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By Connie Kinsey, Minister of Paragraphs | WestVirginiaVillle | June 3, 2021
My left hand cramps, the ring finger bending at an impossible angle and I gasp in pain. I know to pull the car over because my foot and leg will likely follow suit, but I’m in a construction zone hemmed in by two concrete barriers.
Sure enough, the leg and foot get in on the cramp action. Fortunately, it’s my left side that is cramping and not too badly. I arch in the seat as my leg cramps, but I am still able to control the right foot on the accelerator. The pain brings tears to my eyes.
Or as normal as it gets. The White Coat People call this Long COVID and I’m a Long-Hauler.
The Right to Be Angry
This is a good day. I have been sick for months, but I did not die. I am happy to be here. I can do this, but I reserve the right to whine. I also reserve the right to be angry.
More than 592,000 souls have been taken in the United States alone, so far. The pandemic continues and is ravaging other countries, including India and Brazil. COVID is awful and continues to be awful and we must not decrease our vigilance.
Even if not touched by the illness itself, COVID has stolen so much from all of us — even and especially those fools who refuse to mask up and vaccinate — prolonging this nightmare.
We are herd animals — social creatures. There will be a price to pay for our year of social distancing. I don’t think it will be good particularly for those of us who live alone. Mental health professionals warn about anxiety and depression. It has been a really rough year for healthy people.
COVID has stolen so much from all of us — even and especially those fools who refuse to mask up and vaccinate — prolonging this nightmare.
I’m angry, too. Most of the time I am too busy trying to negotiate life to pay much attention to the anger but it’s lurking just below the surface. Roiling and burbling.
My COVID test was positive in October. Soon, I’ll be in my ninth month. The idea of gestation comes to mind. Something should come of this. A life lesson? An essay? “What I Did During the Worldwide Pandemic.”
What did I do? Mostly I slept and whined. I was — and am — afraid.
Constant fear weighs on a body.
There will be a price for that, too.
A Ray of Sunshine
My vitamin regimen includes elderberry syrup. It is overly sweet, and I’m reminded of childhood medications. My doctor says this is the same protocol used in the ICU for COVID patients. I’ve added potassium and magnesium to help with the cramps which may or may not be part of Long COVID.
That’s just it. They don’t know what is and what is not COVID. They seem comfortable diagnosing me with Long COVID, but that’s about the extent of it. All they can do is treat symptoms and count how many people have the same symptoms. I’m reduced to boxes and squares and checkmarks.
Sometimes, there’s a place for ‘Other.’ I usually fill that one up.
My COVID case was mild. I never had the fever and I didn’t have serious lung involvement. Nor was I hospitalized. I had cold and flu like symptoms that just went on and on coupled with exhaustion.
- The JUNE 2021 ISSUE of WESTVIRGINIAVILLE.com
- EDITORS/NOTE: Elephant Ankles, a Dad’s love, Natural Sonatas, CROWN Act-ing & More
- COVER STORY: ELEPHANT ANKLES: Life with Long COVID
- IN/PROGRESS: “The Air My Flowers Breathe: A Love Story”
- PICTURE/SHOW: Kyle Vass on taking his best shot
- MUSIC/VIDEO: ‘Sonata for Piano & West Virginia No. 1’
- RE/PRINT: Bringing the CROWN Act to a town near you
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All they can do is treat symptoms and count how many people have the same symptoms. I’m reduced to boxes and squares and checkmarks.
I had thought I was getting better in January. Though still tired and bearing an ever-present headache, the intensity of both were subsiding. And then the headache ended as abruptly as it began only to be replaced by eczema.
Since then, I feel like I’m going backwards. Some of my symptoms are worse and I have new ones. Now I’m itchy, twitchy, and bitchy.
I am just a little ray of sunshine.
Climbing the stairs at my house is harder and harder. I have to rest halfway and then crawl into bed for 15 minutes or so to get my breathing under control. I’ve been climbing these stairs for 35 years. It’s not like they’re new to me.
I probably need another lung X-ray just to make sure I haven’t developed COVID lung. The potential for such worries the White Coat People.
“Just to make sure” is getting expensive.
Working from home is not ideal and so I tried to return to the office the first week in May. Two days — not even full ones — left me completely depleted. I slept for three days to recover. I’m test driving an every-other-day at the office schedule.
I park directly in front of the building. Forget the paid-employee parking out back. I feed the meter all day via a handy app on my phone. The half-hour commute, the short walk to the building, and riding the elevator three floors to my office leaves me breathless. I sit in the stillness of my office for a while until my breathing returns to normal.
The plants in my office are dying for lack of water. I can’t summon the energy to lug the watering can back and forth between the sink and my office.
The walk from my office to a favorite restaurant is a smidgen longer than one block. I am looking forward to lunch in an actual restaurant with a vaccinated friend. I need to stop and rest on the way. I had thought I could do it. I was feeling good.
I am thankful for conveniently located benches on city streets.
While never an athlete, I did go to yoga and lead an active life once upon a time in the olden days.
A few days ago, maybe weeks now, I noticed some swelling in my feet. “What fresh hell, this?”
Walking is rough, but just standing is worse. The few times I’ve found myself in a long line for something, I’ve had to leave. I get nauseous if I stand still. I had never thought about how much strength it takes to simply stand. The answer is — a lot. In yoga, they call it Mountain pose. It is beyond my ability right now. I am lacking core strength and balance. COVID stole it.
I enroll in a beginning yoga class thinking to gently stretch my way through Long COVID. I can’t even do Savasana — the closing sprawl-on-the-floor-and-breathe pose. The name translates as Corpse pose.
I can’t even mimic the dead. I withdraw from yoga in defeat. My instructor had COVID. She understands.
A few days ago, maybe weeks now, I noticed some swelling in my feet. “What fresh hell, this?” I muttered and carried on scratching, sleeping, and whining.
The swelling increased. I now have elephant ankles. The only shoes I can wear are flip flops. I went to the doc where they took vials and vials of blood “just to make sure.” Something about congestive heart failure, kidney function, and diuretics. They’ll let me know the results. Woo hoo.
A lot of research on Long COVID is coming out of the UK and is available online. I scare myself silly reading these scholarly articles meant for medical professionals. I never fit the profile of the patients they’re studying, so I can’t really extrapolate.
But I can fret.
I am also helping my 80-year-old mother negotiate Long COVID. She is in better shape than I am. Or at least is more functional. On Mother’s Day, I took her out for brunch. We were vigilant about finding parking close to the front door, timing our trip through the buffet line, and asking the waitress to do some of the fetching for us.
Pre-COVID, my mother ran circles around me. She was one of the unstoppable forces of nature. We had plans of going to the mall after brunch. We opted for naps instead. She, too, naps a lot. COVID has stolen my mother.
COVID has stolen me.
We spend a fair amount of time at various medical appointments. The White Coat People think my mother’s onset of heart failure is directly due to COVID. They’ve run some tests to see if it has reversed or is reversing itself. We should get the results today. I’m not optimistic.
Even if all the COVID symptoms subsided today — right this minute — I think she and I will be weeks getting our strength back. I have been an invalid for nearly nine months. When the exhaustion fades and I can think clearly, I suspect I am going to be angry.
Angry at everything taken from me for these eight plus months. Angry that this was preventable. Angry that I contracted it even though I wore masks, used hand-sanitizer, and socially distanced myself when others foolishly declared it first a hoax, and then no worse than the flu, and finally started yammering on about herd immunity.
It will be a righteous anger and I believe it will explode if not properly channeled.
Most days I am just trying to get through the day. I am convalescing, but a day of reckoning is coming. I need to formulate a plan to direct that anger into something positive rather than let it fester. I will not let COVID steal any more of my peace of mind.
[Note to the reader: Test results are in. Mom’s heart failure has not reversed itself. My test results were all within normal values.]
CONNIE KINSEY is a writer based in West Virginia. See more of her work here and follow her blog, W.Va. Fur and Roo and Facebook writer’s page.
PRESS RELEASE: Our ‘Office of Paragraphs’ Ministers Up: may26.2020: Connie Kinsey of Ona, W.Va., will be joining the WestVirginiaVille Office of Paragraphs. She will offer advice and consultation on the best paragraphs of non-fiction and fiction prose to include on the site.
COVID CHRONICLES | One in Eight Million: oct16.2020: We begin our new occasional series ‘Covid Chronicles’ with a personal report from WestVirginiaVille’s Minister of Paragraphs, Connie Kinsey, who was just recently diagnosed with a—we pray it stays that way—mild case of Covd-19.
READINGS | “One Cup At a Time: A National Coffee Day Memoir”: sept29.2020″ “Coffee has punctuated my life as exclamation points, commas, periods, and missed periods,” says Connie Kinsey. “Coffee has born witness to the great events and the tiny ones, the happy and the sad. The momentous and the mundane.”
VIDEO READINGS| “Terracotta Tile,” a prompted tale by Connie Kinsey: july6.2020: “He was rage and she was ennui. She picked up her glass and took a sip. The wine tasted bitter. She couldn’t remember when he had last been happy. He stood in front of her. Silent, but radiating a need to speak. “What?” she said softly.