Hemanta Panda

A bright day was awaiting me in my pursuit of the first vaccine shot scheduled by the state government in a vocational school indoor basketball court slightly after the noontime. For some reason, I was not that excited about the jab. During season changes sometimes you have mild chills due to sudden fluctuation of the outside temperature.  On that day I felt it was a similar feeling like some season-changing days which would never trigger an alert if I am well or not. It was a status quo feeling for me.

TB VACCINE

I reached the vaccine place with hundreds of people in line with many seniors needing assistance from their family members. After the cop checked my identity with the appointment, I was inside the indoor stadium with hundreds of people – some waiting to be vaccinated, some in the welcome area, an area where the healthcare workers are going to administer the vaccine, and the basketball spectator benches for the post-vaccinated people who were waiting in case the vaccine starts reacting within 15 minutes.

My uneventful turn came, first where the welcoming guest checked my details followed by the kiosk where the healthcare worker asked me if I have a fever and I said no and the first dose of vaccine was administered.

By the time I reached home in an hour after vaccine administration, my day 1 ordeal started. I started getting chills, had dizziness, took a nap and after an hour I was running 103.8F fever. It was scary, from no symptoms to vaccination to bedridden with no energy in 6 hours. Such a downhill health transformation I had never experienced in life.

By day 2 with over-the-counter (OTC) medication, my fever had reduced to 101F but I was feeling gasping for breath. Another issue I had never experienced in my life filled with sporting activities and daily jogging. I started to realize something is going on but was unable to decipher what it was. The appetite was reducing and the mouth had dried up. With dizziness and weakness, there was no intent to do anything but to lay flat.

With the guideline that the post-vaccine reaction will go away after 2-3 days, I was waiting for that to end. Day 3 and 4 were similarly painful. The primary care physician was recommending vitamins and OTC medication to reduce temperature. Sensing something was wrong I quarantined myself in my bedroom.

On day 5 without much improvement insight, my spouse and I decided that I must go to the emergency. Often decision-making is difficult when someone is feeling dizzy because the spinning head is not thinking straight. The suffering stands out and makes your pathways for relief obvious. Once I reached the emergency, they checked all the vitals, took a chest x-ray, took nasal and throat swabs for COVID-19 and Flu test respectively. The chest x-ray appeared normal, flu test outcome was negative but I was tested  COVID-19 positive.

The doctor prescribed some standard antibiotics, steroids, inhalation spray supplements, vitamins and released me from the emergency ward in a couple of hours. They asked me to quarantine myself at home, take enough rest, and use OTC fever reducer medication. I felt good thinking that they found the cause of the ailment and once the cause is identified I would be getting better in few days.

Little did I realize that no one knows about this mystery virus for sure. Nor did I realize that they are just addressing my symptoms, not the real virus as this is a new and novel strain. I started taking the prescribed medication from day 5 to day 10, the fever did go away but my gasping for breath didn’t. Never did I feel for the loss of breath of this magnitude except during my junior school cross country competitions and the recent 5Ks run for some fundraising.

The loss of taste as people often claim as one of the criteria – did not affect me. I could taste everything perfectly. Three things kept bothering me – breathlessness, severe weakness, and dry coughs. As fever was gone I started walking around our homes but clearly, I could not walk longer than my normal pace.

My antibiotics were over by day 11, just left with some steroids, inhalation spray supplements, and vitamins. I felt the positive effect of antibiotics will start to benefit me from day 11 to day 15. By day 15 my steroids were kind of exhausted. Here we can not walk in and purchase antibiotics and steroids from a pharmacy at our will without a doctor’s prescription.

I was able to work from home with my fever gone. But breathlessness and weakness were still there by day 16. I was relying on the inhalation spray and OTC medication from day 16 to day 18. With a lot of hope on day 18, I went for my 2nd COVID-19 test along with my spouse who was also supposed to get a COVID-19 test. This facility does the RT-PCR where you provide your spit samples and this test is supposed to be a more exhaustive test than the nasal swab rapid test. The rapid test provides the results in 15 minutes instead of an RT-PCR test where results are available after 24 hours. On day 19 my spouse got an email that she is tested COVID-19 negative. I did not get any notification on day 19 and day 20 either.

On day 20 I was still having breathlessness, I started getting a fever around 100 degrees as I was awaiting my 2nd test results. With fever returning, I was sensing bad news on my test result. Around noontime, the nurse from the testing agency called and mentioned that I am COVID-19 positive. Fever aided with gasping and dizziness was making life tougher to maneuver. I was continuing with OTC medications.

On day 21 the fever did not go away and was hovering around 100. I was trying some breathing techniques. On day 22 I had the same symptoms and my fever was not going away. Called my primary care physician on day 22 and told him about what’s going on and he asked me to go to a lungs specialist. Getting appointments immediately is tough during these times.

On day 23 I went to the lung specialist around noontime. Seeing me and my actions the nurses and doctor was staying a bit far. I told them about the current symptom of mild fever (100F) which ceases to go away along with gasping and dizziness. The lung specialist asked me to go to the emergency and get some blood test, x-rays, and CT scan done. By 2 PM I was back to the same emergency which I visited on day 5 when the x-ray came clean.

The emergency was packed. I waited in the waiting area along with another older patient maintaining social distancing. After 15 minutes the nurse came and saw both of our conditions in the waiting area and called me as I must be looking terrible. Got me settled in my hospital room. After some time when vitals were checked, I was running a high fever and my oxygen was hovering around 93.

Then the doctor came and saw the pain I was in and started to plan for oxygen in case it is needed. They took a lot of blood for various tests and after that, they started the intravenous (IV) liquids. Once they started the IV I started feeling better. They were feeding me antibiotics and fever reducers along with some steroid medication thru IV. In a couple of hours, I started feeling better. They did an x-ray of my chest and a CT scan of the lungs. In the meantime 2 hours after IV and medication started, my oxygen level was back at 97, and my fever was gone.

As the x-ray and CT scan of the lung results came out my doctor said all is well with my lungs and I was developing atypical viral pneumonia. The doctor prescribed some very strong antibiotics for 10 days and asked me to start from the next day. The oxygen was thankfully not needed.

Day 23 night I had the deepest and the best sleep since 23 days. The IV fluids along with those medications thru veins were starting to work their way out. On day 24 I started the 10 days supply of strong antibiotics to cure my mild pneumonia. Six hours after the first dose of antibiotics, I started to feel good and it has been that way since then.

Those 24 days of the ordeal I endured is unforgettable. Looking back – I was neither COVID-19 positive when the fiasco started. I took the jab and my whole world turned around. Every experience is unique and everyone should seek a medical practitioner’s advice for their specific conditioning.

But one thing I gather through talking to some experts which I would like to share – all of us carry some Coronavirus in our system. Our antibodies are fighting them that’s why the symptoms don’t flare up. When we take a vaccine our immunity to fight goes down by 15-25% (say). That’s why after you take the vaccine, often people run fevers or body ache, etc.

At that time if we have uninvited residents (like Coronavirus) who can overpower our antibodies they take over. I felt that was the reason for me. It’s very difficult to predict if you are in decent enough shape to fight some external virus if your immunity goes down by 15-25% after taking the vaccine? Use your right judgment. Some say do a blood test to check the WBC count before taking the vaccine.

This virus is a mystery and folks are still trying to figure it out. Use as much informed judgment you can in fighting this novel virus. Talk to your doctor. Build your immunity, do breathing exercises, and live smart in this challenging situation so that you don’t have to endure “woh 24 din” (those 24 days) what I went through.

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