Remember that post I wrote last month about my bout of covid? If not, you can read it here…and then come back to this post for the update.
The update is that my covid experience wound up lasting longer than I thought it would. You see, after completing my doses of Paxlovid, I was starting to feel great! I think I had about 5-7 days of normalcy before things took a turn and I officially got a case of rebound covid.
That’s right, it came back to haunt me. On a Sunday, days after finishing my Paxlovid, I noticed that my throat began to feel a little funky again. It was just as tingly as it felt at the initial onset of covid, which was a sign to me that perhaps I wasn’t out of the woods just yet.
Sure enough, the next couple of days my symptoms intensified slightly. Only they were a different set of symptoms compared to my first round – this time, I was dealing with an extremely itchy and agitated nose. It could’ve been so much more worse, and I’m grateful it wasn’t, but my mental health seriously suffered when I took another at-home covid test that Monday and learned I was still positive.
At that point in time, I’d been in isolation for three weeks. This meant I’d have to complete another 10 days, at a minimum.
I was devastated. I was missing my family and friends. I felt like a prisoner in my own home, bound here because it was the right thing to do in order to protect my loved ones, but also resentful of how confined I was because overall, I really didn’t feel that bad. But I wouldn’t change a thing about my quarantine period because it was ultimately the only thing I was in control of throughout the whole experience, and having control over whether or not I exposed people to covid provided me a sense of comfort.
I was also extremely distraught because my business trip to New Orleans was rapidly approaching, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to travel again unless I started testing negative. So the following Tuesday after I tested positive again, I began consulting my healthcare team and we decided that I might benefit from receiving a monoclonal antibody infusion to help my immune system recover faster. Just like that, all my hopes became tied to this infusion as I longed for it to both alleviate my symptoms (even Benadryl wasn’t helping my itchy, sneezy nose) and help me produce a negative test as soon as possible.
Fortunately, the infusion did its job. Within 48 hours, I was feeling much more like myself. Even better, four days after receiving it, I began testing negative. I was beyond elated and relieved.
My covid ordeal taught me a few things. Number one, I feel so very lucky that I had access to the means to get better: a capable healthcare team, medical treatment, an understanding employer who let me take as much sick time as I needed, and the like. Number two, I feel similarly lucky that my diabetes seemed totally unaffected by the illness. I can’t imagine how much more difficult (and frustrated) it would’ve been if I’d also been chasing lows or highs. Number three, I’ve got so much more appreciation for the people and things I took for granted prior to my quarantine. I was absolutely giddy the first time I left the house after testing negative, and honestly, that feeling hasn’t changed with every subsequent plan I’ve made in the weeks that have followed.
Most of all, I’ve got a new level of gratitude for my support system: my family, my friends, my partner, and everyone who checked in on me when I was feeling depressed and lonely in quarantine. I would’ve been lost without them.
Well, it finally happened…I tested positive for covid.
The past couple of weeks have been an absolute blur as I first dealt with my boyfriend’s bout of covid – during which I felt totally healthy and well – then woke up one morning with a sore throat that immediately signaled to me that I hadn’t managed to avoid it, despite being fully vaccinated and double boosted.
But I think it’s because of those vaccinations that my personal experience with it has truly been very mild. I’ve had no symptoms other than a tingly throat, body aches, and a general sense of fatigue. The body aches have definitely been far from pleasant, but the silver lining in this whole situation is that my blood sugars have been completely and totally normal (knock on wood that this trend continues, seeing as I’m still positive as I write this post). They are maybe running just a tad bit higher than usual because I’m getting very little movement in throughout the day, but really, it’s nothing I can’t handle. And since I’ve started taking Paxlovid (as prescribed by my primary care doctor), I’m hopeful that I’ll be on the upswing of things before long.
In the meantime, though, it’s time for me to try to relish in taking it easy for a few more days as I complete my isolation period.
One year ago today was my first day working from home due to the pandemic.
I remember my final day in the office like it happened yesterday. There were hushed conversations in conference rooms, cubicles, and the office kitchen in which we all wondered how serious things were – and how serious they might become.
We had no idea what we were in store for.
One by one, as individuals who tended to work earlier in the day left for home, I said hopeful, “see you in a month” farewells, as we were all under the impression that we could come back to the office in a month. I remarked to one colleague, who is a close friend outside of work, that I had a feeling we’d all be grateful to come back and that we’d marvel in being able to be in close proximity to one another again.
I knew then that this was the start of something unlike anything most of the world had faced before, and I even documented the strangeness of it all by taking one last selfie at my cubicle (to be fair, I’d spent my lunch break at the hairdresser’s, so my hair was on point and IMHO warranted a selfie).
That would be my final selfie, for certain, in that office. Because just five months later we’d all return to it one last time in small groups to pack up our desks, as our company decided to break the lease and save money on office space.
So I’ve worked from home for a year, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. I’ve got so many emotions tied to that: gratitude, sadness, loneliness, anger, resentment, wistfulness…
Let me go over the positives of working from home: I’m so grateful for my job and for how deftly my colleagues and I got used to full-time remote work. Several aspects of life are made easier by working from home, such as managing my diabetes (for example, if I ever experience a pod failure, I have every and any back-up supplies I could need at home as opposed to my desk drawers, which weren’t always stocked up all the way). I save time on a commute which allows me to fit in more tasks at the start and end of my day, and honestly, working from home full-time gave me the ability to get a puppy and feel confident knowing that I would be around to take care of her.
But there are some negatives; mainly, I miss the office camaraderie like crazy. I’m lucky enough to work with a group of people that I truly enjoy being around, so it’s been tough to maintain my connections with them virtually. And truthfully, I get lonely in my condo. Going into the office five days a week not only ensured I had contact with other humans, but it also guaranteed that I’d actually leave my home during the week. I’ve never felt so sheltered in my life, and it’s a weird feeling.
I guess that if I’ve learned anything in the last 365 days, it’s how to be adaptable. Honestly, not to connect it back to diabetes – okay but this is what my blog’s about so that’s to be expected – but it’s a lot like figuring out how to deal with change as it inevitably happens. Over the years, I’ve taught myself what to do when lows and highs happen, and how to manage certain situations if and when they occur in my diabetes life. And that’s what’s happened in this last year: a whole lot of learning how to handle life’s curveballs, in general, along with the ones that diabetes tosses my way.
They didn’t say that to me, but they didn’t have to…it was written in bold all over their faces.
Recently, I dined outside with people who are close to me (I’m not going into specifics as to who exactly they were to maintain some level of discretion). I was explaining to them that come the winter season, I probably won’t be dining out much out of COVID concerns.
I’m just not ready to dine indoors yet. In fact, since March, I’ve only set foot into a physical store, dwelling, or other establishment a dozen times. For me, the risk associated with spending time inside when it’s completely avoidable just isn’t worth it.
But what sucks about this is the judgment I receive from others. Just like I did in this scenario, the looks on their faces make me feel like I have to defend myself. I wanted to scream at them, “you try having a chronic illness and dealing with it during a global pandemic!”…but of course, I’d never do such a thing, and I’m very glad that they don’t have to worry about that.
I do wish, though, that they – as well as other people who are quick to judge individuals like me who are scared and overly cautious these days – would use a little more grace and humility when conversing with those of us who are high risk.
Please try to put yourself in my shoes.
Please understand that not only am I considered high risk, but I’m in direct contact with loved ones who are also considered high risk.
Please know that, yes, I do have a desire – a very strong one – to get back out there and do “normal” things.
But think about the things holding me back…a chronic condition that requires a lot of my time and energy, for starters.
And think about how there are millions of other people like me who share this great responsibility for an underlying health condition that they didn’t ask for on top of a great fear.
We all know that 2020 hasn’t exactly gone to plan so far, largely thanks to COVID-19.
In a word, the last 8-10 weeks or so have been…weird. Collectively, the world experienced a lot of things: shock, rapid-fire adjustments, loss, and more than anything else, change.
It goes without saying that I’ve been very fortunate given the circumstances. I’ve had my job throughout this whole ordeal, and I’ve had experience working from home before which arguably made my transition to full-time remote work a little easier. While each week has come with its own unique set of challenges and emotions, there’s no denying that I’ve had it pretty good, overall, these last couple of months.
But now, along with everyone else, I’m about to enter a “new normal” (gosh I hate that term) as states begin to re-open. And with this “new normal” comes the possibility of returning to a physical office building each workweek.
I’ll admit that the sheer thought of it simultaneously excites and terrifies me.
On the one hand, I’m yearning to go back to work in an office space. I miss my little cubicle, office camaraderie, and meetings that are held in-person, in conference rooms, as opposed to virtually.
On the other hand, I’ve never felt more anxious about returning to a space that is shared by people other than my family members.
There are a LOT of people that enter and exit my company’s building throughout the typical workday. There are at least a dozen other companies besides mine that occupy the other floors in the building. Tons of deliveries are made to these office suites each day. While there are custodial staff who do their best to keep the building clean, it can be…a challenge, as anyone who has seen our bathrooms can attest to.
Basically, I suppose that I’m feeling incredibly nervous about the exposure to germs that is bound to happen upon my return to the office.
Even if I didn’t have diabetes and wasn’t considered at a higher risk for COVID, I’m sure I’d still feel worried because it’s not just about me: It’s also about the people I live with. I’d never want to bring anything harmful into my family’s home, period, bottom line, end of story. And while the odds are pretty damn high that PPE (personal protective equipment) will become standard when re-entering the workplace, it does little to placate me because I’ve seen firsthand how sloppy people can be when it comes to wearing it or disposing of it properly.
And so, with much still unknown about COVID, it just seems like a giant gamble to resume working in an office environment when I can’t be sure that I won’t be exposed to anything.
As it stands right now, I don’t have a concrete “return to work” date. And I don’t know what exactly it will take in order for me to feel totally comfortable about returning to the office. But I do know that I’m cautiously optimistic for a smooth transition to a “new normal” that is safe for all.
This blog post was originally published on the T1International website on April 10, 2020. I am highlighting it here on Hugging the Cactus because 1) I think it sheds a lot of light on the healthcare systems in other countries and 2) it’s a reminder that we’re all in this together.
Hear from ten people living with type 1 diabetes as they share their perspectives about the impact of the coronavirus on their country and their health.
Bolivia – Laura Things are complicated here, and our health system is already problematic. There are no masks and a lack of other correct equipment to treat patients. The government has been very careful about prevention, and quarantine has been going on for several weeks already. Many people are poor and live day by day with what they earn. The government began to give money and food aid to older people and families who receive other types of government bonds, but not everyone can receive it and many say that they do not have enough money to eat. Based on the numbers on our identification, we know when we can go out to get groceries or medications – only on specific days. Still, there is a lot of ignorance and people are not following instructions. There are 200 cases confirmed, with 15 deaths and it is increasing every day. People who have to travel long distances to get medicine do not have good options. I have a friend who has no blood glucose test strips and her blood sugar keeps going too high, but because she does not have test strips, she doesn’t know it. It is very dangerous.
Costa Rica – Dani Our small country is on lockdown, with only 10 people in ICU at the moment. The country is making at-risk patients a priority and currently even shipping their medicines to them to prevent them from going to the hospital and getting infected. Families have been given extra insulin for the next two months, and the community is supporting each other if there is an urgent need for support or extra supplies.
Germany – Katarina Germany has one of the lowest COVID-19 related death rates so far. A lot has been undertaken to prevent the virus from spreading – test centres have opened their doors to the general public, hospitals are increasing their capacities for intensive care and ventilation, and research teams are working hard to improve diagnostics, therapy and find preventative methods. The pandemic is challenging our healthcare system, our economy, and our society, but it also opening new pathways. A lot of diabetes care centres are transitioning to telemedicine, and people with diabetes can get prescriptions and supplies by mail. Being a doctor on the frontline and a high-risk patient at the same time is not easy – I am constantly torn between my profession and my wish to self-isolate and stay safe.
Ghana – Yaa With the rise in COVID 19 cases in Ghana, the government made it mandatory to close down schools for a month, to limit the number of people to no more than 25 in a social gathering, and to start a two week partial lockdown in contiguous districts (3 regions). This means no one is allowed to go out unless it is to buy food and drugs. Borders are closed, and importation of goods are restricted. For people with type 1 diabetes who get supplies at the government hospital using the national health insurance scheme, they still have to go all the way to the hospital for their supplies. The hospital is a major reservoir of the virus, so it increases the chances of people with type 1 who are already at high risk. The only other option is to go buy from the pharmacies, where there is currently a surge in prices. People with diabetes were asked and encouraged to stock up on their diabetes supplies, but not everyone was able to do this. We fear for the unknown and the long term impacts.
India – Apoorva As a medical doctor I have been working and seeing new cases, but now my entire department is in isolation. I took steps back to prevent getting sick. Delhi is one of the hotspots, and we had sudden surge in cases. Rural impoverished areas are problematic due to people living in close quarters. Our government initiated a lockdown, but many tried to leave quickly, especially migrant workers who come and go from the city centres because they lost their livelihoods. This caused the virus to spread despite drastic measures taken by the government. Currently, there are no insulin shortages as all medical services and pharmacies are operational, but we have seen a possibility of analogue shortages and hope to try to ensure that does not happen. Our main aim is to support the actions of the government and I plead everyone to stay home and protect their families.
Kuwait – Mohammad We have been on lockdown for four weeks, and people who came to Kuwait from other countries were tested. If someone had symptoms, they were put in quarantine. Cases have been contained and so far, there has only been one death. It is interesting that there is now a COVID-19 database that was created rapidly, but there has never been a database of people with type 1 diabetes in Kuwait. Our medications tend to be provided and some are being delivered. Overall, things are OK now, but we are concerned about access to medication and food supply in the long term because most of it is imported.
Lebanon – Cyrine Our country has been facing tricky political problems for the past five months, since we had a revolution in November. The banks have no money, and there is no money from the government. We can only have access to a specific amount of our money per month. We are facing shortages of medical supplies including ventilators and medical protective equipment. The whole country is in an emergency state now and there are military personnel on the streets. As cases continue to rise, people are only allowed to go out at certain times and we can only walk. I have been on self-quarantine for the past few weeks. What worries me most is the people who already struggled to afford their basic insulin and supplies. With 80% or more of the population having lost their jobs, what are those who cannot afford their insulin doing now? I am trying to help those I know about, but there is no government plan for people with type 1 diabetes. People do not have money anymore, so how can they cover their insulin costs?
South Africa – Estelle Testing here is slow. On April 2nd, I heard only 46,000 tests had been done, which is not even 1% of the population. It looks like we have small numbers of diagnosed patients but there is so much unknown. Apparently there is enough stock of medication for up to a year. Medical aid, our version of insurance, said they will cover all treatment related to COVID-19, so that is a relief. A large proportion of individuals might not be taking it seriously enough. The biggest concern is keeping the virus out of the rural areas, which are densely populated. If it spreads there, it could be catastrophic because we do not have enough hospitals.
Tanzania – Johnpeter We only have about twenty cases identified so far. I am currently in Serengeti which means I am far from cities where cases were confirmed and spreading. I am staying put and I had to cancel my doctor appointments and other appointments. I have had to reduce my insulin dose because I cannot get any insulin here in this rural area. I have some insulin in Dar es Salaam that my doctor gave to my brother for me. So right now I am working with my brother to try to find a way to get the insulin. I am not supposed to travel to cities to risk my health, but I am risking my health by staying here without insulin. It is incredibly stressful on top of the challenges I already face accessing and affording my insulin.
USA – Karyn In Georgia, where I live, we are also on lockdown, with cases increasing every day. The biggest issue is shortages of ventilators and protective equipment for hospital staff. Cost and affordability issues are already a problem in the USA and this will likely be an even bigger challenge now. Due to the broken healthcare system here, it’s uncertain if people will even get tested if they go to the doctor. Some people are getting billed for the test even though it has been said they shouldn’t be. Last year around this time, I went to Canada to buy a year’s supply of insulin. I have a bit more, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do without being able to travel abroad this year. I already struggle a lot with the costs. Many people are losing their jobs, and therefore losing their insurance, which will inevitably also impact their ability to afford essential medicines.