Updated: Jul 13
ASK HOUSTON MAN, GUILLERMO PIEDRA, WHO CONTRACTED COVID-19 IN JULY, AND HAS DEALT WITH AFTER-EFFECTS FOR OVER 4 MONTHS NOW.
Guillermo Piedra, age 25, Houston, Texas: COVID-19 SURVIVOR AND LONG-HAULER GUILLERMO'S COVID-19 STORY:
My COVID-19 story began on the 6th of July when I began having symptoms. I had been isolating in my apartment, with the exception of a few days where I would go to the grocery store or hang out with the same friends whom I trusted were like me and taking care of themselves and staying home.
On that day, I woke up with an itchy throat, one of my friends came over in the evening and he said he was feeling tired and attributed it to having too many drinks the night before. However, as time went by he started looking ill and confessed to me that he could feel a fever coming on. The next day I also woke up with a fever; we both agreed on getting tested. I drove into the closest Walgreens and spent 6 hours in line, in my car, to get a drive-thru "rapid COVID-19" test. I received a call later that day with the news that I had tested positive. A couple of days after, my friend tested positive too. My symptoms started with a low-grade fever that lasted 3 days, a feeling of fatigue, night sweats, body trembling, loss of taste and smell, and a stuffed nose. I was confident I would only have a mild case since I am young and healthy but 3 days after my test came back, I started experiencing shortness of breath. The shortness of breath went from mild to severe enough that it was making me afraid that I could lose my life. It was hard to focus on anything else or to fall asleep and it did not seem to alleviate throughout the days.
The inability to take a deep breath was so scary that it pushed me to drive myself to the urgent care, where the doctor examined me and told me my lungs looked fine and that my oxygen levels were ok. After I explained how sick I felt, he asked me, "What do you want me to do?". (He had absolutely 0 compassion for me)... (After looking back, I feel that he is perhaps in the wrong career, as to be a medical professional, you have to care about the people that you serve or at least "act" as though you care about how they feel.)
My parents, on the other hand, were very worried, they would stay by the window to my apartment for a short time to check up on me every day, and bring me food. It wasn't until the 12th day that I started feeling my symptoms improve, and towards the 13th day, I felt back to normal. I was so glad I could breathe again, so I rushed to make an appointment at the testing center so I could get a negative COVID test and break my quarantine that I had been on for the past couple of weeks, and visit my family.
But, the day before my test I woke up with tightness in my chest. Initially, I attributed it to anxiety but it would not go away with breathing techniques or meditation.
My test came back negative on day 20 so I was told it was good to go ahead and visit my family and to come out of isolation. Hugging my family felt so relieving. Being in isolation and being scared, not knowing what the outcome will be, is a very scary time for anyone; being completely alone with no-one to comfort you or show you support, makes it about 10 x worse. I was relieved to see my family and I thought I was ok, but a couple of days after, my shortness of breath came back and I felt an "elephant-like" heaviness on my chest. I was really worried that I had not completely healed, and my family asked me to stay with them since according to CDC guidelines I was not contagious anymore.
My symptoms progressed, from shortness of breath to tachycardia, (heart-rate of over 100 bpm, at rest). I started feeling agitated like my adrenaline was kicking in throughout the day, Even when resting, my pulse was at 100 BPM whether sitting down or laying down in bed. I was scared for my life again. My family attributed everything to anxiety, they were not worried because I did not have Pneumonia or a cough.
I was frustrated and decided to see a Cardiologist and during an ECG test, they found what is known as a heart arrhythmia or an irregular heart-beat. However, I was not put on medications since it was mild and could resolve on its own.
After 5 days of almost losing hope, I started seeing improvement. It was gradual and slow; I would have days where I almost felt normal, but suddenly my shortness of breath would come back.
I felt like my life would be changed forever since research on persistent, lingering COVID-19 symptoms was impossible to find. I could only rely on a couple of testimonials of others who were experiencing this or forums online.
My family advised me not to read about it anymore, as they thought it would make things worse. But my symptoms were so persistent that I had to search the keywords every day to stay up to date with any advances on the after-effects that I continued to experience.
Flash forward to 3 months after the onset of my symptoms, I was able to find a support group on Facebook for "Long Haulers" which we choose to call ourselves, and I have discovered that I am part of a growing amount of people that have experienced sequelae of numerous symptoms or continue to do so for months.
I still get a mild shortness of breath at times that luckily is not debilitating, but I am afraid to overexert myself and trigger a relapse, as I have heard that exercise can trigger a relapse in symptoms, so I am careful to not go overboard in my quest to stay healthy.
I am set to go back to work on the 18th and I feel close to normal. So far there is no answer on what is making long haulers suffer for so long, but research is being done and I am hopeful that in the next few months that we will see POST COVID Centers develop for those who need long-term aftercare and support, as well as improvement in therapy options for those who want to go back to their normal lives, but need assistance after suffering from a Coronavirus infection for so long. Thank you for giving this opportunity to talk about this issue that has not been given the coverage it deserves. I hope that my story serves a purpose, I am here as support or to offer a shoulder to lean on to anyone else that finds themselves going through what I have been going through. COVID-19 IS REAL!! IT'S NOT A JOKE AND IT CAN BE DANGEROUS AND LIFE-CHANGING, WHETHER YOU ARE YOUNG AND HEALTHY.. NO-ONE IS EXEMPT! On my 25th birthday, after being infected with COVID-19,
I was still experiencing shortness of breath, in this
picture, but very much trying to get back to life as normal.
In an area Houston, Urgent Care feeling sick and worried.
My nephew and me, 3 months after COVID-19
entered my life.
The people that matter the most and that you need the most, during a time like this... FAMILY!