Day 573 – 5k, 30 minutes, next April

A somewhat surreal experience at the specialist this afternoon yielded some mostly good news.

Surreal because the whole place looked like a building site, there was no receptionist, the doc himself looked like he had just finished working in his garden on a weekend, and the entire episode was accompanied by some energetic jazz funk on the radio. Then the previous patient – still clutching his fresh urine sample in one hand – asked if I could spare him R5 for parking. He was wearing a Liverpool shirt, so I took pity on him and gave him the money. In his other hand.

But once I was in the practice room, thankfully things were a bit more normal. Nice guy.

Let’s get the not so good bit over with first: no magic pill, no quick fix, no guaranteed timeline of escaping these crappy symptoms. That “you really just need to be patient,” line again, which seems to be the (admittedly justified) mantra for this thing. And a few more blood tests (LFTs, Cortisol etc.), just to check that the Covid symptoms aren’t hiding any other nasties. We’re all pretty sure that they’re not.

But mostly good news because – having had an ultrasound of my heart, a resting ECG and done some treadmilling (I got up to 6kph on a slight upward slope, for a whole 150 seconds!!) – I have permission to begin exercising again.
My heart is good and strong, I have no blood clots and my lungs are almost repaired. It’s just the rest of me that is completely broken and needs some work. So not klapping the gym, boet quite yet (it’s an absolute haven for Covid infections anyway), but a walk a day, increasing my pace and increasing my distance each week.

He stressed that he seen a number of patients who simply don’t seem to understand quite what a blow Covid has dealt them. The idea that once the acute symptoms have gone, you can go back to normal, just isn’t true. One also needs to recognise the regression that the infection has caused.
“You’re running 100m, but you’re starting 50m behind the starting blocks,” was his analogy.

Longest 100m ever.

Anyway, without putting any firm timeline on it, there was mention of six months (from now) to maybe get back to where I was. I almost cried. Six months might seem like a long while, but honestly, there have been a lot of times when I didn’t think I would ever get back there. And maybe I won’t. Or maybe it will take 3 months.
But there’s hope, and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and so I’ve set myself a goal: I’m going to run 5km in 30 minutes with my son on his birthday next year.

Possibly, anyway.

That will be more than 9 months to get myself back to normality after this “mild” infection, assuming this all goes to plan. So let me just drop the message in here once again that you can increase your chances of avoiding all this shit, simply by getting vaccinated. Incidentally, my doc thinks that the timing of my first vaccine dose might just have been the thing that kept me out of hospital. Thanks be to Pfizer.

I have already taken the beagle on a celebratory trip around the block, and so now I am ready for bed, but it doesn’t matter.

This has been a good day.

Day 569 – Experiments gone disastrously wrong

If you’ve been in science for any length of time, you’ll have had plenty of these. They’re sometimes expected, often annoying, and occasionally soul-destroying, but it’s all part of the learning experience. I tried two experiments yesterday. One of them was documented in some detail here, and the other one was simply enjoying a small bottle of Castle Milk Stout with dinner.

Both were fun experiments to do, and both seemed like really good ideas at the time. But in retrospect, neither of them have gone particularly well. I woke up last night at 3am with a towering hangover of note, and despite the best efforts of a combination of paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine, I then woke up at a more reasonable time this morning with a collection of symptoms best described as “being completely broken”. Head, joints, muscles…
And my brain is not working again. Argh.

Let’s get the learning process going, then. No more alcohol experiments for a while. Not even a little CMS. And that’s disappointing. Not because I need the alcohol, but more because I like the taste (now that I can again). Sure, there are the well-advertised 0.0% alternatives (although thankfully(?) not for Milk Stout), but they are often very disappointing in the taste department.

Which brings us to the elephant in the room. The one which seemingly rolled over me in bed last night. Because in 11 days time, I have to go back to the rock and do three days of stuff, back to back. Based on the results from yesterday, this is is going to be very difficult. And that’s got me very worried. The first rule of Parents Assisting With School Visits To Robben Island Club is that you do not talk about Parents Assisting With School Visits To Robben Island Club, but I generally ignore that one. However, the second rule of Parents Assisting With School Visits To Robben Island Club is that you need to actually assist with the school visit to Robben Island, rather than being a liability.

And honestly, this morning, I would be a liability.

Crap it all. To use a well-used South African phrase: What must happen now?*

* The use of the phrase “What must happen now?” often then followed by an awkward silence, purposefully shifts the burden of the decision-making process – and therefore all responsibility for any negative outcomes resulting from that process – onto someone else, immediately absolving the protagonist of any blame, guilt or accountability.
I am fully aware of the implications of using it here, and despite that, I am still using it here.

Almost desperately.

Day 565 – Testing my limits

Sorry for not getting back to you yesterday. I quite literally ran out of energy.

This isn’t unusual at the moment.

I’ve been pushing myself a bit for the last couple of days. And with a good reason. I’ve inadvertently(?) signed up for a trip to Robben Island, helping to manage about 40 (forty) 12-year-olds on a school visit. And something, I’m not sure quite what, is telling me that I’m going to have to be a bit further on in fitness and general recovery than I am now if I’m going to survive.

I have two weeks.

Last year’s trip was something very special, and I’m very privileged to have been asked along this time as well. But I’m mindful that I didn’t have Covid last time around. This time I’m still struggling a bit and the trip is an extra day. But there’s a whole weekend to sleep through just afterwards, so I’m sure I’ll be ok.

Step counts into the 12,000s for the last two days indicate that I’ve been testing my limits and – while I’m very fatigued by early evening – I have prevailed. It’s also been very good for the list of jobs around the house, many of which have been put on hold for the last three months.

Corner turned? Maybe.

I might even try a bit of a run tomorrow (or I might not).

Right now, I have some business in Claremont to attend to before 5:30, so let me go and do that before I fall asleep.

Can I stay up til kick off in the England game tonight (8:45pm)?
Will it be worth it if I do?

Day 560 – It’s gone again

Yesterday wasn’t great, but it did pique my scientific interest:

But how interesting is this disease? Yeah, you might have the odd off day while you’re getting over any viral nastiness, but to get the whole package again so quickly? Fine last night, rubbish this morning?

And then just disappear again overnight. Full on and then full off again. Entirely transient.
Because today I’m back to where I was the day before yesterday. You’d never even know that anything had happened, (well, aside from all the stuff that didn’t get done because I slept through yesterday morning).

The most interesting part for me is the brain thing. I have no means of accurately measuring it, unlike my heart rate and sats, but really, my brain was completely useless yesterday. I couldn’t remember names, couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t find words, couldn’t finish sentences. It was as bad as it’s ever been, and really, really frustrating.

And while the aches and pains were manageable with some medication, I couldn’t fix my brain that way.

And yet today? It’s every bit as good as it was before yesterday’s nonsense. Not perfect, but it’s had a rough few months. But it is working again.

But why? What happened yesterday and how did it cause all those – often very specific – symptoms and then where did it go today?

“Immune and metabolic dysregulation” is a very convenient, yet likely answer. But why “immune and metabolic dysregulation” in some people and in some instances and not others? Well, as with all novel conditions and pathogens, nailing the exact cause will come in time and will be key to stopping days like yesterday happening again.

In the meantime, get vaccinated, because yesterday’s unpleasantness is just another thing to add to this long list of stuff that you’re far more likely to avoid if you go and get jabbed.

Day 532 – Positives

After being diagnosed with “Post-acute Covid-19 Syndrome” or “Long Covid“…

Early reports suggest residual effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, such as fatigue, dyspnea, chest pain, cognitive disturbances, arthralgia and decline in quality of life.

Yep, all of that, and more.

…earlier this week, I was also given a battery of blood tests and another chest x-ray. I got my results back today and (aside from the actual symptoms mentioned above), I am the picture of perfect health. Every single result bang in its appropriate reference range bell curve. If you’d seen these results from a science experiment, you’d think that it was made up like all those Ivermectin trials.

And the CXR, while not being quite so perfect, did show a marked improvement from my last chest x-ray a month or so ago. So, with new drugs and a new plan moving forward, I’m feeling much more hopeful that I was last week. And even yesterday.

And – in another positive moment, I had my best meal in 2 months last night. I still can’t smell or taste anything, so any chef hoping to impress me has a pretty difficult job on their hands. But some bacon-wrapped chili poppers with BBQ sauce from the Village Bicycle had a surprising effect. While not being able to taste chili (at all), I can still get the burning effects of it (this also goes for the cooling effect of mint/menthol). And while that’s not perfect, it’s better than nothing. Because believe me, by this time, pretty much anything is better than nothing. Add in the combination of different textures within the poppers and I was having a good evening and then suddenly…

…did I just taste that BBQ sauce?

Well, no. Not really. But nearly. I did get a weird burnt orange taste, briefly. And that’s more than I’ve had in several (or more) weeks.

Add that in to the fact that I’m sitting outside editing photos* (and blogging) in the sunshine, and… well.. things finally seem to be improving and I’m totally here for it.

* yes, I’m going to have to do them all again this evening.