Saturday, December 12, 2020

Covid Healing: What did mine look like? How does it affect you?

Sheri and I are both feeling better every day from our recent bout with Covid. I continue to have a mild cough 13 days past my non-contagious clearance from my doctor, but it is getting better every day. My cardio is pretty crummy! Just one month ago I was running the stairs at the Oceanside amphitheater, lunging for a ½ mile, and lifting weights 3 times a week! My Apple Watch health app was really making me feel good about my fitness! One month later, I get winded pretty easily and have had to take it slow and not over do it. That’s not my style, but that is my reality! I can’t wait to start working out again! Monday I’ll start the workouts, start slow, and work my way back up to great fitness!


With all of the Covid fatigue going around, and the vast increase in Covid cases, I have a few million dollar questions. Am I immune to getting Covid again? Am I immune to giving Covid to someone else?


I have to be honest. After getting Covid, I was looking for some kind of way to explain Covid to others. I didn’t want my friends to avoid me. I didn’t want everyone to be fearful of hanging around me. So…I was kind of looking for some kind of “Marketing Slogan” that I could repeat to others to make them feel safe. Here is what I came up with. “I can’t give it, and I can’t get”…at least for a while. I also tacked on “I’m probably the safest person to be around right now.” A few of you reading this might have actually heard those words, although there are only about 4 people who fall into that category.


Here is the problem with my marketing slogan. Some of it is based on the latest scientific data, and part of it is at best, an overconfident guess that science just doesn’t have an answer for yet.


As far as getting Covid again, scientific data is showing that the large majority of people with mild to medium cases of Covid, produce antibodies that are protective. All of the best data says that you have these antibodies for about 60 days. There is some data that suggests the antibodies may start decreasing between 60-90 days. So…during that time period, I’m pretty protected from getting Covid a second time. My body has what it needs to fight it off if I was exposed to it. Of course there are always exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of cases develop protective antibodies. That is good news for Sheri and I as we don’t want to have to go through that again!


Now here is the challenging part that we don’t have a lot of scientific data for yet. “Can I pass Covid to someone else?” Well, on one hand, if you don’t have Covid, you can’t pass it. On another hand, what if I did get exposed to Covid again? Well, technically Covid could enter into my body, and my body would fight it off. That’s good news for me, but what if I’m carrying Covid again for any amount of time? It seems to me, that if it’s in my body, I could potentially pass it to someone without knowing it. That is a very sobering thought! Science just does not have the appropriate amount of data to address this point yet, so taking a conservative approach seems the best path forward.


Another piece of good news for those who have had Covid, is that even when the antibodies decrease, we all still have these little fighter cells called B and T cells that have good memory. We have some killer T cells that know how to attack this virus, therefore offering another level of protection. Perhaps a future Covid case in me would be less severe. While that is a good thought, B and T cell protection can vary with people so we don’t really know how protected we are. Again, a conservative path forward seems best.


So…what does that mean for my behaviors? First, I’m dropping the marketing slogan of “I can’t get it or give it.” That is just a bad idea! Second, I’m not going to walk around being overconfident. I will not stop wearing masks, social distancing, washing my hands, or sanitizing. I’m going to KEEP doing these things. Why you might ask? Because I care about you…even if I don’t know you…and especially if I do know you! The last thing I want to do is get overconfident, be exposed again to Covid, and accidentally  pass it along without knowing it, especially if I am asymptomatic! 

Sheri and I will keep our circles tight. We’ll keep wearing masks and social distancing because we care about others! It’s just too easy of a thing to do.


We personally can’t wait to get vaccinated ASAP! I’m seeing a lot of people saying they are not going to get vaccinated. That is your choice, but for us, we want to put this virus in the rear view mirror, just like Polio, the Measles, and Yellow Fever. After we get our vaccine, we’ll be able to get back to normal! 


I miss smiles that are hidden behind masks! I miss hugs! I miss shaking hands and high fives! I miss it all. The one thing I hope we all can commit to is being good finishers! We’ve only got a few months left until we all have the option of getting vaccinated. Let’s continue to wear our masks, socially distance, wash our hands, and sanitize often. Do it because you care about others! When I see you wearing a mask, you tell me that you care about me, even if you don’t know me. That’s what I want to do for you! 


One more thing, if you wear a mask, please cover your nose and mouth, and wash those masks often! The purpose is so you keep your breath to yourself. Don’t be selfish, be selfless! Life always works out better that way! And when it comes to being selfless or selfish, ask yourself the question…”How’s that working out for you?”


Let’s be safe out there! Bring on the vaccines!

Sunday, December 6, 2020

My Journey With COVID 19

My journey with Covid was a rough one. Both my wife Sheri and I went through it. What I want to do in this writing is to give anyone who reads it a little glimpse into our Covid journey. I will share our symptoms, timelines, and juggling match of emotions as we battled through Covid.

My journey started with a trip to Africa to celebrate bringing border to border, basic clean water access to the entire country of Liberia. That trip was awesome! We made it to the finish line!


Before we left, both Sheri and I had to test Negative for Covid in order to even get on an International Flight. Liberia required a negative test within 72 hours before entering the country. Both Sheri and I had our nasal swab test and tested negative. We were cleared to go and brought our lab certifications with us on the trip.


On the trip, we were very careful wearing a mask, social distancing, and using sanitizer. We were traveling with a team of 14 people and all of them had tested negative so we all assumed we were in the clear. I hope you keep reading because I’m going to give you some information that may cause you to stir up a little healthy dose of fear inside of you.


The 8 day trip went well, and we all got on our flight from Liberia to Brussels, Belgium, then to Washington Dulles, and then to San Diego. Sheri and I were able to use points to upgrade our flights to business class. We wanted to do this as we’d be even more spaced out on the plane, plus we’d be able to rest well each way.


We got home on Saturday, November 14th. On Sunday, we went back and got another Covid test. The test turned up Negative. We felt like we had accomplished our objective and were safely in the clear. On Monday, Sheri and I went to lunch with my dad and her mom. We felt very empowered after having had a negative Covid test the day before. We all wore our masks in the car as we traveled, and had lunch at a little outdoor diner. During lunch, we took our masks off to eat. We thought “all was good.” We traveled back home with our masks on in the car.


Tuesday and Wednesday went by. We were busy doing laundry, taking our luggage and travel items back to our storage, grocery shopping etc. We did not see our parents Tuesday and Wednesday. We thought all was good.


And then it happened. I didn’t feel quite right on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning November 19th, I’d developed a mild fever and chills. I also had a tiny cough. I decided to get another Covid test. Keep in mind that these tests were costing about $150 a pop.


I went to a local lab that offered a variety of Covid tests. Based on my mild symptoms, the lab tech directed me towards a finger prick test, that was kind of like a pregnancy test. They pricked my finger, stuck it into a little plastic test strip, then after 15 minutes, a line would appear if I tested Positive. The lab said they would call me in 30 minutes with a result.


After 1 hour and a half hours, I still had not heard from the lab so I called them. The lab tech said that he had called in a second opinion. They both said they “thought” they could see a very slight line. They couldn’t be sure, but due to their vagueness, they had to mark my test “positive.” Well…that was not good enough for me. The lab tech said that I should come back in and get the “gold standard” nasal swab test. He gave me a little discount on this test. They would rush the results for me and I would have them in 24 hours. I did get that test, and 24 hours later, I had my results…POSITIVE for Covid!


Many thoughts went through my head. “When did I get the virus?” Later that day, I would get some information that was stunning. One other person on our Africa team had tested positive. Note that I did not find out my results until Friday. This person seemed like they were a day ahead of me. They do not live in California, but we were on the same flights from Liberia to Brussels, and from Brussels to Washington DC. From there we parted company. With contact tracing, the best we can tell is that we caught the virus on one of those flights, or at an airport on a layover. 


Because we all thought the team was in the clear, we did not wear our masks around the team members while we sat at the Starbucks in the airport. Now here is the crazy part. Only myself and this other person, were the only ones who actually ended up getting Covid. I then passed it to Sheri. Nobody in Liberia got it, nor did the other 11 team members, and neither my dad or mother-in-law got it. Keep in mind that our team members were all on the same flights back to Washington DC.


On Thursday, November 19th, I began counting the days to try to get to 10 days after I first showed symptoms. The rules from the Doctor and CDC (both of who interviewed us) was that we would not be contagious after 10 days from when we first showed symptoms, plus 24 hours of NO fever without using any fever reducers like Tylenol. These 10 days would bring a roller coaster of emotions and sickness!


Our family and a small group of people knew of our sickness. We decided to keep everything off Facebook. We’re glad we did that because it was hard keeping up with the questions from the few people that did know we were sick. We just felt terrible during our sick days! Keep in mind that we’re staying in a 200 square foot studio apartment, so Sheri and I had no place to escape. We have a bed in the main room, a small kitchenette, and a small bathroom. That’s it. It was inevitable that Sheri would catch this virus. That broke my heart! She was about 1 day behind me with all the symptoms I’m going to write about.


Here is GIANT lesson #1. A negative covid test means that on the day you got the results, you did not have enough virus replicated in your system to test positive YET. That DOES NOT mean that the virus is not in you!I tested negative on Sunday, the day I got back from Africa. I had to have been exposed to the virus between Friday and Saturday when traveling back to the USA. I was carrying the virus, even though I did not have any symptoms! That is a very scary, humbling thought! By the grace of God, neither of our parents got Covid.  By the grace of God, Sheri and I did not go on a planned retreat Monday through Thursday, where we most certainly would have created a super spreader event! The better part of wisdom said “don’t go on the retreat.” Thank God (literally) we listened!


Here’s the deal. Let me say it again…just because you test “Negative” for Covid on one day, that doesn’t mean you don’t still carry the Covid virus. It can take 2-14 days sometimes to manifest itself. We tested “Negative” on Sunday, but positive on Thursday! Don’t miss this point.  You could feel fine right now, but totally be not only carrying the Covid virus, but could totally pass it onto someone else! Sheri and I were lucky. Others we know were not so lucky. They unknowingly passed it to loved ones. Your worst nightmare is passing Covid onto someone else, especially someone you love!


Lesson #2. Wearing a mask tells others that you care about them!
 You are trying to keep your breath vapors from infecting other people. The challenge for all of us is that when we don’t feel any symptoms, we don’t think we can pass Covid onto anyone else. That makes us feel like “masks are dumb and not necessary.” The reality is that I had at least 3 days of the ability to infect others between my negative Covid test on Sunday, and my symptoms showing up on Thursday. Fortunately, our schedules “accidentally” had us on quarantine and we did not infect anyone. Again, this was not by intentional design on our part.  We lucked out! I would have been inclined to read too much into a negative covid test and go on an infecting spree without knowing it! Testing negative can definitely bring false security!


What did our days look like going through Covid? Many of you who read this won’t have known anyone with Covid, though that is getting more rare. I did have many people with lots of questions and they told me that I was the first real person they knew who actually got Covid. I’ll do my best to paint the picture for you of our days. Keep in mind that we ended up having a mild to medium version of Covid. We never had to go to the hospital, although we were pretty stressed with the fear of the unknown. Every day we asked ourselves, “will this be the day we have to go to Urgent Care or the Hospital?” We just didn’t know.


Thursday morning, November 19th. I woke up with tingly skin…chills. I had a mild temperature of 99.1 and a little cough. My temp would peak at 99.6 that day. Tylenol knocked down the chills and temperature. I took my Covid test this day.


Friday my chills continued. I got my Positive Covid results. Tylenol continued to bring relief of the chills. Saturday and Sunday continued with mild chills and a mild temperature. On Sunday night, I began to cough more productively which was kind of gross. I could feel Covid starting to affect my lungs more. My cough started getting worse. I knew that Covid could really attack the lungs so I was getting a little concerned. My temperature approached 100 degrees on Sunday.


Monday and Tuesday, I continued with the same pattern, mild chills, a temperature approaching 100 degrees, and a worsening cough.


Wednesday night my fever spiked to 101 and I woke up in the night totally soaked with sweat! I had to change my clothes and put a towel on the sheets. It was gross. I ended up having to change my shirt one more time that night as I was just sweating like crazy. I thought when I woke up the next day that maybe my fever would be totally gone. That was not the case as I hovered at 100 degrees, still had chills, and my cough was worse. 


By Thursday, Thanksgiving day, I still have fever, chills and cough. My lungs were starting to feel like they were soaking in paste. I could take short breaths, but deep breaths threw me in to coughing spasms. Fortunately, I had an inhaler which brought me some temporary relief of the coughing spasms. I don’t know what I would have done if I wouldn’t have had my inhaler. I’m sure I would have had to go to Urgent Care. On Thursday night, I had a bout of diarrhea which was a new symptom. That was my only time with diarrhea.


Friday my fever spiked to 101, I had chills and my cough was still productive.


I should say that this was the moment when the fear of the unknown started to really kick in! Would this be the day that I’d have to go to Urgent Care? Friday night, I was up all night coughing! It was frustrating and a bit concerning.


Saturday, November 26th, more of the same. Fever, chills, coughing.

Sunday I woke up with no fever, but still had a cough. I had no chills, and my fever stayed in the normal range. Sunday was day 10 since I first had symptoms of Covid. I was 24 hours without a fever! Could this be the end?


Monday I still had a cough, but no more fever or chills. It was on this day that my doctor said I was officially “non-contagious!” I felt so good about this idea, but because my cough was still around, I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. I decided I’d wait a few more days before I would un-quarantine myself, just to make sure I couldn’t get our parents sick! 


After a few days, I ventured out to Walmart, and then took a rest. We were out of clothes so I gathered my strength and went to the Laundromat and washed 4 loads of clothes. That just about did me in! I was super gassed out after that day! Even though I wasn’t contagious, my lungs had taken a beating!


As I write this, it is Sunday night, December 6th. It’s been a week since my doctor gave me clearance as non-contagious. Sheri and I went to church today. We distanced ourselves from everyone, even though we were safe. For a period of time, we can’t give Covid to anyone, and we can’t get it. We have antibodies that protect us. We will continue to treat this concept conservatively.


So what did I learn from all of this? Well…refer back to the big lessons learned section. I wish that everyone would totally comprehend these lessons and embrace a life of selflessness and wear a mask, socially distance, wash your hands, and sanitize. Remember that when you wear a mask, you keep your breath to yourself, and you will dramatically decrease the odds of passing Covid onto someone else. Also remember that even though you don’t feel symptoms that you could very well be carrying Covid! Please don’t minimize this fact! 


Even though I am the safest person to hang out with now, I will continue to wear a mask for you. I will wear a mask for everyone in the grocery store, not because they are making me wear one, but because I care about you. I will keep my circle small because when I come in contact with those outside my tight circle, I inherit their habits, which are not always good. I simply don’t know how everyone else behaves when I don’t see them. And…I personally know lots of people who are simply Covid fatigued! They don’t buy the mask thing, think that Covid is some political weapon and is not real. Let me be clear on this one, I do believe that Covid was unfortunately politicized this year. But the reality is…Covid is REAL, it sucks, and it is killing people! It all feels really distant until you get it, or someone you love gets it. That’s when our “super human” “you can’t tell me what to do” attitude, all crumbles to pieces.


My prayer for all two people who read this…is that you will be selfless and wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands regularly, and sanitize. If you do, we’ll knock this disease back down.


I am 100% going to get a vaccine as soon as it’s possible! I hope you all will do it so that just like polio, the measles, and yellow fever, we can put this virus to rest for good!


Thank you God for the blessing of healing! I promise that this will be my most grateful Christmas ever! I’m thankful to celebrate God’s love for the world, that he sent his son Jesus to be the Savior of the world! I need a Savior and am so glad to have one! Stay safe out there! Love God, and love others! Make this a selfless Christmas season!