It has officially been a full year (plus a week or two) since I got sick with (presumably) coronavirus. What a year. Four and half weeks acutely ill and all but bed-ridden. Four months of daily fevers and chills. By mid-December I started to notice some improvement with my energy levels, stamina and shortness of breath. Small improvements, but enough that the days where I was completely exhausted and had no energy or reserves whatsoever became the exception rather than the norm. Then, in January after I got the Pfizer vaccine, I noticed even more improvement. It’s hard to say whether this was due to the vaccine (there has been some speculation in the long-hauler community and amid doctors about improvement happening after being vaccinated) or just coincidence of timing, as I’d already noticed some lessening of symptoms a few weeks before my first dose.
Regardless of the reason, I’m thankful for the change. I can’t remember the last time I experienced the brain fog (just the everyday garden-variety of “I have four children so I never get a quiet moment to finish a thought or a sentence” confusion for me now). The days of complete exhaustion are rare now, maybe only three or four times since 2021 started. My stamina remains low: a two mile bike ride on flat ground and at a slow to moderate speed can completely wipe me out for the rest of the day, especially if I’m fighting against the wind. But some days it doesn’t. Some days it’s only a couple hours of recuperating afterward and then I can carry on with my tasks. This gives me hope.
I bought myself an automatic blood pressure machine in January. I had a manual sphygmomanometer, but it’s really quite difficult to take your own blood pressure accurately with one of those. I had this theory that maybe my blood pressure was low, and that was why I was getting short of breath still when I would walk up the stairs, and why I was still experiencing tachycardia even when at rest. So I got this blood pressure machine and started taking my blood pressure at various times of the day, while experiencing various symptoms and after various activities. I was wrong about having low blood pressure. I have HIGH blood pressure. We’re talking 135-140 over 95. Yikes, that diastolic number especially is NOT good. I’ve never had high blood pressure before. Even while eight months pregnant with Dinah, my highest was 120’s over 70’s. So then I went through all my online medical records just to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Sure enough: starting one year ago in March, my BP suddenly jumped from an average of 110’s over 70’s to the 130’s over 90’s. Every single appointment I have had in the last year, my BP is elevated.
So I made myself an appointment with my doctor to talk about this and my other ongoing symptoms: tachycardia even when at rest (although it’s improved. Where it was going up to 150 just going up a single flight of stairs, it’s now usually only 120’s), shortness of breath with minor exertion, coughing whenever I lie down, and the elevated blood pressure. She drew a bunch of labs which ended up showing that my inflammatory markers were three times the upper limit of “normal” (so I was definitely in an inflammatory state) and my cholesterol is elevated (also a new thing for me). Nothing about my diet has really changed since the pandemic started – I was already a stay at home mom for years, with access to all the snack, so there wasn’t a sudden dramatic shift in my diet to account for the lab changes. Just the ongoing long-hauler illness and reduced physical exercise (although let’s be honest, it’s not like I exercised very often before then anyway).
The decision was made to put me on a course of steroids to see if we could “shut off” this inflammatory state I’ve been living in. I spent five days taking a high dose (60mg once a day) of Prednisone. I’ve been on Prednisone before a couple times, both times on 10mg twice a day. Both of those times, I experienced a major boost in energy and wanted to organize, clean and do alllll the things. So I was very surprised to not experience that this time, with triple the amount and in a single whopping dose that would hit me all at once. What I did feel was….normal. The intense plantar fasciitis pain I’ve been living with since last March went away and I could walk pain free. I could go for walks and not feel completely drained by them. I didn’t need a nap every afternoon just to make it through until bedtime. I didn’t feel like my body was constantly fighting against something. For the first time in a year, I remembered what it felt like to just feel….normal.
Then came the day after I finished the steroids. No, I didn’t have a rebound affect that left me feeling awful. What I DID do was miss a step on the stairs in our house and massively twist my ankle. I tried to shrug it off and limped around for the rest of the day and evening before putting it up with some ice on it for awhile before bed. My hope was that it would be better in the morning. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It was worse. Really swollen and painful, actually. Zach had to take the day off work to help with the kids and getting to all their therapy appointments and school, while I went to urgent care and got my foot and ankle x-rayed. Interesting finding: I have an extra bone in my foot (presumably in both feet). It’s not a spur, but rather a complete extra bone coming off the heel. The doc said I would have never known unless I was a ballerina and tried to go en pointe.
Anyway, nothing is broken. There was a lot of visible swelling in this capsule around my ankle. The doc gave me a supportive walking boot (which I call my moon boot) and instructions to ice it frequently, take it easy and come back for an MRI in three weeks if it isn’t better by then so they can see if anything was torn. On the bright side, the boot makes it possible for me to hobble around (it still hurts a bit if I do too much walking). On the downside, the kids are now on spring break and we can’t go anywhere or do anything because I can’t walk much. I had all these hopes for hikes and nature walks and bike rides, especially if the steroids had a lasting impact, but now I’m back to long stretches on the couch or bed.
At least I know this injury is relatively minor and temporary. If I’m good to myself and let it heal, rather than rushing it, I’ll be back on my feet (literally) in a short period of time. And I still have the hope that the steroids will have been successful in helping with the long-hauler symptoms. And the week before Spring Break, the kids started back to full time, in person school (sweet hallelujah!) so I can find time for walks and bike rides with Dinah and gentle ways of improving my stamina and health. There are reasons for optimism still, even if I’m currently frustrated and annoyed.