by R. K. Braswell
This article isn’t really here to change your mind(s) on the pandemic. Why? Because if you are dense enough to believe it’s fake then there ‘s simply no hope for you at this point.
The virus isn’t a political issue but one of morality and respect for one’s fellow citizens. And I have been on the receiving end of a stranger who was infected and had the gall to go out into a crowded area and spread the virus to God knows who besides me.
Let’s start at the beginning. It was near the very start of summer break and usually my mom and I try to visit my grandma twice a year. We hadn’t seen her yet and we knew the virus probably wouldn’t be going away. We decided that before it got any worse, we would visit her.
We took what could be considered an extreme amount of caution. We had the gloves, masks, and disinfectant wipes. Now, we didn’t get sick on our way there and my grandma is still healthy; but we believe it was on our way back when I was infected. Admittedly, we didn’t take as much precaution on the return flight, and that was indeed a fault of our own.
It was three to five days after we got home that I started to feel sick.
Originally, it was a very small fever and a headache. Of course, though, it began to get worse. It soon turned into a stomachache and occasional chest pains. A week into this illness, we decided I should get tested. And — this will be no surprise to you — I tested positive.
Luckily, neither of my parents got sick. They were even able to be around me without masks and come in contact with me. None of us know why this was possible. As I started to get more and more sick, the headaches began to make me lose consciousness. I could barely keep my eyes open for more than an hour at a time. I was so tired and in so much pain that I couldn’t even stomach watching TV.
Eventually, it got so bad that I couldn’t manage to leave my bedroom for anything. On the rare occasion that I was hungry, I’d have to use what little voice I had to whine and call for my parents. At this point, I was living only on warm tea with honey and rather disgusting popsicles.
My bedroom is on the second floor of my house, and the bathroom is maybe 10 feet away from my door. With the amount of pain I was in, I couldn’t even walk to that.
My parents had to bring me a portable toilet because I could barely walk. For the next two weeks, that was all I was able to use. I had no sleep schedule and no real form of entertainment without feeling some sort of pain. The longer I had it, the more depressed I began to feel. It turned almost into a daily occurrence where I would ask my Mom how much longer I would be sick.
She gave me the same answer every time: “Normally it’s only two weeks long and you start to feel better.” After about the second week, it only seemed to feel worse.
One day, I found myself in so much pain that I couldn’t even lie in bed. Normally, I would be able to sleep somewhat, and relax with my back propped up against a stack of pillows. At this point, though, I was in even more pain when it came to simply breathing.
I tried to lie down on my carpeted floor to see if somehow the pressure would help relieve my pain. For a few minutes it did, but then it came back and began to ache more. Even though the floor was carpeted, I didn’t exactly like lying on it.
At some point, my mom came to check on me. She offered to let me lie on her bed. Her side of the bed had a wooden board underneath the mattress; it provided stability and light pressure for my back. I managed to somewhat lie on my side, though not without pain. My mom offered to let me watch TV in her room. Being together made me feel a bit better since I didn’t like being alone in my room for long periods of time.
I wasn’t exactly feeling any better, though. At one point, my mom asked me what type of pain I was in. I told her it was a sharp pain on the right side of my chest. She then immediately began looking for her phone to call the emergency room. At first, I didn’t know why. Originally, I didn’t want her to call or take me to the ER.
This wouldn’t be my first time there this year. I was there at the beginning of the year for an infection in my arm that caused me to have a sling, wrist pain, and an ungodly amount of Advil.
I was worried that it would cost too much and she would have to worry about insurance. I don’t understand much about that stuff yet, but I do remember how sad my mom looked the first time we went, and how stressed she seemed with the entire interaction. Seeing her so upset made me feel a bit guilty.
But on this day, she was set on taking me to the hospital. I was really in too much pain to question her judgement or deny it. I couldn’t even get out of bed to get myself fully dressed, so she brought me my clothes. I could only put on a dress, underwear and slippers. Nothing else.
The hospital that we went to wasn’t even a mile away. We went to the ER, but I couldn’t go in immediately because I had tested positive for Covid. It was slow-paced and quiet while I waited. The pain made me feel like I was there for over half an hour waiting, even though it was probably only 10 minutes.
After waiting, a male nurse came out with a wheelchair. I was taken to the back area immediately after I sat down. At this point, my memory is a bit foggy on the exact order of things. I remember having to have my vitals checked by a doctor / nurse with dyed blue hair who was very kind, and I was waiting for some more time.
After the original checkup I was taken to a private room.
I lay down in the hospital bed where a series of monitors were attached to me. I was also given an IV and an oxygen tube to help with my breathing. I lay in that room for God knows how long.
Nurses and doctors occasionally checked in on me and my mom was definitely getting a bit annoyed with the waiting. Apparently, I was there so long that she left around 9 p.m. (at this point, we had been there about 5 hours). She left to go and grab me some clothes and anything I needed because I was going to be there for an extended stay.
The fluorescent lights made it difficult to sleep but I believe I managed to get at least one hour in that uncomfortable bed. In the ER there are no windows, so I didn’t know what time it was. I assume it was around 2 a.m. that a doctor with two nurses came to transport me to the ICU.
Because I was 17, I still had to be in a pediatric ward. It was rather colorful and decorated to be uplifting, but at the same time it was almost more depressing to be there. The lights were off for the most part, because it was so early, and as I was lying in the bed, I looked around to see my surroundings. occasionally I would see those hospital cribs, the ones with bars that were maybe the size of a full-grown adult and had very tiny babies lying in them.
Once I was taken to my room, I was not spared those bright lights. They moved me from the hospital bed that I was already in to a new one that was set up in the room. I was still on the oxygen tube that I could take in and out. I was still able, at this time, to drink water and lightly chew on ice cubes.
It felt like there were at least five different people in the room, not including my mother and me, setting me up. I didn’t know what exactly they were doing there; it was just noise and talking about things I had never heard of before.
Occasionally, the doctor would ask me some sort of medical question, to which my raspy voice would try to respond. I remember that within the first minutes of me being in that room, my blood had to be drawn and I had a chest x-ray. These two things would become daily occurrences for the rest of my stay.
At this point, I have no real sense of time. Some things were fast and unmemorable and some things felt like forever and were ingrained into my mind. On what I guess was my first real day, I sat there watching cartoons as the hospital staff did their usual checkups and tests.
I believe it was the second day that anything noticeable happened. Now, I don’t quite remember when this part happened, but at some point, most likely when I was unconscious, I was given a breathing tube. It’s a long plastic tube that is hooked to your face and makes it impossible to drink or eat. However, it did seem to help with breathing; if you subtract the pain of having such a thing in your mouth.
I was also not allowed to eat or swallow any of my usual medications. This meant they had to find substitutes for everything. If you know what people mean when they say someone is a vegetable, I’d say it was close — but I was still alive and functioning / still able to move my body. However, everything else was done through tubes.
I was struggling to deal with the fact that I couldn’t properly communicate what I needed because I couldn’t talk. So, I started to use the notepad on my phone to type out what I needed — though looking back, none of what I typed seemed coherent. Either way, it seemed to somewhat help … at times.
At one point I had a particular nurse. She didn’t seem mean, but she had a very heavy accent. The fact that she had an accent didn’t bother me; it was the fact that it seemed like some people on her team couldn’t fully understand what she was saying. This honestly scared me.
I was getting close to a scheduled surgery to help remove what turned out to be a blood clot in my lung. The only other surgery I’d ever really had was for my tonsils when I was six. I was worried simply that if they couldn’t properly understand each other, when it came time to perform surgery, how could they expect to do it properly?
This wasn’t the first time I had a blood clot. I was around 10 when I had my first one. Similar pain, constant vomiting and sleeping. When we got to the hospital, it turned out I had a blood clot in my brain. As a kid, I didn’t know what any of this meant. All I really remember is being told that it was impressive for me to survive this, as many adults didn’t have the same outcome as I did.
So when I heard that I’d gotten another blood clot and this one would actually need surgery, I may not have been as scared as I was when I was 10, but it definitely was far from ideal.
The situation with the nurses was easily resolved and it didn’t matter at the end of the day: they wouldn’t be the one performing the surgery. When it was about time for me to go into surgery, I expected to see one of those dramatic operating rooms that are always shown on TV. Instead, I just remember asking when I was going to leave for surgery, and then waking back up in my hospital room. Apparently, they put you under before they even take you out of the room, and I remembered nothing after that.
I thought it wouldn’t be bad, but apparently the surgery one didn’t work. They were not able to remove the blood clot on the first try and they would have to try a different method. Luckily, the second one worked. I still had to be in the ICU for two more days before the God-awful breathing tube and almost everything else could be detached.
On the fifth day they finally took the tube out and it hurt like hell. And let me tell you, I never realized how much I appreciated water until then.
I was still in that hospital bed when they decided to move to a normal hospital room. They pushed me on that annoyingly small bed through a maze of hallways and elevators. I’m not sure why hospitals have to be this confusing, but I guess they have to be.
After it felt like a few bizarre back hallways, we got to a “normal” hall and there was a long wall of windows. The sun was high and it was mid-morning to early afternoon and it was the first clue I’d had to what time of day it was, since I wasn’t able to see the sun for the past five days. As I looked out the windows, I could see the highway and a series of buildings on the other side of it. Maybe it was because I had been staring at the same thing, dull and boring for so many days on end, but the highway was oddly beautiful.
It took maybe 10 minutes for me to be brought to a new room. This time, they didn’t change the beds I was using, they simply set up the bed I was already using. I was also able to now use the small oxygen tubes that went up a person’s nose; I found that to be more comfortable. It was a normal hospital room and I was there for maybe four days —though as always, it felt much longer.
If anything, this room was more uncomfortable than the last. It was a bit bigger and it even had its own bathroom, which at first, I was not able to use. Not to mention the fact that I hadn’t showered this entire time. I wasn’t even able to stand in the shower, when I finally got the chance, but it was a relief nonetheless.
I was able to now walk a few feet without feeling that I would fall over and die. It was progress, though it was small. In a normal hospital room, there are many more lights, when it was dark at least, all multi colored and they only turned on at night which was pretty scary. I was alone in a strange room with foreign, strange lights. The constant beeping of the monitor, the loud sharp flat lining noise it made when I had to detach certain things to move around, the odd red-brick building that I could see out of the window looked like an abandoned and decrepit warehouse, the Nickelodeon shows they play at 2 a.m.: None of it was any help.
It was around 4 a.m. that a nurse would always come in to deliver medicine. I could physically feel it going into my veins, which was far from comfortable. Sometimes I could feel the scar tissue from my surgery stretch if I took too deep a breath or moved too quickly in bed. The pain would linger for hours. I would only be able to sleep during the day.
My dad visited me from morning to noon and there was about an hour in between before my mom would come. Having them there just made me feel a bit better. Every time I was alone, I started to realize, I was getting to the age where I couldn’t always have them visit me. hospitals really have a way of putting one’s mortality into perspective.
In the afternoon I basically always fell asleep when my dad was there. He wasn’t necessarily the most entertaining, but he was quite comforting as I could tell he was trying to make me feel better and finally spend time with me. Even if I didn’t fully tell him the truth, that I wasn’t always interested in listening to his music, or playing a card game with him, I liked seeing how happy he was, that I seemed to pay him some attention, which I don’t do enough of.
And when my mom came, she would normally be working while I was watching TV. Near the end of the night, before she had to leave, we would at least watch one movie together. I believe my favorite movie with her was “Abominable” (DreamWorks).
The recovery wasn’t any better. I had to use a cane to walk and I was still tired beyond belief and I dreaded leaving my room, as I would practically collapse on my bed after walking up the stairs.
But it got better. I enjoyed being outside and going on car rides just to being able to see everything that I’d missed. Eventually, I began to have physical therapy. At first it was tiring and my O2 was constantly monitored. However, with the therapist’s help, I managed to get better rather quickly, but it was still 10 weeks and two sessions a week that I would have to go.
Looking back, I don’t fully remember how bad it was. I do remember I came out alive from it.
The same cannot be said for over 100,000 families that have lost a loved one from this virus. If you are reading this and simply don’t understand enough about the virus, or you want to know more about it, then perhaps a first hand account of the mental and physical pain a person endured when having it could implore you to take this entire thing more seriously.
I don’t care what your political beliefs are, but science, death and public misery shouldn’t be taken lightly when at any point it could happen to your family, too.
Thank you for sharing your story and hopefully changing the minds of any refusing to accept responsibility in ending the pain and suffering you and millions of others have suffered. This is a gallant act.