Patient Care Vignette
A Patient’s Personal Account of COVID-19 (produced with patient’s permission).
I became infected with COVID-19 early April 2020, when I was 68 years old. I had recently retired after 38 years of service as a pharmacist, and was in good health, although I had type 2 diabetes.
In mid-March, my son became sick, but his COVID result came back negative and I let my guard down—my mask came off. After 2 weeks, my son felt better, but I had a fever and was bedridden. By day 3, I could not breathe, and was diagnosed with COVID-19 at a local ER. I was to be sent to a nursing home, but my daughter was able to arrange a transfer to my former hospital of employment. I was admitted to a COVID ward; however, before intake was complete, I needed to go to the ICU because I couldn’t breathe. I vaguely remember a voice telling me my numbers were dropping and that they would have to intubate me. I said, “do what you have to do….”
When I woke up in the ICU, I was told 5 weeks had passed. I was on a ventilator with very high-dose sedation. I slowly began to survey my surroundings and realized that I was connected to oxygen, multiple monitors, IV access, and that I had a tracheotomy and G-tube. It is a strange feeling waking up after a medically induced coma, and it took me a while to grasp my bearings and deal with the weird dreams that I experienced.
After 2 more weeks of excellent ICU care, I was transferred to the inpatient ward. To my surprise and delight, I had lost 23 pounds, but my legs and thighs had become painfully thin and I felt very weak. It was a huge challenge to stand up and ambulate daily with physical therapist (PT) and occupational therapist (OT). Besides my tracheostomy and G-tube, I also had bed sores on my lower back, and a discolored chin (black).
My trach tube was removed while on the ward, and I was eventually transferred to Kessler Acute Rehab and underwent intense physical and occupational therapy. I was sent home with a walker, wheelchair, and commode; at home, visiting nurse services saw me for one month. I was not able to climb stairs, so I slept in a bed in my living room. I continued to receive PT and OT at home, and then as an outpatient for 6 months. Thankfully, my daughter stayed with me for 2 months, helping me with dressing changes and G-tube irrigation. I have never felt so helpless in my life.
COVID-19 left me weak, with increased heart rate and blood pressure, and no appetite. A hypertensive crisis landed me in the ER in September, and I was placed on medication. I had to force myself to eat, gradually increasing my protein intake. Despite being on a regular diet, my G-tube could ...