My Covid Hospital Stay (Part 2)
Editor's note: This is part 2 of a two-part series. Be sure to read part 1!
Looking back, I can now see how everything aligned. Being in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, people have been asked to shelter in place. It is a time of isolation, and for those of us with COPD, we take it a bit more seriously knowing that this is a respiratory virus.
You are on your own
The last doctor I talked to was in December 2019, just before the world closed shop. There is still relatively little known about COVID, but doctors are learning. We only know that hospitals are full, ventilators are scarce, and people are dying. We remain in deep isolation and fear leaving our homes. There is some preliminary evidence that increasing Vitamin D and calcium has some success in COVID patients, so I began taking a few extra drops a day.
In July, my crazy confusing symptoms began. I awakened with so much pain in my feet that I could hardly walk. My husband, God bless his soul, pushed me to and from the bathroom using my walker. The pain cleared up in about a week and things returned to normal. It was a short-lived recovery as the other foot was affected next. The pain went from one foot to the other continuously over the summer. I was unable to walk or sleep, and I was so fatigued that every time I blinked I felt like I could go to sleep.
By the fall we were into the second wave and another lockdown as the COVID numbers soared in our area. I was unable to see my children or my grandson. Depression began to set in. I tried extremely hard not to go down that hole, but this time I could not fight it. Crying frequently, I was unable to pinpoint the problem. Still having no blood work done, my doctor prescribed me antidepressants in hopes that I would be able to control the pain in my feet and be able to sleep at night.
Finally, I was sent for an ultrasound and x-ray of my foot. I was diagnosed with Morton’s neuroma, a painful nerve condition of the foot caused by having bunions and hammertoes. Accepting it for what it is without question, I began using toe spacers to help manage the pain, but it was excruciating. Some mornings I could hardly get to the bathroom.
Overall, I was feeling the worst I have felt in a long time. My oxygen levels were all over the place, up one minute and plunging the next. My heart rate was continually high, and I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. My exercise was continually broken down into bite-size chunks which allowed me to manage both my 02 and heart rate.
January and February 2021
I began the year by trying desperately to get in touch with a doctor. They are scarce and getting a call back is nearly impossible. Getting blood work done was out of the question as most labs were closed. I went on like usual but I hadn’t slept in months, my feet were painful up to my ankles, and my depression was worsening.
Finally, I was experiencing chest pain and I called an ambulance. Once in the emergency, I had immediate blood work that showed my potassium was negligible and I had so much calcium and vitamin D in my blood that it was at a dangerous point. Doctors told me that in another week I would have had a major heart event. This was the probable cause of the pain in my feet, my insomnia, and my irregular heartbeat.
I tried to self-manage without the guidance of medical professionals, but it was impossible. Managing our day-to-day symptoms by how we feel doesn’t always tell the entire story. It is necessary to know the chemistry behind what is happening and the best way to do that is through blood work. I learned a valuable lesson about taking supplements without doctors' orders. Too much of anything can kill you.
Do you have a COPD exacerbation tool kit?