“My Recovery Was Painstakingly, Agonizingly Slow”

An area healthcare provider who is on the front lines of medicine—and chooses to remain anonymous—shares his nearly three-month recovery from a COVID-19 diagnosis in late March.

“If you’re wondering how many times a co-worker, colleague, or stranger can offhandedly mention, ‘Wow, you look awful!’ before you snap—the answer is 11. Such was the case when I went back to work after nearly nine weeks of battling COVID-19. It was right around the time I returned my oxygen tank. I was kind of sorry to see it go. We’d been through so much together.

When coronavirus hit me, I was on my 42nd trip around the sun—and the pillar of health. What started off as a pesky cough quickly turned into an unrelenting cough—one that got so bad, it kept me bedridden for 15 days after I was diagnosed on March 25. I would actually have to psyche myself up to muster enough energy to shuffle to the bathroom and back. Don’t think I didn’t actually consider whether or not to wet the bed. Yes, that’s how debilitated I was.

It’s only been within the last six weeks or so that I’ve genuinely started to feel like myself again. For me, my recovery was painstakingly, agonizingly, mind-numbingly slow. (I’d throw in more adverbs if I could, but you get the idea.) It took a solid month for me to feel even incrementally better. That was short-lived. I backslid less than 24 hours later and debated another trip to the emergency room. COVID-19 kept me (and my doctor) on my toes. It’s an insidious virus. Just when you think you’re out of the woods—bam!—the virus roars back for another round of ugliness. It was a brutal cat-and-mouse game—except the cat was 400 lbs. and sitting squarely on my chest.

I was watching a movie with my kids the other night—some mindless comedy. I was laughing more at them giggling at the movie than I was at the film’s juvenile humor. My daughter looked over and said, “I’m glad you can laugh again without coughing so much.” She’s right. In the spring, a simple chuckle would somehow cause my weakened lungs to instantly spasm. I always kept my stupid inhaler handy for those kinds of emergencies. I call it stupid because, well, it really wasn’t that effective. Nothing was. I was even prescribed the good cough syrup. The really goooood cough syrup. It barely made a dent in my ever-present hacking.

Before COVID, I religiously worked out four to five times a week. After two months away from the gym, I was a mere shell of my former self. As a buddy told me, “You look like somebody stuck a pin in you. You actually deflated.” I hired a trainer to help me get back on a solid workout regimen. I hated the treadmill before, but now—with diminished lung capacity—I despise it. But I’m determined to get back into fighting shape. I believe the only reason I survived COVID-19 in the first place is because I was in overall good health. Well, that—and God had my back.

The last time I wrote about my COVID-19 battles, I was still struggling. Now I feel like I’m finally over the hump, but make no mistake, you absolutely do not want to catch this, so wear your mask with pride. COVID obliterated my spring and a majority of my summer. I went to take my son fishing about a week ago and started coughing. PTSD kicked in—until I remembered my ragweed allergies. You know it’s bad when you actually find allergies to be refreshing.”

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