I want to extend my sympathies to those who can’t wear a mask for medical reasons. As a COVID-19 survivor, I feel you. It is absolutely terrifying to have trouble breathing for hours at a time. Nobody should have to go through that.
It makes it worse when nobody believes that there’s anything wrong with you. When I told my doctor I had been exposed to COVID, he wouldn’t authorize a test. This was back in the early days, when they were really hard to get. It wasn’t until a week later, when I described my symptoms, that he understood something was seriously wrong with me.
If you’re in that situation, with doctors who don’t believe you and won’t listen, I feel you. It’s infuriating and scary. What’s it going to take, collapsing in the street?
I know what it’s like to have doctors who won’t listen. When doctors won’t listen, nobody else will either. How can people be so awful? They don’t have a right to demand my private personal medical records, or yours either.
You’d think anyone could tell I was having serious problems breathing. I’ve had a lot of experience with that lately.
First, three weeks of COVID-19,
Followed by an opportunistic respiratory infection that lasted another three weeks,
And then bacterial pneumonia for my birthday two months later. There went another month.
Nobody made me wear a mask when I had COVID-19, because I was too sick to leave my apartment. I didn’t have to put one on until I went to the COVID hospital to get my chest x-ray.
That was a big deal because it’s not like I knew the name for ‘peribronchial thickening.’ All I knew was my chest was on fire. It’s a good thing I went in when I did, and got the antibiotics, because the next night I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like it was time to call an ambulance.
Luckily, after about twenty minutes I felt better. I trusted the power of the antibiotics, and I’m glad I did, because they worked. My mom is allergic to almost all antibiotics and if she had what I did, she might not have made it. I can almost be happy I was the one to get sick instead of her, because I don’t have to worry about going into anaphylactic shock from taking azithromycin.
You know, when I wore my N95 mask to the hospital, I had to wear it for about three hours. Both times. The COVID hospital in my area is four towns away. My friend who was exposed to the coronavirus on the same day as me took me. We both got really sick, but her symptoms started sooner than mine. A lot of people would probably think it was safe to go without masks, since we both already had COVID. Nobody knows whether there is immunity, though, or how long it lasts. Definitely nobody knew back in April 2020. My friend has a rare blood disorder that puts her in the hospital all the time, and I couldn’t risk her health, especially not after she dropped everything to take me to get my chest x-ray.
I don’t think anyone else would have. I obviously wasn’t safe to be around.
Am I now? I don’t know. I’ve tested negative twice, but I do still keep having weird leftover symptoms, like getting so cold I wake up shaking in the night. It’s hard to know. What if there is a small amount of the virus hiding away somewhere in my body, at levels too low to detect, and it surges back again at some point?
There just isn’t enough information out there yet, even though millions of people have been exposed and nearly a million people around the world have died already. In eight months!
There isn’t enough information, and so I wear my masks just to be safe.
Did I mention? I wear three masks when I go anywhere. A surgical mask, a fabric mask over that, and a plastic face shield over the top. I’m still very frightened when I go out, because there are young people with no masks on all over the place and they keep coming close to me.
A lot of people will say, Just stay home then. Believe me, I do. I almost never leave the apartment. I had to, though, to get my chest x-ray and my COVID tests and go to the pharmacy for my inhaler and my antibiotics. I didn’t feel like I could wait for them to come in the mail.
I also have to go out sometimes to take out the trash or go in the laundry room in my building. I’m so nervous my hands shake. There are about 100 people in my building and only a couple of them wear masks. One young guy cornered me in the laundry room - it has only one door - to give me a speech about how he understands that I’m trying to be careful. If he really understood, he would have stood aside and let me out of the room without talking to me from only a few feet away.
This was a surprise, actually. That guy thought he was trying to be nice. A lot of people seem to be going out of their way to pick fights and be mean. All this tension and anxiety just gets worse when people snap like that.
All I want is for people to leave me alone, so I wear my masks and keep my head down. It’s like being the Invisible Man. I just want to get whatever it is done as fast as possible and go home again. I don’t think I can relax in public again until there haven’t been any cases in my county for a month.
I keep hearing about people who have breathing difficulties that keep them from wearing a mask. I want to know more. I feel such a kinship with other people like me who are afraid their lungs are like a torn-up old plastic sack now. What is it? What happened?
I don’t have a right to know, of course not. I just wonder what it is that’s so much worse than COVID or pneumonia. When I was sick, I walked slowly, but I could still get around. I didn’t get dizzy or fall down or black out or anything. I wonder how someone whose breathing problems were worse than mine could even go anywhere without a wheelchair and an oxygen tank?
I hope all the people who do rely on supplemental oxygen are able to get it now. Same with nebulizers, inhalers, and all the other meds I’ve been starting to learn about.
Whatever your breathing difficulty is, I hope you can recover. I hope there will be treatments for your condition, or maybe even a cure one day. I also hope we can all band together and try to beat the coronavirus. It would be nice to feel safe to leave my apartment without a mask on one day.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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