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Think COVID-19 isn’t serious? I discovered otherwise | READER COMMENTARY

A man wears a pulse oximeter to measure his oxygen level and heart rate in this file photo.
A man wears a pulse oximeter to measure his oxygen level and heart rate in this file photo. (Elise Amendola/AP)

With more than 225,000 COVID-19-related deaths having occurred in the United States to date, I consider myself very fortunate, and I am grateful (“Maryland coronavirus hospitalizations hit highest total since early August,” Oct. 28).

On Sept. 5, I spent the day seeing online psychotherapy clients, since I had been working from home for a month or so. On that Saturday in the late afternoon, I began to feel tired, had body aches and felt feverish. By bedtime my fever was 102, and I felt very much like the flu. By the following Wednesday, it was difficult to get out of bed due to exhaustion, headache and sinus congestion. On that day, I lost my sense of smell and taste. The exhaustion was overwhelming. I remember trying to mop the kitchen floor and had to sit on a chair, mop the area I could reach with the mop, slide the chair forward, and do it again. It took me two hours to mop that floor.

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Then I began to notice how difficult it was to get a deep breath, and when I moved around, I would have to sit down and breathe quickly to catch my breath, hyperventilating most of the time. On Thursday, I had a COVID test and was notified by the Baltimore County Health Department on Sunday that I had tested positive for the virus. On Monday, I was having such a difficult time getting a deep breath I made an appointment with my primary care provider who immediately said I needed to go to the emergency room. It was becoming clear I had developed viral pneumonia.

In the ER, my blood oxygen was checked and registered in the mid 80% range (normal is 95% and above). I was immediately started on supplemental oxygen. If that did not bring my blood oxygen level up pretty quickly, I was headed to the intensive care unit. Fortunately, the oxygen helped, and I was admitted to a general bed rather than ICU. I was immediately started on a course of remdesivir, an experimental antiviral medicine being studied for use in treating conditions caused by COVID; antibiotics; and dexamethasone, a corticosteroid used in the treatment of COVID. I was put on constant supplemental oxygen. I remained in the hospital for a week and lost over 20 pounds.

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Why those medications worked for me, why my illness didn’t progress to the point of needing to be put on a ventilator and why I didn’t die as so many have, I will never know — particularly since I have a heart condition. I was discharged from the hospital on supplemental oxygen, and when I got home, was unable to do much except lay on the sofa. The exhaustion continued as did the shortness of breath. It is now two weeks later, and I am no longer needing the oxygen although I still tire very easily and have shortness of breath if I move around too much. I think recovery will be slow; one breath at a time! I have returned to seeing online clients daily.

I have learned much through this experience, particularly how important my family and friends are to me. They provided such wonderful support virtually since they couldn’t really visit me either at home or in the hospital. I am still recovering daily, still experiencing some breathing issues but, hopefully, I will get better as the days go by. Don’t let anyone tell you that COVID isn’t a serious illness!

Ed Geraty, Timonium

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