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Medical Treatment in the time of COVID-19

Because of where I’m employed, I have been updated almost daily on the Novel Coronavirus (NCOVID-19) since I got back from our Holiday Shutdown at the end of 2019. I have watched as it jumped country to country with a baby who has her share of medical issues. It’s why we got her ear tubes as soon as we could after the New Year and its why I have continually watched the case count and addressed her subsequent health issues as soon as possible before it hit my State. My goal was to get her healthy from Flu, Ear Infections, RSV, and Pneumonia before our hospitals started seeing the first community spread cases. This is the timeline, the things that have come up that I didn’t expect, and why you really want to stay as healthy as you can for things other than Coronavirus at this time.

February 28th, 2020 COVID-19 Cases in MN: 0

Emma has been recovered from the flu for just 5 days and is able to get her ear tubes put in. So far, we don’t have any cases in Minnesota, but Washington and California are just getting started and Italy is just starting to see the worst.

March 7th, 2020 COVID-19 Cases in MN: 1

Emma has a nasty cough that we think is left over from the flu but seems to be getting worse. We had our first Coronavirus case reported in Minnesota where someone came back from their cruise ship and is in quarantine at home for the remainder of their illness. I take her into Urgent Care, because I don’t want to sit with this any longer. Turns out that she has an ear infection…after the tubes. We get her prescription, the visit seems pretty normal, but we get all the COVID-19 screening questions when we go in.

March 12, 2019 COVID-19 Cases in MN: 5

I am having the worst heartburn/gas pain/abdominal pain I’ve ever had in my life. I took all the Tums, all the gas-x, all the Prilosec and am in misery with a heating pad on my stomach. After trying to deal with this pain more than 12 hours after the offending meal (Beef Stroganoff), I finally call my husband to leave work early so we can get to urgent care. We get there (kids in tow) and all seems to be normal in the office, except that they are handing out surgical masks to everyone. I get all the COVID-19 screening questions again and at this point I have my suspicions that what I am experiencing is a Gallbladder Attack and let them know that this is why I’m here. I am in so much pain that my blood pressure is 235/195…normal blood pressure is somewhere around 120/70. They give me a gastro cocktail to help calm the burn and a blood pressure pill to get that out of the danger zone. I have so much pain that I cannot nail down exactly where it is, I’ve got pain in my right armpit, pain across my chest, pain in my back, pain in my abdomen. The doctor thinks I have kidney stones based on my urine sample, so I get sent for a CT…not kidney stones, but a gallbladder full of little stones, the kind that can get stuck in your duct between your gallbladder and liver. So, then I have an ultrasound…no stones in the duct. I can go home with blood pressure pills, more Prilosec, and plenty of pain pills to ride it out. I’m told to make an appointment with my PC Physician so I can get a referral to a surgeon.

Knowing how this has gone down in other countries, how quickly COVID-19 cases double, how there maybe as many as 50 more cases in our State than what is being reported…I make my appointment for the following week, but call everyday to see if I can get in earlier from an appointment cancelation. I am finally able to move it up to March 18th from March 23rd. At this point I’m still having pain everyday and spend most days with my heating pad during this first week of homeschooling my 10 year old, Jillian. At this point I’m very worried that I won’t be able to get the surgery before the COVID-19 cases start exploding in the hospital. Time is not on my side at all. The day after I moved my appointment up, I get a call that it is going to be cancelled due to COVID-19. However, I tell them why I need the appointment and they let me keep it.

March 18th, 2020 COVID Cases in MN: 77

I see my PC Physician and he realizes the urgency of this problem and refers me to a Surgeon. So, I go sit with scheduling and we try to find an appointment…and the Surgeon schedules are all blocked for the foreseeable future. She calls their offices and finds out that it is due to a new Governor’s order that all elective surgeries be postponed until April 10th unless they are for Breast Cancer patients. This is what I was afraid of. We are able to schedule me in for April 13th for a consultation…time is really not on my side at this point.

March 19th, 2020 COVID-19 Cases in MN: 89

Emma’s coughing gets worse and just won’t leave. Her antibiotics for her ear infection have been done for a week or so, but she seems to be getting worse. I need to get her well, before the waiting rooms are full of COVID-19 patients. We go to the doctor again, Mike and Jillian drop us off and sit in the car so they don’t expose themselves to anything. Again, we get screened for COVID-19 questions and are offered surgical masks…everyone is wearing a mask. Emma won’t wear one though, what baby would? The doctor sees her and agrees that she needs something more aggressive to address this cough situation since she already had Pneumonia before the end of 2019. We get a powerful antibiotic and in the following few days, she seems to be getting better!

March 23rd, 2020 COVID-19 Cases in MN: 235

Emma coughed all night, her chest wheezed and crackled, neither of us got a lot of sleep…and on top of that, she had a high fever. Now I’m suspecting that she might have been exposed to COVID-19 or she already has Pneumonia again. We go to urgent care, the PPE has been stepped up significantly. We get masks again, we answer the COVID-19 screening questions. Our doctor is decked out in a gown, mask, face shield, hair net…the whole bit. She has an X-ray of her chest for the 4th time in 4 months, no Pneumonia. We find out that they can’t swab her for the Flu, RSV, or COVID-19. All the swabs have been donated to the COVID-19 testing and you cannot get a COVID-19 test unless you are admitted to the hospital. The doctor debates this, but says she has good oxygen levels and doesn’t have retractions, so she isn’t at that point yet. She prescribes a nebulizer treatment and Emma is finally able to relax and wheeze a little less. She is diagnosed with RSV, since the symptoms point to it more than anything else. Does she have RSV or COVID-19? We will never know unless this gets worse and we have to take her to the ER at Children’s, we are hoping it doesn’t get worse…but at any rate, she isn’t going back to daycare or leaving the house for a long while. We are all acting on the assumption that any one of us has already been unknowingly exposed as to not spread it…or if we haven’t been exposed…to not be infected with it.

March 24th, 2020 COVID Cases in MN: 262

Emma’s fever finally breaks and she is responding to the Nebulizer treatments, the coughing has lessened considerably, but she still sounds congested in her chest.

I have a dinner (Chicken and Dumplings) that would have never caused me a heartburn or gas problem in the past…but now suddenly in the middle of the night it caused me another Gallbladder attack. I swear off using canned biscuits for dumplings (because it was the only thing that was remotely fatty that would have caused this), only dumplings from scratch from now on where I can control the fat. I take the Prilosec daily now, I take some Gas-X and Aleve…and grab my heating pad that I had been able to go without for almost a week. Two or three hours later, I still cannot sleep from the pain. I finally give in and take the Tramadol I was prescribed for these situations. I get some much needed sleep.

March 26th, 2o2o COVID-19 Cases in MN: 346

I get a call from the Surgeon’s office…my appointment is cancelled. All elective surgeries are cancelled for the foreseeable future, even the ones for cancer…so they can concentrate resources on the COVID-19 Pandemic. This was what I was worried about. I am told that if I have another attack that doesn’t resolve itself or is accompanied by yellowing skin and a fever, to go to the ER and I will likely have emergency surgery (and be exposed to COVID-19…and have a much more invasive surgery with a longer recovery time). So, this is where I am folks. I am trying my hardest to behave myself and steer clear of things that could make my Gallbladder act up, but I’m not hopeful considering how small the stones are and the fact that a normally harmless meal set it off. I am also trying very hard to avoid stress, since stress and anxiety aggravates all my symptoms even more.

Stay HOME!

The longer people fuck around with the “Stay at Home” or “Shelter in Place” orders and ignore them, the longer they are going to last. Don’t go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary. Don’t lick the brownie spoon or eat the raw cookie dough…you don’t want to end up in doctor’s office. Don’t do anything stupid that will land you in the ER from something other than COVID-19. Stay home, stay safe! We are all in this shit sandwich together. If you get lonely and need interaction with a person, let me know, I’ll set up a Zoom/Facetime/etc. and I’ll put my good sweatpants on for you…but I’m drawing the line at a shower…you can’t smell me anyhow!

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