The words “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” have taken on new meaning to me. I studied the den rug, nose to fiber, spent a long time seeking a way to pull myself up or, at times, contemplating the ceiling fan in an all new way. COVID-19 will do strange things to people, including putting them on the floor.
When we first got sick, someone suggested that I keep a log of how Charles and I felt each day. I did that for a few days until everything began to fuzz out into a fog. Now I’m going back and trying to remember the progression of our illness in case it might be helpful to anyone. It is a strange and mysterious virus affecting people so very differently including the two of us in the same household.
My husband and I became sick at the end of August. Charles came home from work at the animal hospital at noon on August 31 burning with fever, shaking with chills. I started coughing a couple days later and knew that I, too, had the dreaded virus, in spite of how careful we’d been with quarantine, hand washing, etc.
Our doctor administered dextamethazone, hydromed cough syrup and in- halers for both of us. We took measures to keep family and friends safe and figured out how to get through this illness. Our granddaughter regularly picked up items we needed at the store and dropped them on our back porch. By the end of the week, Charles was feeling much better and I was two days behind but making progress. We thought we were recuperating nicely and felt almost smug, as if to say “We’ve got this covered!”
But on Labor Day Charles’s fever spiked. He woke repeatedly in heavy sweats. I noticed his breathing changing to a pant but when I asked him if his breathing was impaired he said he was just hot. The day after Labor Day we called Dr. Nesmith who sent us immediately to Grady General ER. He was admitted that afternoon about 5:00. At the time he was admitted his fever was 103 and his oxygen level in the low 80’s.
I naiively thought this would be a short hospital stay for Charles so was surprised the next day when Dr. Nesmith informed me he was giving Charles a strong intravenous drug which would require at least five days of administration. I appreciated the daily phone reports from Dr. Nesmith who also asked how I was feeling. He particularly asked if I was breathing all right and whether I had any fever. I told him I was fine except for the incredible fatigue which is, he assured me, a normal affect of the virus and takes a long time to get over.
Day by day I expected to hear that Charles was much better but instead heard that his “numbers had not yet turned around.” I called him about twice a day but couldn’t talk very long as I could tell it was hard for him.
That week when I was home alone is not very clear, looking back. A couple of days I took things to the hospital for Charles. I fed the cats, replenished bird baths and such. Amanda brought things I needed and I would creep out after she left to retrieve them from the porch. I treasured her wave and air hugs. As the week wore on, I began to think it was all right to leave the mail in the box. I remember one afternoon walking around the end of the house to put seeds in a bird feeder and wondering if I would make it back inside.
Food didn’t taste right. Everything had a metallic taste. I was supplied with beautiful soups and casseroles by loving friends who brought things to the porch. But I would take two or three bites and push it away. I didn’t realize how little I was drinking.
By Saturday that week I was so wiped out I hardly budged from my chair. When I did, I used my cane, not feeling very steady on my feet. Dr. Nesmith reported that Charles’s numbers were beginning to turn a curve but Charles said the doctor wouldn’t even talk about when he might come home. I fed the cats and locked the door against the dark of another night. Opening “These Far Green Hills” by favorite author Jan Karon, I tried to concentrate on her funny, inspirational characters.
It was about 9:00 when I attempted to get up and prepare for bed but ended up on the floor instead. After an hour and a half when I did finally get back in my chair and to my phone, I called my sister-in-law and told her I was ready to use Memaw’s walker she’d been offering me. We agreed she would bring it the next day. Opting for as little movement as possible, I slept in my chair that night. Sunday was a bright beautiful day but I didn’t dare move much, stayed close to my chair waiting for the walker. When Revonda delivered it, my first thought was to feed the cats. As I attempted to take the step back up onto the porch I hit the floor again, this time the hard unforgiving porch floor bricks.
“Lord, what do I do this time?” I asked with my face smashed against the bricks, my glasses frame hopelessly bent. Wrangling my phone out of the walker basket I managed to call Amanda. I was halfway inside the screen door and half way out and too scared to worry about how ridiculous I might look. As I waited on Amanda and Jared, I tried to squirm myself into a more bearable position. My phone rang. My son Will calling from Birmingham to see about us. I had repeatedly told him not to come, not wanting him and his family exposed to the virus but now when he said, “Mom, I’m on my way” something in me relaxed as if God said I could let go.
It was that night while Will was with me that I fell a third time. The next day he took me, on Dr. Nesmith’s instructions, to ER where I was eventually admitted that afternoon to an ICU room. Dr. Nesmith grinned as he cautioned me what to expect: “Your husband is still here but don’t even think you’re going to see him.” Someone has joked since then that Grady General should have a honeymoon suite. When I was admitted my temperature was over 100, my oxygen in the low 80’s. I was put on a different steroid than Charles had been given. After three days I was moved from ICU to a regular room. The hospital was eerily quiet with no visitors at all. Nurses dressed in their COVID resistant gowns, masks, gloves, and shields were like aliens. But they spoke kindly and were very thoughtful.
Will brought his dad home equipped with oxygen the day after I was admitted. When I talked to Charles on the phone, I was shocked at how weak his voice was. In fact, when we tried to talk he usually let Will interpret for him.
After a week of IV’s, careful nursing, long nights and slow days, I came home, so happy to see Charles who’d grown a woolly beard. We hadn’t seen each other for two weeks. Will stayed on several days to be sure we were okay before heading back to Birmingham. We were so thankful when the report from his test came back negative!
Sitting here safe in the den I remember clearly the feeling of helplessness as I urned this way and that trying to pull myself up from the floor. I remember whispering against the rug, “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.” In the hospital during forever nights words of Psalm 103 scrolled in my mind: “Who healeth all our diseases and crowneth us with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” Charles and I are both so thankful for the Lord’s bringing us to this side of COVID. We’re thankful for the superb hospital care, for Dr. Nesmith and his staff, and for our family and marvelous church family who kept us supplied with beautiful food and other needs.
Never does a trauma occur that God’s faithfulness cannot shine. Even when we’re knocked all the way to the floor, God reminds us to “keep looking up.”
Start planning for Christmas! Look up my Christmas book to give to family and friends.