get far enough away from the coughing, sweaty, sneezy guy.
While I waited, I had a friendly conversation with a Veteran and his wife. He was feeling ill, and she came behind the COVID-19 battle line with him. I experienced extreme dry mouth from whatever was going on. Once I finished the bottle of water I brought with me; this amazing woman kept running to the front desk to get water for me until I was into the triage. She was a hero in my eyes.
Just a sinus infection — Not COVID
After the Emergency physician examined me, he said I had a sinus infection, and he would prescribe me an antibiotic. But, he also said I should voluntarily quarantine. I told the ER physician this was my COVID-19 adventure: no energy to get out of bed. He looked at me quirky.
“Got it,” I said, “How fast can I get out of here.” My social worker delivered my discharge papers were in record time. Off I went to the pharmacy to get my antibiotic.
Off to the pharmacy
The pharmacist gave me four drugs? “Do you have any questions about the prescriptions that you are receiving,” the pharmacist asked? There were four bottles.
“Nope, I am just fine. Thank you,” I said. Although I wanted to say, “What the heck, how does one antibiotic turn into four drugs?” However, asking that question would probably send me right back through the Emergency Department again. Then I thought maybe I misunderstood, or perhaps he found some creative drugs to give me “just to make me feel better.”
I did however ask the pharmacist if the VA was going to distribute disinfectant and or hand sanitizer for at risk patients. Her answer was a resounding “NO.” I told her many Veterans are on a fixed income and can barely afford rent and food. How are they supposed to afford disinfectant and hand sanitizer. She told me to worry about my own health and stay “low stress.”
A little over two weeks later, my VA PCP and Social Worker both called me to talk with me about how I was feeling. Still have runny nose and shortness of breath. Cough is doing better, but not completely better. They said, “Stay quarantined through April 30th.
Tonight the news says the entire State of Florida is going on “Lock Down” except Essential Personnel. The COVID-19 saga continues.
VA COVID-19 Telehealth
Friday 04/03/2020, I have been having increased difficulty breathing. What I mean is intermittently even when sitting quietly in my recliner I feel this incredible weight on my chest. At that moment, I lose my breath. It takes about 10-15 seconds to recover. My inhalers are not helping. Most of the time, I am staying in my bed that both raises my head and lifts my feet. Of course, the adjustable bed frame was recommended by my pulmonary specialist but not paid for by the VA. My COVID-19 adventure: no energy to get out of bed.
I called my physician, who sent me to the COVID-19 TELEHEALTH; they transferred me to my pulmonology clinic. My specialist is not in, but another one told me to increase my nebulizer to four times per day. The key is keeping the lungs clear. He also ordered a second round of antibiotics for me to use if I start to cough up any “goop.“ Plus, continue to use inhalers.
The last thing he said was a little jarring, “If you feel with this treatment, you still need more care come to the ER, but my advice is to stay away unless necessary. I understand what he was saying. It was two-fold: Don’t go because we are overwhelmed, and your immune system is compromised, so we don’t want to expose you unnecessarily. “Please stay home and stay safe. Fighting this virus is going to be a battle for a while.”
Depending on our community
Throughout our COVID-19 experience, Kauri and I have relied on Instacart to deliver our groceries. The VA provides my medication. CVS offers Kauri’s prescriptions via mail. Our physicians, both from the VA and Kauri’s community physicians, are practicing via telehealth. Amazingly, the transformation has been quick and seamless.
We have lovely neighbors here at our Dwell Nona Place Apartments that often checks on us. Our friend Komal fixes the best Indian Dhal and routinely shares it with us. Komal and her husband Sunny are the best. I miss sitting down in the lobby of our building and talking to them and other residents. It is a beautiful way to stay connected.
Paying attention to experts
All the while, I am an avid reader and blogger. Of course, staying informed can be a blessing and a curse. Some of the information that is available makes sense and is necessary, and some of the visuals are scary.
Experts have been churning out model after model … At the heart of their algorithms is a scary but empowering truth: What happens next depends largely on us — our government, politicians, health institutions and, in particular, 328 million inhabitants of this country — all making tiny decisions on a daily basis with outsize consequences for our collective future.Washington Post, March 19, 2020,
We continue quarantine
We will continue quarantine, possibly more careful than some others, to try to preserve my health. Kauri wants to venture further than a walk around the building. She misses meandering through the apartment complex and ending up at our private dog park. However, at this time, we just cannot take the risk. Even if she were to go and she did physical distance, I believe there are risks both for her and for my Service Dog. So ring-around-the-building it is for now.
Tomorrow home health begin. The woman who will be coming will help me stay mobile some exercises, clean my room and take care of other personal care. The three house she will be here with me, three days per week will be a huge help. We forget what we can no longer do on our own until we can not do it. Thank God for the VA.
I hope you do the same. My hope is that the numbers look better by the next chapter; however, I know that is probably wishful thinking. Let’s see what the data says.
Look for Chapter 2.