My Experience With Asthma And COVID

My regular readers know I’m a lifetime asthmatic. I am also a respiratory therapist (RT), meaning I work on the front lines during this COVID Pandemic. It was quite nerve-wracking when we received our first COVID-positive patients in October of 2020. Although, we were trained in how to stay safe, such as good handwashing and wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE). And after a while, the nerves subsided.

Of course, as an asthmatic, my nerves may have been a bit more rattled. So, I take extra precautions to prevent myself from getting COVID. These efforts kept me COVID-free for well over a year into this pandemic.

However, that all changed on the day of Halloween 2021. I was tested for COVID. The results came back:

“Detected.”

The first symptom

My first symptom was chest tightness.

I started feeling chest tightness two days before I was tested. It was my typical early warning sign of asthma. I wanted to take swift action and call my doctor. The hope was that I could get started on prednisone right away to stave off a severe asthma attack. Although, as my luck usually has it, by the time I called the office it was closed for the weekend.

I worked on Saturday, the day before Halloween. As soon as I enter work I have to put on a blue surgical mask. I have to wear it all day except when eating. Every time I enter a COVID room I have to wear proper PPE. My place of employment does a great job making us feel safe and making our patients feel safe.

During my shift, it was extremely busy. I assisted doctors to intubate two patients with COVID. I also had another patient who was admitted with very low oxygen levels. Her oxygen saturation was in the low 80s, and we needed to try several approaches, such as having her wear a nasal cannula, to get her oxygen saturation level to an acceptable 90%. This was a lot of work and is only part of what I did.

But these are worse-case scenarios. All of these people developed what we call "COVID Pneumonia." These types of cases keep us very busy.

By the end of my shift, I was feeling really worn out. My nose was stuffy. My chest was tight. I would say I was mildly short of breath. These symptoms caused me to use my rescue inhaler every hour or two. I had to use my rescue inhaler every hour or two the night before also. So, this was another warning sign that I needed to seek further help. This was on a Saturday, so all doctor’s offices were closed.

Change of plans

On Sunday it was Halloween. I had planned on taking my kids Trick-Or-Treating. For the first time in years, I had a costume for myself. And, of course, my kids were truly excited about going. But, then the plans were thwarted. Rather than hanging out with me that night, they had to hide out in the living room away from me. But, they had fun playing games and watching movies.

My kids all have asthma. All three of my kids living with me had very mild symptoms. So mild, in fact, that when I ask them they deny they feel sick. To be safe, my kids stayed home from school the following day. I will have to give an update on them in a later post.

COVID or an asthma episode?

It helps to have great friends. I have a friend who I work with. She has asthma just like mine. She was diagnosed with COVID last Wednesday. So, she encouraged me to get tested for COVID and not just assume it was “just an asthma episode.” She helped me get started. Since I work at the hospital, the process was easier for me than it is for others. I went on “My Chart” and made an appointment. Then I called the hospital supervisor, drove up to the back door, and she swabbed me.

The results were back in 15 minutes:

“Detected.”

“Woah!” Was my initial response. What I figured was asthma was caused by more than just your traditional respiratory virus. It was caused by  SARS--CoV-2, otherwise known as COVID-19. Or, perhaps more commonly known as “COVID.”

“Now what do I do?” I thought. “No sweat. I have friends.”

My asthmatic friend with COVID said her doctor prescribed prednisone for her. On Monday morning, I was on the phone talking with my doctor. He prescribed for me to take prednisone. I have also been prescribed an antibiotic. Perhaps this was to prevent a secondary infection, such as pneumonia.

My asthmatic friend also had another interesting bit of information to share. She said that her doctor said she qualified for a new treatment called monoclonal antibodies (brand name Regeneron). She said after the injection, which took two and a half hours at a clinic, her symptoms subsided quite a bit.

The My Chart app made it easy for me to sign up for this. And today I get my injection for that. To qualify, you have to have mild to moderate COVID symptoms. In other words, you have to not be sick enough to need a hospital. And you also have to have a comorbidity, such as asthma. And, of course, I do.

So, I can give you an update on this in a later post as well. That means you will have to stay tuned to asthma.net for some follow-up posts.

How am I doing?

I am currently doing okay. I feel like I have a really bad head and chest cold. I am told I have to self-quarantine for ten days from the time I noticed my first symptom. So, that gives me the next seven days off work with pay. I was supposed to work overtime today.

The hospital system I work for has been paying us RTs well for working extra shifts. And this is because my profession, as you might imagine, is in high demand right now. So I have been working lots of extra days. Of course, this also causes burnout. And, perhaps, this is what caused me to somehow contract COVID. Or, perhaps I got it from one of my kids. No one knows but God.

And now there are two of us RTs on the disabled list. So, that puts more pressure on my coworkers.

My oxygen saturation is 97%. My temperature is 98.4 degrees. My shortness of breath is mild. I do not need to go to the hospital. I am one of the lucky ones, I suppose. Still, I am only three days into this life as a COVID patient. I am taking albuterol nebulizer treatments every four hours. They seem to help quite a bit. And I am taking prednisone plus the antibiotic.

And, as noted above, it helps to have great friends. I have already had one friend go shopping for me last night. And another friend went and picked some more stuff up for me today. I am also impressed with my asthma specialist. He responded quickly to my requests for his advice. It’s in times like this I realize how blessed I am.

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