November 16, 2021

COVID: The Road of a Long Hauler… part 6

Areia Cobb
Photo By:Photo Attributed

Within moments of taking pain meds, I started to shiver uncontrollably to the point that my teeth chattered.

The Night of Surgery

We made it home around 10:30 and I was so exhausted. My dad met us in the garage and helped me upstairs. I was so weak that walking was even more of a task than before. Once in bed, I quickly learned that laying back would not be possible as my breathing became instantly labored. Tears filled my eyes and fear my thoughts because I knew my inhaler wasn’t at arm’s reach. What were only seconds seemed like minutes as I gasped for air. Thankfully, my husband was close behind with my purse which had my inhaler inside. With my purse in hand, I quickly retrieved my inhaler to get some relief. I should have listened a few days earlier when my big sis told me to order a wedge pillow… It will definitely be on tomorrow’s to-do list.

Now that I could breathe, I was ready to change and go to sleep. If only it were that easy. I suddenly found myself needing help to do everything. My walker was next to my bed, and after being helped up, I used it to make it into the bathroom. I then needed help changing clothes and getting back to my bed. The weakness was more than I had imagined and was accompanied by pain. I have a high pain tolerance but made sure I filled the prescription from the doctor beforehand, just in case. More than easing the pain, I think I was secretly hoping it would magically make this weakness vanish. On the contrary… Within moments of taking it, I started to shiver uncontrollably to the point that my teeth chattered. That was the first and last time it entered my body.

Recovery Begins

The next day some of my family came over to see how I was doing. They brought food, helped where help was needed, and just spent time. One of my cousins even went to the store and picked up the wedge pillow I had looked up online earlier in the day. It was great having them there and I felt good knowing they had my back. Over the next couple of weeks, I saw progress in my scar healing; however, my voice was still hoarse, and my legs were still weak. Everything I read before surgery said 95% of patients felt as good as new almost immediately, and since I had bought into my weakness and fatigue being from my parathyroid and not COVID, I expected to be in the 95%. I was very sad to say, that I was not.  It was two weeks after surgery, and I was weaker than before. I could not make it upstairs without assistance or walk more than a few steps without feeling as if I was going to pass out. I was devastated! School restarts in less than a month, and I feel worse than I did before the previous year ended. Not sure what to do, I called the doctor’s office to speak to my not-so-favorite Endocrinologist. However, being that it was the Monday after the 4th of July, he was out, and I had to leave a message.

Appointments

Today is Wednesday and I must go to a hospital in the city for my Speech Evaluation.  I told my husband, Kevin, I could drive myself, but he was adamant that wasn’t happening. I didn’t want Preston to miss practice, so he came with us and I told his Coach he would be late. As with everything in Atlanta, the hospital looked like a full-blown construction site. After navigating through the madness, we circled the parking deck searching for a spot near the elevators. To no avail, we settled and parked in an open spot to not risk being late for my appointment. Thankfully, my walker doubles as a wheelchair. Being inside the hospital was like being at the start of a maze and the office where my appointment was located was the finish line. Finally there, I was exhausted and of course out of breath. To my surprise, my appointment began with a vocal procedure. The doctors needed to see if anything abnormal was going on with my vocal cords and didn’t have access to Kaiser’s system to view their results. Remember the discomfort during the first procedure and the headache after, I was not looking forward to this. I mentioned the drops used previously and my headache to the nurse prepping for the procedure, so she used numbing ointment this time. After the procedure, the doctor basically gave the same speech as Dr. Smith. He then added his thoughts on my overall fatigue being the biggest cause of my hoarseness.  He explained the effort that it takes to breathe and to talk and how not having energy weighs heavily on the things we take for granted daily. He was confident that my voice would get stronger as my body does. After speaking to him, the Speech Pathologist informed me that Kaiser only approved the consultation, so they had to reach out to them concerning services. Once services were approved, I could expect a follow-up from a different Speech Pathologist to set up my sessions. We then practiced some vocal exercises that I could do daily to help strengthen my vocal cords in the meantime. It was suddenly difficult to do something as simple as blowing out to make a sound through my lips. I could no longer hold in my tears as I was overcome with emotion. I cried in frustration in front of this stranger and she comforted me.

On the 8th I received a call back from a nurse with a message from my Endocrinologist. He wanted me to start taking Tums daily for calcium and to go to the lab at my convenience for some bloodwork. I was very confused about how Tums and calcium worked together and decided I would wait until after the results of my bloodwork to do anything. My follow-up with the surgeon was scheduled for the 9th, so I figured I’d get the bloodwork after that appointment.

Today is Friday, July 9th and I drove for the first time since surgery. It’s my oldest son’s 11th birthday and my youngest has practice, so I didn’t want my husband also MIA. It took some effort, but I convinced him that I could handle it. The plan was to drive to my cousin’s house and have her take me to my doctor’s appointment. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, for those of you who don’t know, nearly everything in the Atlanta area is at least a 30-minute car ride away. To put things into perspective, my cousin’s house is just over an hour’s drive from my house. Although I could tell my legs were a little tired, I felt okay during my drive. When I arrived, I text my husband to let him know I made it and my cousin to let her know I was outside. She came right out, got into her truck, and drove out of the driveway. I gathered my purse and stepped out of my truck to get into hers. I immediately felt as though I would fall and had to hold onto my door. I waved her down with my hand and once she lowered her window told her that I needed my walker. I couldn’t believe that I needed my walker just to get to her truck. Like talking, I guess driving takes a lot more energy than I realized.

Once we arrived at my appointment, my cousin wheeled me inside and helped me check in. Dr. Smith removed the remaining glue from my scar and was happy to report that all looked great on his end. He massaged petroleum jelly on the scar and told me to apply it twice daily and keep it out of the sun. We then talked about the surgery and him having to remove two parathyroids and me being able to function with having only ¼ of a parathyroid.  He empathized with the difficulties I was still experiencing and told me that he would be following up on the Speech referral to get my sessions approved. He then had his nurse schedule a follow-up for September and wished me well on my recovery. After leaving his office I headed next door for bloodwork. Lord, please let these results give me some answers!!!

_ _ _ _

Join Areia Cobb every 1st & 3rd Tuesday of the month as she shares her road to recovery from COVID-19 and how being a COVID-19 Long Hauler is affecting every aspect of her life; as a wife, mother of two active boys and a working professional.  It’s our hope that these journal entries provide hope, inspiration and information as you or your loved one travels your COVID-19 long haul.  

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