I’m a vaccinated, frontline Physician who got breakthrough Covid. Here’s what it was like.
I’m interrupting this anemically-scheduled blog series to provide a public service announcement: I’m a vaccinated, frontline physician who still ended up getting Covid. If you qualify, get your booster asap, because getting breakthrough Covid wasn’t an experience I’d want to repeat. Here’s what it felt like:
(Before we proceed, there’s a disclaimer: this blog is meant for entertainment only. By no means is this meant to be a guide for medical treatment in an attempt to Do It Yourself if you get Covid. If you develop medical issues, please seek the attention of a qualified medical professional. Also, there are Amazon affiliate links that, although not costing you any extra, may bring in a small commission to help support this blog.)
First, to answer the question everyone asked: How did I get it? One of our sons picked up Covid at school toward the end of August. That’s the only place he could’ve been exposed to it since school was the only place he’d been since the end of July. Although he has been a terrific mask wearer, a lot of his classmates aren’t. (To clarify: neither of our sons is eligible yet for Covid vaccines due to their ages.)
As soon as our son had a sore throat, we isolated the entire family away from each other and masked up. Thankfully my husband and other son never got Covid. But that may have been because out of the two of us, he was scheduled to work, and I wasn’t, so for safety’s sake, we opted to have my husband quarantine elsewhere. Even though he tested negative twice and never developed symptoms, work still quarantined him when he was supposed to work his shifts. I’m just thankful he didn’t get Covid because, despite me being vaccinated, it wasn’t exactly a cakewalk.
Two days after my son had a sore throat, he developed a mild stuffy nose. Then I got a headache. The first five days each of us had Covid, the symptoms were mild and tolerable.
The next morning I still did my usual aerobic exercise before I performed my daily Covid test (I had bought test kits earlier in the summer, back when they were still available).
The test turned positive and I texted the results to my female physician Master Mind Group. One of the cardiologists flipped out that I’d just exercised. She believes aerobic exercise helps contribute to the myocarditis she’s been seeing in younger patients. She thinks the cause is increased blood flow to the heart, causing increased viral load to that area.
I thanked her and stopped exercising for the duration of our isolation. But then I didn’t know if the severe muscle aches I got for the entire next week were from Covid (they most likely were) or from not exercising (my body tends to scream at me if I don’t exercise after two days).
Then on day eight or nine for each of us, things took a downward turn.
If I wasn’t a physician who was also Covid positive, us having Covid would have necessitated a trip to the ER for each of us and another to an Urgent Care for me. But at the end of August/Start of September, our local healthcare system was strapped to the max, and I didn’t want to expose the workers. Also, because of my Covid positive status, I wouldn’t have been allowed to accompany my son into the ER. So I just dealt with everything best I could at home.
My son got so dizzy he almost passed out. When he fell, he hit his head and then vomited all over me and the floor. Thankfully he’d been trying to lower himself to the floor while I dashed across the room with a bowl for him to vomit into, so it was a witnessed, gentle blow to the back of his head.
For a bit, my son’s heart rate and oxygen levels were terrible, but with treatment and medicines by mouth, they soon bounded back to normal. The ER, with its IV fluids and medicines, would have been faster. For fluids by mouth, I treated my son as if he had gastroenteritis and did small sips of watered down Gatorade every five minutes. (He’d lost a lot of fluid sweating through a fever—this despite me cycling Tylenol and Ibuprofen all day long.)
That day I had a brief episode of both ears hurting like crazy. The next day, I was the severely dizzy one. It lasted almost the whole day and freaked me out. I monitored myself for signs of a stroke and took my vitals throughout the day. Mindful of the potential of getting blood clots from Covid, I’d been trying to take ibuprofen with food every six hours for its blood thinning effects (I didn’t have medicine that would last 24 hours with that effect (aspirin)).
My dizziness lasted about three days, but the first day was the worst. Although throughout the illness, I had nausea, the aforementioned severe muscle aches, and horrible fatigue, I was so thankful neither one of us developed bad respiratory issues.
But I definitely got weird neurological symptoms. I still can’t smell. And around the same time of the dizziness, I developed severe right arm pain. It was similar to the type of pain I’d had in my left arm when I had the vaccine, which, at the time, I just chalked up to a local site reaction. This pain was more severe, though. For a few days, I couldn’t lift my right arm due to the intense pain. I also had limited use of my arm due to the weird inflammation there of the muscles and nerves. (I dealt with the pain with gritted teeth and Tylenol while being grateful it wasn’t a blood clot!)
The fatigue from Covid lasted almost a month. It’s only been since Wednesday of this week that I’ve been able to comfortably run two miles of intervals back at my usual pace. I’ve also suffered from some brain fog, but that also thankfully lifted toward the end of last week.
Folks, Covid is way worse than the flu.
Yet, all through it, I’ve been thankful for so many things. First, that we had Alexa dots in the boys’ rooms. Being isolated from each other for so long was a hardship on two kids that are normally two peas in a pod. To deal with the separation, they had open phone conversations on Alexa going all.day.long.
Second, I’m thankful for science and vaccines. I shudder to think of how I would have fared had I not been vaccinated. Even then, having Covid while caring for a sick child with Covid wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time on the couch. I also lost the last five pounds of my Covid weight (though I’d definitely not recommend contracting Covid as a way to lose one’s Covid pounds.)
Like other health care providers, I have been perturbed that this latest—and worst—surge was preventable. The common refrain amongst medical personnel has been: if only the adults had done their duty and gotten vaccinated to protect the children under twelve, who still don’t have access to vaccines. But that would be the subject of a different post, so I’ll leave it at that.
I’m not as angry as other healthcare providers for a few reasons. A huge reason is that I’m a Part-time worker thanks to the sacrifices we’ve made to FIRE. The other main reason is because my word for 2021 has been HEALTH in all its forms: mental, physical, and spiritual.
Looking back to March 2020, I wished I’d had a better toolbox for dealing with the tremendous stress entailed by us being two frontline physicians. Because of that realization, I’ve binged on self-improvement and health books, as well as virtual classes and conferences this past year.
As a result, I—and my whole family—are coming out of this pandemic stronger and healthier than we’ve ever been. And for that, I am beyond grateful. (I tell the kids all the time they can survive whatever Adulting is like for them because they survived being the children of two frontline doctors during a pandemic!)
Toward the end of December 2021, I plan to post a reading list of the books that have helped me the most this past year and a half, so tune back in then if you want a reading list for a healthier 2022. #YouGotThis.
(FYI: Trolls, don’t waste your time commenting, as nasty comments will be deleted. I no longer tolerate toxic people, or if I must, they’ve been pushed to the periphery of my relationships. See comment above re reading books, etc., for why I’ve taken this stance.)