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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 76-77

My COVID-19 experience

Center for Multiple Myeloma, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

Date of Submission08-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance08-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication25-Apr-2020

Correspondence Address:
Noopur Raje
Center for Multiple Myeloma, Division of Hematology and Oncology, Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CRST.CRST_144_20

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How to cite this article:
Raje N. My COVID-19 experience. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3, Suppl S1:76-7

How to cite this URL:
Raje N. My COVID-19 experience. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Sep 19];3, Suppl S1:76-7. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2020/3/5/76/283307

I am COVID-positive and asymptomatic and have been a caregiver for my husband, who was critically ill with COVID-19. He is currently on day 25 of experiencing symptoms as a result of being COVID-positive. I have learned some things, and I hope that our experience with coronavirus can be a resource for so many others who are being impacted.

After experiencing COVID-19 from the patient/caregiver point of view, despite both of us being physicians at a major academic medical center, this has been a challenge like no other I have experienced before. It is not easy for someone sick to self-quarantine and hydrate adequately and wait patiently for things to pass. They require help and care and the ability to know when to get to a hospital as symptoms evolve both suddenly and unexpectedly.

In week 1, he developed fever with chills and extreme fatigue. We both self-quarantined and used social distancing in the house. My husband needed to be given food and fluids as he was just too weak to help himself. I watched over him, used gloves and mask to check his vital signs, and used paracetamol, along with home remedies from my mother, such as warm water with ginger and turmeric. In week 2, his fever persisted; paracetamol was really not working. There has been lot of hype about ibuprofen (that anti-inflammatory medications, especially ibuprofen, should be avoided in COVID-19), but I had to use it, because my husband does not really respond to paracetamol.

On day 8, he developed a dry cough; by then, he had lost 14 pounds. His breathing was still fine, so I started him on an antibiotic (levofloxacin) and continued to watch him closely. On day 10, while his fever started to lessen, his cough was getting worse, but there was still no shortness of breath. I felt that I needed to check some blood tests and take him to the hospital. My plan was to drive him there, but I ended up calling the emergency helpline, 911. The decision to take him to the hospital was tough, but I knew that it had to be done. It would give him access to whatever medical treatments were being tested in the research setting and were therefore only available through a trial, and I knew that if his breathing got affected, we could be in for bad news. We had to be safe!

I was blown away when I saw his chest X-ray and computed tomography scan and the bilateral pneumonia he had developed; the doctors took his consent for intubation and watched him closely in the intensive care unit (ICU). I slept with my phone next to me knowing that the next call I would get could be the one telling me that they had intubated him.

He was started on hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, based on the hospital protocol. He gave consent the next day for the remdesivir clinical trial. However, I was not sure what arm he was on, as this was a placebo-controlled trial.

When I took him to the hospital, I thought that it would be for a couple of days. I followed the results of his blood tests and watched as his inflammatory markers continued to climb. I monitored his vital signs from afar; seeing a respiratory rate of 26 per minute was difficult.

We would speak using FaceTime, and he would get short of breath just talking to me, often unable to stay on the phone. He was admitted to the hospital for 9 days. Despite his inflammatory markers continuing to rise until day 16, he started to look a little better. I stopped checking his markers as this did not seem to be helpful. It also made him anxious when I told him his laboratory results and that certainly did not help my spirits.

Through all this, I focused on mundane things around the house. I could not do anything but cook, listen to music, do laundry, and pray! My husband was a trooper, but there were days when he felt that he was not getting better, which increased his anxiety. I was unable to share my fears with my extended family, as they all looked to us as physicians for support in the family. My children both came to Boston – I have only seen them through the window, but their amazing spirit and positive attitude gave us strength every day. They drop off and continue to drop off groceries at our doorstep.

The fever persisted until day 16 – it came on in the evenings. Both of us dreaded the evenings and dreaded seeing what the thermometer showed – hoping the fevers would stop. Day 17 was the first time I knew that he was going to be fine. He looked better and his blood markers were better. He was discharged on day 18. He has been home now for 9 days. He continues to cough, is tired, and feels short of breath, but is certainly on his way to recovery. He, however, continues to need help. We have no idea what the sequelae of this will be. I have been retested, and remain COVID-positive, but I still have no symptoms.

From our experience, the most important take home lessons are: (1) stay home, (2) socially distance, and (3) please mask up at all times outside the home, as we are all vectors.

Home quarantine for a symptomatic COVID-positive patient requires supervision. If you are asymptomatic, the chances are that you have immunity. However, being a caregiver is a full-time job, and you have to make sure that you take all the distancing precautions as you may be the carrier. Get help if you are symptomatic and COVID-positive, and if you are not getting better after 5–7 days. If you have a cough which is worsening, that also needs immediate attention. The lung involvement is silent and deadly.

My husband and I are so grateful for all the care we have received at the hospital. We hugely appreciate the amazing staff in the ICU and the Hospital Cancer Center. Our experience has been surreal despite being lucky enough to have access to the world's best medical care! We are all in this together and will come out stronger together.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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