Happy Father’s Day to all my family and friend dads who may be taking the time to read this, and to your fathers, grandfathers and uncles gone or still with us, and to your brothers and cousins who are dads. To everyone who’s made a difference in the life of a child who calls you Daddy, Dad, Pop, Papa, Papaw or any other name you go by.
I’m sending these wishes from my COVID-19 Cave (our bedroom), where I’ve been camped out since Thursday night. That’s when the signs were too obvious for me not to pull out one of the free home tests we got from the government a few months ago and use it on myself.
Yep, Wednesday’s sudden sore throat I mentioned yesterday at the end of my Astros baseball post was just the first symptom to set in, making me think either I’d been talking too much that day or one of my allergy/sinus infections was coming on. But over the next 24 hours, other symptoms joined that one, and by early Thursday evening while I was finishing up editing stories from home for The Dallas Morning News‘ Sunday business section, it hit me that I might have COVID.
After having chills during a late-afternoon Zoom staff meeting, I put on a light jacket, which helped. I told my colleague whom I was working on the section with that I was going downhill fast and would try to finish up and then log off for the day. I didn’t mention COVID, but later told her I’d probably be taking a test. I also messaged our supervisor and told her what was going on and that I planned to take the test, but even at that point, I wasn’t convinced this wasn’t my usual sinus crud. The key was that with those episodes, I never get chills and body aches like I’d been having that day.
When I finished my shift, I first checked my temperature: 100.5. OK, a low-grade fever to check off another symptom. I definitely hadn’t felt hot, but I’d had chills. Then Kay got out the COVID tests and I brought them in our bathroom. Seconds after I squirted three drops into the “Sample Port” of the “Test Card,” I started seeing the faint “C” line coming into view alongside the “T” line, so I didn’t need to wait 15 minutes to watch it get darker and know it was positive. Kay came to the closed bedroom door asking if I had a result and I told her what I already knew.
I realize now that when I first thought earlier that there was even the possibility I might have COVID, I should have put on my mask to protect everyone else. Although I work in the bedroom with the door closed, I go out every so often and Kay comes in and out. Our youngest, Alex, even came in with Kay at one point that afternoon before leaving for work at Sonic, looking in our closet for a pillow.
What’s more, Kay and I had been in close quarters quite a bit earlier in the week, including a dinner date we went on Wednesday night — the day I went to my second Astros-Rangers game of the week in the afternoon with friends and started feeling symptoms. I’m almost certain I picked up the virus at Monday night’s game. It also could have been at the dentist that morning, where I had a cleaning. I don’t recall that I went anywhere Tuesday, when I worked from home. Thankfully, I decided not to go to the office that day, which I often do on Tuesdays, because I surely would’ve brought the dastardly bug with me.
Before I share a few more details, let me say that I’m getting better, thanks to TLC from Kay outside the closed door (with towel stuffed under it) and also to the nurse practitioner at a Texas Health Breeze clinic in Southlake who prescribed a 5-day course of Paxlovid antivirals. Also, thank God, neither Kay nor the kids have gotten sick.
I can’t write this piece without showing lots of love to Kay. She has left meals and other goodies outside the door, including meals, snacks, utensils, ice for my water, paper towels, pulse oximeter — even a small wine box and ice cream. She is perfection with blue eyes and I’m blessed that she chose me to spend her life with when could she have settled for some other weirdo. Her birthday is Friday, and I need to make sure I’m healthy by then so I can return the love.
I mentioned sinus infection, and much of this has been like what I’ve been through with those — but with the added flulike fun of aches, fever, chills and headache. Thankfully, whether from the meds or just COVID’s chosen duration for me, the flulike stuff was short-lived.
I also want to say that we may think we’re in the clear with COVID, and while it’s true that the more recent variants haven’t been as deadly, they’ve been extremely contagious. So the odds are most of us are going to get it. And the hospitalizations and deaths haven’t stopped. I’d been talking to Kay recently about getting my second booster soon but just haven’t done so.
Several friends have COVID right now — including a close college friend who was diagnosed the day before I was and whose symptoms have been almost identical to mine. My birth sister Terry and her husband, who’d just returned home to Arvada, Colorado, from an Alaska cruise with their son and daughter-in-law, tested positive the same night I did. Luckily, she says their symptoms have been relatively mild.
But back to my Thursday. When I got up that morning and still had the sore throat, which as everyone knows is often caused by drainage, I called my regular dentist, where I had an 8 a.m. appointment for a crown fitting (a new experience for me). I told one of the women who works the front desk that it would probably be best if I didn’t come in since I was getting sick. I didn’t mention COVID because that hadn’t crossed my mind, instead telling her I thought this was the start of a possible sinus infection.
She said we could reschedule, but because I hadn’t canceled 24 hours in advance, I’d be charged $35 (I’ve been a patient there for over two decades). I argued that 24 hours earlier, I wasn’t feeling sick yet. She said that’s their policy, and as long as I don’t have a fever, I should come in. So I did, and when I was taken back, I asked the assistant who’d be working with the dentist if she would please take my temperature. It was normal, which I expected.
They ended up working on me for about 90 minutes — wearing masks, thank goodness — as I unleashed my unrealized COVID germs through the office. On Friday morning, after I knew what I had, I called and talked to the same front-desk employee and told her that I now knew I had COVID and apologized, asking her to tell the rest of the staff the same for exposing them. Really, she should’ve been apologizing to me for guilting me into coming in so I wouldn’t have to pay a $35 cancellation fee.
Thursday night after my positive test, I reached out to my college friend Bobby, who had joined me at Wednesday’s Astros-Rangers game with his family, to let him know so he could alert his loved ones. I also let my friend and former Fort Worth Star-Telegram colleague Roger know, since we’d gone with his son Andy to Monday’s game, where I believe I got sick.
By Friday, a headache that had been pretty slight Thursday turned powerful. As a sufferer of chronic headaches, I’ve come to know them well. They’re always in the front of my head around my eyes and forehead. This one was pounding in the same area and made sleep difficult.
After calling both dentists I’d seen that week, next to call was my PCP to see if he or someone else in his office could see me for a virtual appointment that day. I knew they closed at noon on Fridays, but surely, I thought, someone with COVID who’s been his patient for over 25 years …
“I’ll have to work you in for a virtual appointment Monday,” his scheduler told me.
I was flabbergasted — OK, pissed — and said no, I have COVID and I know you close early on Fridays, but I’m not waiting until Monday to see someone. Let me transfer you to his nurse, the guy says. I leave a terse message for the nurse.
Meanwhile, Kay sets up appointments at two area CVS minute clinics for Saturday and Sunday. Then my other hero, Roger (the same one), whose wife Diane, another former S-T colleague who now works in communications for Texas Health Resources, passes along links to a couple of THR clinics in the area. I call the one in Southlake, about 35 minutes from our house in southwest Arlington, and make an appointment for 3 p.m. Friday.
About 12:30, my doctor’s nurse calls and says he’ll send in prescriptions for an antibiotic and Prednisone (steroid) and wants me to keep my Monday appointment. I didn’t make an appointment for Monday, I tell her, because I refuse to wait until then to be treated for COVID, which would make it five days from the onset of my symptoms and right at the outside window when antivirals are supposed to be given.
I also remember that this doctor has told me ad nauseam about how he thinks COVID isn’t as serious as people have said all along, that there are lots of hoaxes involving doctored death certificates of people who didn’t really die from the virus, and that as a result, the death toll numbers are highly inflated.
The doctor is about a year older than me, and I’ve seen him as long as we’ve lived in Arlington — 26 years today (June 19).
I’ll be finding a new doctor. And not just over this one case. I think he actually does care about his patients, and I’ve appreciated the care and referrals he’s given me. But there’s something about his attitude and approach that has always seemed a bit off. And when I learned he was a COVID denier, I should’ve said adios right then.
In August 2020, when I’d been having right calf pain for almost two weeks and went in for an appointment, all but convinced I had a DVT (deep vein thrombosis), one of his nurse practitioners — instead of doing the right thing and sending me for a CT scan just to be sure — told me it was a pulled muscle because she saw no redness or what she considered serious swelling. The next day, my calf swelled up like a balloon and became much more painful and tender. A CT in the ER after work that night revealed a lengthy blood clot.
When I told my PCP about this on my next visit, rather than taking my side, he hemmed and hawed about how sometimes it’s difficult to know for sure in cases like that. THEN JUST ERR ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION AND ORDER A @#%*&!! TEST!!
A friend has already recommended a candidate to be my next PCP. I’ll be checking him out.
I’ve slowly improved the past couple of days, on which I called in sick from work to get me to me Sunday-Monday work weekend. Saturday, my headache was quite a bit better, but it came back to a lesser degree today. I also started — TMI, but I’m only letting you know in case you haven’t had COVID and want to know what’s possible — a deep cough that brought up thick yellow phlegm that day and has continued today. But I don’t think it’s anything to worry about, because I feel like the medicine — in addition to the Mucinex I’ve been taking — is working. I still have quite a bit of congestion, but it’ll resolve in good time.
This is my second quarantine in recent years. In November 2019, I had to isolate after taking a capsule of radioactive iodine that irradiated (killed, basically) my thyroid, which had spent several years being hyperactively uncooperative. Since I was radioactive, I couldn’t be around anyone for a few days.
This time, I expect, I’ll be alone a bit longer, until I’ve had a negative COVID test and it’s safe for me to leave the room and not infect others. Since my symptoms began Wednesday and my first of two positive tests was Thursday night, I’m thinking I’ll take another Wednesday. I did a CDC online calculator that, using my specifics of when my symptoms started, said I could leave the house Tuesday. That seems pretty early, but maybe I can get out of here sooner than I’m thinking.
Yes, I’d rather be outside this door with my family today, but we’ll find a way to celebrate Father’s Day after I’ve escaped. I’m just thankful they’ve helped make life on the inside without them more bearable.