Grandma may have got run over by a reindeer, but I got walloped by COVID. If you have wondered where I have been, well this is now the fifth week of my dealing with it. I made it through two years and the two vaccinations and like a lot of folks thought I was in the clear. I had never made light of the virus as we have lost a lot of good people locally and across the country.
It is indeed sad that this supposed lab-manufactured scourge was unleashed on mankind. The loss in humanity is the greatest tragedy. Like a lot of others, I have no idea where I picked it up. I had got lax attending events and not sanitizing after gassing up or visits to the grocery store. Although I was at a couple large downtown gatherings, I suspect I picked it up at work. But who knows?
The funny thing about COVID is how it affects people differently. One may just experience cold or flu like symptoms and the next is so severe they lose their lives. I was feeling bad at work and asked to have my temperature taken, which showed as normal. I put on my mask since I was not feeling good and went back to work the next day. I had had a restless night going from burning up to cold spells. Again, my temperature was taken, and it was normal. I told my supervisor that I should really go to the walk-in clinic to get tested for COVID. He wisely sent me home.
The doctor at the clinic advised that I was positive, and that these later cases were mild. He said with me being vaccinated that I should be feeling normal in four to five days. He prescribed some meds and sent me home to rest and get through the ordeal. First thing I did was finish up that last article I wrote. As I finished up that final paragraph about having COVID I could not have predicted the direction I was about to take.
As time progressed toward the four to five days, I felt worse and worse. I kept taking the meds, drinking lots of water, but stopped eating. I was wearing a coat to bed, had three blankets on me and still freezing. I would wake up soaking wet then go into the cold freezing spell. I was spending all my time in bed sleeping. I was getting weaker just wanting to sleep all the time.
Caroline was in South Carolina and didn’t know how sick I was. My friend Melody Daniels called me every day to check in. It was Melody who kept encouraging me to go the ER. She about lost her father, did lose her sister, and suffered through COVID herself. I was content to sleep if I could just curl up and forget it all. After all I was taking the meds and on the mend, or so I thought.
My longtime work buddy, Kitty Davis, sent me a text every evening to see how I was. Fortunately, there was two people in the world besides my sister keeping up with me.
On Saturday morning I could not stand and found myself clutching the bedpost wondering what I was going to do. I made it downstairs and back but was so exhausted I had to lay down before trying to get dressed. How I managed to drive myself to Morristown to the ER I don’t know. I don’t remember it. I do know the first parking spot closest to the ER was open. I usually must park on top of the hill and walk down. I don’t think I would have made it this day.
The ER folks jumped into action because my heart rate was over 180. I told them it had been there for a couple days and that I had been in constant AFib. I had bought one of the Kardia Mobile devices for my phone a couple weeks before and I showed the doctor the graphs of my heart activity for the week. If you have any heart issues, that is a wonderful little device. The doctor looked at the graphs and said, “how are you even on your feet.”
The other problem was that I was having difficulty breathing and balancing. My vision was blurry, too. My eyes were dilated, and everything seemed bright, almost blinding.
They quickly had IV’s going, had me hooked to a heart monitor and were X-raying my chest. I was diagnosed with COVID pneumonia and had blood clots in my lungs. The breathing was the worst, it was hard finding air. In addition to the out-of-control heart, COVID had spiked my sugar levels, I was now a diabetic. The doctor told me if I had waited another day I would have not been there.
I was put in a room in the ER as doctors and nurses continued to work with me, especially trying to get the heart under control. I had taken my phone and called my sister Gwen in New Mexico. A nurse told me I needed to get in contact with my emergency contacts, which were Caroline and Gwen. Caroline, as I said, was in South Carolina with no signal and no way for me to contact her.
I told Gwen my phone was about dead, and I was doing good to have brought it, let alone having grabbed a charger. Gwen called my cousin Susy Phillips and asked if she could come check on me and help me find a charger so that I could communicate. Imagine my surprise when Susy and Cousin Ken Southerland came into the ER room.
I realized that this was getting serious when they call in the cousins! Ken was kind enough to go search my car for a charger and, not finding one, he and Susy went to the mall and bought me one. I had handed Susy my phone so they could make sure it fit a new charger. While they were out, Caroline called my phone and talked to Susy.
Gwen had sent Caroline a text and Caroline had called Mike Beck asking him to go get me a charger. Finding Ken already had one, she called Mike, who was in line to pay for one, to let him know we didn’t need it now.
After a night in the ER room I was moved to the Critical Care Unit. Four nurses bathed me before moving me into the space-age bed in the room that seemed like a big bubble. I had IVs in both arms and was hooked up to several monitors. They were still having trouble getting my heart to settle down, the blood sugar level remained out the roof, and I was still having trouble breathing.
A few weeks ago when I wrote about Benjamin Banneker I mentioned his diary of his dreams. Well, I have to tell you that I had some dillies. The one that I remember just like it happened in every detail I will relate here.
I was standing under the large oak tree at the parking lot of the Dickson-Williams Mansion looking at the sun through the leaves of the tree. As I scanned down from the sky, there stood the mansion, it had a wood shake roof, all the windows and doors were open. The porch had a banister and people were standing on it. The porches were full of people.
The lawn was full of mostly women with children running and playing. There were men in their finery with top hats and gold watch fobs. The parking area was grass, Church Street was a path. There were no Depot Street buildings, no federal courthouse, and I could see the Thomas Arnold house up on the hill above the train station.
There were some women playing croquet to the left on the lawn. The women were mostly in white with large hats more indicative of the 1880s. What happened next told me this was 1864.
Five men came riding into the middle of the crowd. Four were on chestnut geldings, one with a blaze face. The horse closest to me was a black, extremely tall mare. She had a long neck with a beautiful feminine head. I couldn’t get over how tall she was. She was double bridled in polished leather and some silver adornments.
Her hooves were blacked, and I marveled at the job whoever had placed the shoes on her feet had done. The nails had been twisted off and some sort of tool used to make them look like stars. Everything about this horse was perfect.
The rider had his back to me, but I recognized the hat. I was thinking that was the same hat I wore for the Civil War at the Mansion event recently. I was thinking if anyone argues with me about that hat, well there it is on Morgan’s head.
A few years ago while staying in Gettysburg I asked Dirty Billy’s Hats to construct me a John Hunt Morgan hat. Billy told me his files say Morgan preferred an oversized hat. He made me the hat and I have been reluctant to wear it because as I told one of my friends it made me feel more like Zorro. In September I wore the darn hat and it looked really good in the pictures.
So I’m dreaming, having nightmares, whatever, and Morgan is on the horse wearing my hat. The men dismounted and led their horses and the mare across the lawn toward the Williams stable. I could not see Morgan for all the people. I really wanted to see his face, to see what he really looked like.
Next to me under the tree was suddenly a large man with a big box camera. On the side in fancy gold script was “Doak” and below it in block letters “PHOTOGRAPHY.” He was holding one of those sulfur flashes up high and called to Morgan, “General, an image please.” Morgan turned toward the camera and I got to see his face. It was me! It was me from September!
Just as suddenly as Morgan turned, the flash went off and it about blinded me. I was suddenly awake, with big blue spots in front of my eyes, in a panic because I did not know where I was. Three alarms were going off, lights were flashing and four nurses came busting into my room. I was gasping for air and couldn’t see for the blue spots.
One nurse took my arm and put a needle into my IV telling me they had to get my heart slowed down. Another was turning up my oxygen so I could breathe. Then another needle to settle me down. Finally, the blue spots left.
I remember this dream beginning to end like it actually happened. Every detail, from the horse’s shoes, the black hair, the mane, the tail, the spurs on the general’s boots. The people, their clothing and the town surrounding the event. It just seems all too real. I cannot remember but fragments of other dreams.
I did have another panic attack in CCU the next night. I woke up again not knowing where I was or how I got there. For some odd reason I thought I was suddenly on the International Space Station. This one was a one-nurse alarm, and I was told that I needed to settle down so my heart monitor would quit alarming. If you have ever been in a CCU unit it is easy to see why I thought I was on the space station.
After a couple nights in CCU they moved me to a private regular room. They told me they had someone worse than me and needed the room. Same for the regular room. They had people in beds in the halls.
Caroline had come up from South Carolina to be with me. She had to wear a gown, gloves and mask before entering my room. Since she may have been exposed, she stayed in my guest room for a week, which was good for me. She cooked and made me eat. I still did not care much for food. I wasn’t hungry, couldn’t smell or taste it.
I went back to the hospital for testing this past week, and the heart was good. The lungs and breathing not so much. The doctor said I was at about 75% with a way still to go. I still don’t feel good, have balance issues, can’t concentrate, and on I could go. I don’t have a voice and can’t talk very well. I can’t watch TV but for a few minutes, can’t read, and have no desire to write. My buddy Bill Bradley called last night and suggested I write about my COVID experience. This is the longest I have been able to concentrate in five weeks. Now you know where I disappeared to.
I once wrote about General Sherman saying, “War is Hell” and I’m here to tell you COVID is not too far behind.