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Monday, August 23, 2021

Even Vaccinated, I Got COVID. And It Isn't Pretty, Folks.

I have been quite careful about COVID-19. I strictly quarantined for over a year, teaching my college classes from home, via Zoom. I was so pleased to be able to travel and visit my financial planning clients in June, as the number of COVID-19 cases waned. And I was so looking forward to being back in the classroom in late August.

Then the Delta variant happened.

I was not too worried. I had been fully vaccinated back in March. In late July I did an antibody test, which showed I had a level of antibodies that placed me in the top 40% or so of all those who had received vaccinations.

(Day: -4) Tuesday, August 17th, was my first day back on campus. I attended an outdoor student social event (masked only part of the time). And I had lunch with a faculty colleague (masked only while driving to/from the restaurant; not masked when sitting across from each other).

(Day: -3) Wednesday, August 18th: I found that my colleague had tested positive for COVID. Later I learned that some students at the outdoor social tested positive for COVID.

(Day: -2) Thursday, August 19th: Faculty Department meeting, in which we all wore masks and sat more than 6 feet away from each other. Halfway through the meeting I starting having mild symptoms, and left the meeting. I immediately went to the health clinic and got the quick test. It came back negative!

(Day: -1): Friday, August 20th: I finished my three days of 2-hour-a-day instruction to freshmen students who arrived on campus a week early to acclimate. In these classroom settings I wore my KN95 mask. Students wore masks, but several did not have them over their noses (despite my reminders).

After instruction ended, about noon, I began to have more severe symptoms. Went home, and went to bed.

(Day: 0). Saturday, August 21st I awoke with a vast array of symptoms. Coughing. Sore throat. Terrible headache, as if I had a sinus infection (but I only had a slight nasal congestion). Chills. Shortness of breath. And very weak.

Went to our physician's offices, who also provide a walk-in clinic and testing seven days a week, for a COVID test. No surprise, it came back positive. More bad news - my blood pressure was extremely high. My oxygen level was dangerously low. And the chest X-ray they immediately took indicated shadows in my lungs (I have never smoked or had any lung damage). I had also just started medication for a temporary condition, which medication was suppressive of my immune system. The physician assistant called my personal doctor, who ordered me to the ER to get evaluated for monoclonal antibody therapy.

There are two hospitals in Bowling Green, KY. I chose the one that did not have reports of an overburdened ER over the prior week, due to COVID. My physician's office called the ER in advance, and gave me a copy of the chest X-rays and exam notes. My devoted wife immediately took me to the chosen hospital.

It was busy. I registered in a half-hour. But there was a delay in getting back to the examination areas. I finally was escorted back - past rooms full of COVID-19 patients, some intubated. In one room an entire family was present, and crying - I assumed their loved one had just passed away.

I was led to another waiting area, not an exam room. A physician's assistant (PA) appeared, and took new vitals. Same very high blood pressure, and low oxygen levels. The PA reviewed everything conveyed to her about my medical history, and asked me more questions. She left, then returned 20 minutes later.

Yes, I should have monoclonal antibody infusions, she said. Under normal circumstances, I would even be admitted, given the number of symptoms I possessed. But, the flood of persons in the ER (and in other rooms at the hospital) - due to unvaccinated persons arriving with COVID-19 - was such that there was no open room to provide the injection, nor was there the availability of a nurse for 2 hours to undertake the procedure. While a clinic in town offered the treatment, they were not open on weekends. The PA said she would try to get me treated, as soon as possible, but to return home and quarantine.

My own quarantine would last for 10 days, and this day was pronounced "Day 0."

My wife, Cathy, who had driven me from location to location that day (with the windows down, and both of us wearing our masks), took me home. She moved her gear into the guest room for an extended stay. I am confined to my bedroom, which fortunately has an adjacent work area for my computer work, when able to do same. Pursuant to the PA's instructions, I was to have no contact with others. Food was placed in a tray outside the door, to be quickly retrieved by me.

I took more Tylenol and went to bed.

I was a little disappointed. Although I was glad to be home in my own bed, as a practical matter treatment to me was being rationed, due to resource constraints. All those people who had not been vaccinated were tying up the ER and hospital resources.

At the same time, I was very appreciative of all of the health care providers I saw. Some looked exhausted. Yet all were patient and professional, and were doing their best.

(Day 1 - Sunday, Aug. 22nd). Awoke feeling quite lousy, and very weak. Had gotten up twice in the night, to again take medication to relieve body aches and headaches.

Then, got a call from the PA at the hospital. They could get me in that morning for the monoclonal antibody infusions. Great!

Did the infusions, and went back home. Two unfortunate side effects of the infusion ... slight nausea, and significant diarrhea. As if my life wasn't already fairly miserable.

Severe chills had me shaking for an entire hour that afternoon. No t.v., no reading. Just lying down and sleeping, as much as I can. Had the interesting delusion of talking to my wife and dog, as if they were laying upon the bed next to me, before I realized that they were not there. (Was a good conversation, however!)

No appetite, and no desire to eat dinner. Tried to keep up with fruit juices, in order to stay hydrated. Another long night - mostly sleeping, between fits of coughing and heading to the bathroom.

(Day 2 - Monday, August 23rd.) Awoke very weak. Drank some water. Took a shower. Took Tylenol again.

By mid-morning many of the symptoms were diminishing. Headache was less severe. Chills were gone. The monoclonal antibody treatment, which typically takes 24-48 hours to kick in, seemed to be helping - significantly.

Worrisome, however, was my coughing up of small amounts of blood mixed in with clear mucus. Informed my physician, who told me this condition was common, not to worry, but to monitor it and keep him informed. The sounds (rattling) from my windpipe I could hear, when I laid down quietly, were also common in this circumstance.

Today was to be my first day of classes this Fall semester. Another professor is covering two of my classes. The two more advanced classes were canceled for today, and I hope to do Zoom sessions when the classes next meet on Wednesday.

Just writing this has worn me out. Time for another nap. (As one colleague emailed me today ... hydrate, nap, repeat.)

PLEASE:

If you have not already done so, get vaccinated. Your vaccination is a gift of love to your family, friends, and community.

If you are vaccine hesitant, please read my prior post, from a month ago, exploring the need to engage in critical thinking before making any decisions.

Even if you are vaccinated, wear a mask, without exception, when out and about. I did not, just once or twice, the very first day I was "out and about." I regret my decision to "take the risk" in not wearing a mask at all times.

As I have learned, the Delta variant is not to be taken lightly. Even fully vaccinated, and even with great care from the health care providers I have seen, the last three days of my life have been a blur - with levels of discomfort I've not encountered often in my life.

Yet, I know it could have been much worse. If I had not been vaccinated previously, who knows if I would have even survived. I could have easily been that departed soul whose family members grieved in an ER treatment room.

I have some days ahead for recovery. Still dealing with symptoms. And merely typing this - my first time on a computer in 72 hours - has left me drained.

Take care, everyone. - Da Bear


UPDATE: (Day 3, August 24th)

Can't believe it has been only 96 hours since I started feeling really ill. Seems like a month.

Such is the "prison" of my master bedroom - "unbearable." (However, my dear wife of 40 years provides me "room service" - as she and others in our household keep as far away from me as possible.)

Fortunately, feeling a bit stronger today. But poor sleep (due to bronchitis/coughing) has held me back a bit, along with continuation of some symptoms. Fortunately, fevers and headaches appear to be gone.

Was able to get in about 2 hours of work today, in 1-hour shifts. Both quite draining. Both leading to naps.

But, for me at least, the future appears bright. I look to commence teaching online next Monday (will be in quarantine), and hope to return to the classroom after Labor Day.

Very grateful for the care I have received from Dr. David Napier and his team at Graves Gilbert, and from the staff at TriStar Greenview Medical Hospital. I know so many of these health care professionals are stressed, especially as COVID's Delta variant is approaching its peak (hopefully) here in Bowling Green, KY. They truly are my heroes.

UPDATE: (Day 5, August 26th).

I'm learning that progress is not linear. Yesterday (Day 4) was difficult, for my, physically. Very tired. Headache returned. Lots of coughing. I was not able to get any work done.

Yesterday my wife tested positive for COVID. Her symptoms are confined, at this time, to nasal congestion and draining, similar to a head cold. As might be expected for most of those who have been vaccinated and yet still go on to catch the Delta variant.

The only "positive" side of her positive test is that she no longer needs to avoid me. So, I have been released from my prison, my wife has moved back from the guest bedroom. My wife and I are back to sleeping in the same bed (with our dog, Roxy, pleased to always lie between us, for maximum attention to be given to her).

Today I am stronger, but I doubt I could talk for more than a few minutes without getting out of breath and/or coughing significantly. A few other minor symptoms on this Day 5, but overall feeling much better. Am able to sit up, read, return emails, and post assignments for my students.

Sadly, I will miss this entire first week of my classes. (Another professor is covering one course for me, and for the other two courses I am giving reading assignments.) Next week I hope to teach via Zoom - and hopefully will be released from quarantine following a physician's exam on Day 11. That would put be back into the "live classroom" immediately after Labor Day, if all goes well.

Am grateful today for the support of my fellow faculty and staff members. And for the warm wishes received from so many.

UPDATE - Day 9. (August 30)

Taught two classes today, via Zoom. Physically exhausting. Continue to have a heavy cough and some chest congestion. Rest, sleep, and hydration still occupy a good portion of each day. I’ve come to realize that when you severely shock the body, it can take time to fully recover.

I am so glad I got vaccinated- back in March. If I had not, I suspect my chances of surging the COVID infection would have been, at best, 50/50.

My wife, Cathy, received monoclonal antibody infusion today; she will likely have fatigue and unpleasant side effects for several days. But the likelihood of her COVID infection becoming worse is now greatly diminished.

Local hospitals remain swamped with COVID cases- nearly all were unvaccinated persons. Several teens and young children in the hospital. And college students. If we are going to conquer this- as a nation - everyone needs to get vaccinated. To not get vaccinated is simply a selfish decision.

Am worried about reports of a new variant out of South Africa- possibly resistant to current vaccines. We need better vaccines, expanded manufacturing, and shots in arms worldwide. And better treatments.

It will still be a while before we can return to “normal” - and to a more robust economy. The faster we get people vaccinated- the faster we can get all aspects of our lives back on track.

Ignore the misinformation. Search for the truth. And then conclude that (except for a very small percentage of us( that clearly the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the very minor risks of same.

God bestowed us with the ability to conquer, over time, the challenges the world throws at us. God gave us the miracle of vaccines. And, thankfully, nearly all of us have had multiple vaccines since we were very young, and since then.

God gave us the ability to further limit the spread of viruses by wearing masks. Your “freedom” is not unduly restricted by mask mandates - whether in the workplace, in schools, or in stores. Common-sense dictates that reasonable measures can be required to protect others.

For example, you have the right (if age 21 or older) to drink alcohol. But that does not mean you have the freedom to drive drunk and create risks to others.

None of our freedoms - even those of freedom of speech, and freedom of religion - are absolute. For example, inciting a riot is not protected speech, nor is fraudulent speech in commercial transactions. Nor is defamatory speech, nor bullying. Nor is the right to practice religion absolute - freedom of religion cannot be used to justify human sacrifice, polyamory, or criminal acts.

The U.S. Supreme Court has long ruled that mandatory health measures can be justified in the interests of the greater good - the public health. Colleges and universities and schools, for example, may impose vaccine mandates.

Ignore the misinformation. Ignore the politicians who promote views, such as opposition to mandatory masks in schools. Understand that far too often politicians seek to capture and use populism- not for the good of the people, but rather due to their own self-interest in achieving and then maintaining power. Far too many politicians lie to you, then use you, to advance their own election or re-election.

Make a gift of love - to yourself, and to all those around you. Get vaccinated today!

Day 12 Update (Thursday September 2nd).

Am anxious to get this behind me. My Doctor prescribed Mucinex (which I have already been taking) and an inhaler to try to get my lungs clear, and to avoid secondary pneumonia. Also, short walks. Rest, inhaler, keep up the medications, and slowly get to the point where I can walk around the neighborhood again.

Able to work 4 hours today before getting really tired. But am optimistic I will be able to return to the classroom, and full-time teaching, by next Wednesday. I so miss seeing my students. And I am hopeful I will not get “long COVID,” due to the exceptional medical care I have received these past two weeks.

It is difficult to watch the news. COVID cases in many states are high, and peak cases and deaths likely has not yet arrived. Younger children - and young adults - increasingly account for those hospitalized. Here in Kentucky, another (healthy before catching COVID, yet unvaccinated) person under 30 died yesterday from the Delta variant, per published reports. Those who go on ventilators rarely live, and when they do their quality of life is often very poor.

And, as the news also reports, possible new, tougher COVID variants now exist in other parts of the world. Possibly spreading eventually to the U.S?

Yet, low vaccination rates exist. Despite the safety of vaccines, many persons appear more likely to inject themselves with an animal dewormer (that does not work to cure COVID) than a vaccine that has an in Seriously, people, you are not a horse, nor a cow.

Politicians seeking power continue to extort “the mob” with false information. Why is it that so many people follow politicians (and certain media personalities) who lie, so blindly? Alas, this has happened in every democracy since Ancient Greece. So many people don’t realize how they are just pawns in games of the powerful and the greedy - and so many give their loyalty to those who don’t deserve it. Critical, independent thinking is far too often in short supply.

Vaccines work - at least to limit the severity of COVID. I suspect that if I had not been vaccinated back in March, my epitaph would have been written several days ago, instead of me being on the road too recovery.

Masks also work, at least to reduce the spread of COVID. 

My mistake was not wearing a mask during a a lunch and during an outdoor social event. All it takes is one slip.

These two long years of our discontent unfortunately will likely continue for several more months.

Let us hope and pray that ALL of us will finally commit to getting vaccinations, for the sake of our loved ones, our communities, and ourselves. Getting vaccinated is a personal responsibility - and a moral act. Our society functions much more effectively when we do the objective research, reach the right decision, and then ACT - to benefit not only ourselves, but also our loved ones.

Let us also hope and pray that the governments around the world will increase their commitments to get the world vaccinated, so that we can stop (or at least slow) the emergence of new variants.

I treasure so much more the simple things in life. Family gatherings. Eating out occasionally. Interacting with colleagues, students, clients, and just those whom I meet for brief time periods. Travel to see family, friends, and clients.

We are all, deep down, inherently social animals. Let us all do what it takes to get this pandemic behind us, so that we can increase our interactions with others, help overcome loneliness, and care for each other.

DAY 16 UPDATE - MONDAY, SEPT. 6TH (Labor Day): SHOULD I RETURN TO CAMPUS?

It is slow progress, but progress nevertheless as I continue my recovery from COVID. I was able to work (on the computer) an increasing number of hours each day - 6 hours yesterday - without unduly pushing myself.

I am very good at taking my medicine, including the inhaler every 4 hours. And doing short walks. My strength (and lung capacity) appear to be returning, but a lingering cough persists.

My doctor confirmed I am no longer infectious to others.

Tomorrow I desire to head back to campus. I would then teach four classes on Wednesday.

There is a debate in my home, however. On one side - me. On the other - my wife and daughters.

Argument: Don't return to campus - teach online.

  • My age (63) and health conditions (overweight, hypertension, etc.) are such that I risk catching COVID again. 
  • I may remain immunosuppressed due to taking an injection of a "biologic" medicine three weeks ago (for psoriasis). (My doctor has advised me not to take further injections, for now.) 
  • Many students on campus are not wearing masks properly, when indoors, as required. 
  • 353 cases of COVID infections were reported on my campus (of 15,000 people) since August 12th. In my own classes, of 150 or so students total, about a dozen have reported via email to me that they either contracted COVID or are in quarantine due to possible exposure.
  • My State of Kentucky has record levels of infections, at present. From a news article yesterday: "Kentucky recorded a seven-day average of 4,423 new daily cases on Saturday, according to a New York Times database. Deaths and hospitalizations have been rising, too. 'Our situation is dire,' Governor Beshear said."
  • "Dad, you can teach and conduct meetings from home, via Zoom."
  • It is not worth the risk. 
  • Others in my household (mother-in-law) would again be at risk if I catch COVID again. 

Argument: The risk is minimal; return to teaching in-person.

  • I've had both Pfizer shots in March, monoclonal antibodies infusion just two weeks ago, and have developed antibodies from having COVID. Hence, the risk of not having sufficient antibodies to ward off another exposure to COVID is likely very small.
  • I will ask my doctor (appointment on Thursday morning) about getting a booster shot. 
  • I will ask students in all of my classes to be particular cognizant about wearing masks properly, and won't hesitate to approach those that are not doing so. 

  • I taught online last year. Despite many days I spent preparing to teach online, with new techniques, my experience was that student learning was not as effective. Especially so for freshmen students (and I have two freshmen classes this semester). 
  • This pandemic may not end until late Spring. We need to find ways to get back to normal, as best we can.

For now, I've decided to return to campus tomorrow, based upon a critical analysis of all of the information I've been able to read about the risk of reinfection.

FINAL UPDATE - THURSDAY, SEPT. 9TH (DAY 19).

Yesterday I taught in-person classes - four of them. A very exhausting day, yet classes went well.

My doctor today stated that, with two weeks gone, I am "out of the woods." He suggests continued exercise, each day, to continue to recover lung capacity.

While still coughing a lot, it subsides each day. And I feel my strength returning, a bit each day. With time, the shortness of breath I feel after any extensive walking or other exercise will go away.

I would like to express my gratitude:

  • To my wife, Cathy, for taking care of me. And not complaining too much when she contracted COVID from me!
  • For the vaccinations I had in March. Doubt I would have survived without then.
  • To Dr. Napier at Graves Gilbert Clinic, Bowling Green, KY, and to the many others (nurses, lab techs, etc.) for the excellent care provided.
  • To my fellow faculty members, for covering classes and other duties for me, and especially Professor Zach Jones.
  • To my friends, clients, colleagues, and students, for the many best wishes sent my way. They are very much "pick me up."
And, lastly, I give appreciation for the conversation I had, when in a state of delirium during the most difficult days. I spoke out loud to my wife, Cathy, and our dog, Roxy, for several minutes. Only when I realized that my wife was just patiently listening, and not talking back, did my head clear and I realized I was alone in bed, and wife was not present. The "conversation" was, altogether, a very strange occurrence, once I realized I was the only one talking, and that my wife's presence was not real. Then again, it may be the best conversation I've ever had with my wife!

For those who have been vaccinated, don't let down your guard. Mask up. Social distance. Keep indoor activities with many others to a minimum. Having vaccines protects you (largely) from going into the hospital, or worse, as it did me. But it is not absolute protection. Especially if you are older and/or are immunocompromised in any way.

For those who have not been vaccinated, DON'T DELAY - get vaccinated TODAY. Too many of our children are in the hospital and have died from the Delta variant. Tens of thousands will die over the coming months. We can defeat the Delta variant, and save the lives of our children, family, friends, and others in our community - but only if many more of us get vaccinated (and wear masks properly, and social distance). [GO ONLINE to reliable, non-partisan sources. View the research. Critically analyze the risks vs. benefits of vaccinations for COVID. And look for the many, many articles in which those who were unvaccinated, prior to dying, urged their family members and others to get vaccinated.]

We are all dismayed at the length of this pandemic. Hopefully we will return to some condition which is more of "normal" than we have experienced, in the Spring. Until then, we need to renew our efforts, for the greater good, to tackle the challenges that continue to face us.

ALL MY BEST, TO EVERYONE.

STAY SAFE!

   - Ron (Da Bear)


 

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