My Personal Covid-19 Experience
By: Jessica Kozak Shaw
The past year ended with my testing positive for Covid-19 on Friday Dec 18, 2020. The day before, while doing a virtual session via zoom, I had what felt like a coughing fit as if I was choking on my own saliva. It felt odd and weird. It felt like a ticklish choking sensation that wouldn’t go away. I grabbed some cough drops, which allowed me some relief, so I could finish the session. Oddly, this weird cough didn’t go away. Acouple of hours later, after my last virtual session, I said to my husband that I felt very tired, queasy and I needed to sit down. When I took my temperature and saw I had a temp of 100.3, I was not surprised. As the evening wore on, massive body aches,a headache and an upset stomach came upon me. I went to bed hoping for the best but fearing the worse. In the morning I felt even sicker so I cancelled my day of clients and called my doctor. At this point I was really hoping I picked up a bug but that it wasn’t Covid-19.
I am very careful at The Soul Purpose where I enforced a strict protocol of mask wearing, disinfection, temp checking, and handwashing/In my personal life, I limit my contact to immediate family and I am extremely careful when I go out. I do not go out to eat, out for drinks or socializing…ever. It is because of my cautious measures that I am perplexed as to where I could have picked up any kind of bug, let alone Covid-19, but I did. After thinking back to the previous 8 days, taking inventory of where I had been – The Soul Purpose, CVS, the grocery store and home– I remain unsure of where I contracted this miserable virus. As I waited for my doctor’s call I replayed my recent whereabouts over and over in my mind.
When my doctor called me, she identified my symptoms as Covid-19. It was that direct. So she arranged for a test that sameday and warned me the results would take a few days to come back. I immediately quarantined as did my husband and daughter. When the realization of what was happening hit me I became fearful for my loved ones, especially those that live with me. I was also worried that I had unknowingly exposed any number of people to this novel virus. Anxiety led to visions of ruining Christmas for my family and other people’s families. Soon I was desperate to do something proactive, anything to fight back!
I pulled out my essential oils and deferred to my clinical aromatherapy and herbal training. Determined to keep this virus at bay, I set up my diffuser using blends of Clove, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Ravensara and Thyme to blast throughout the house.I also started drinking 2 quarts of herbal tea a day including nettle leaf, hyssop, mullein leaf and skullcap.
I then reviewed my vitamins and supplements. I had been on Vitamin C, D and Zinc as a preventative but my doctor made modifications. My daily Vitamin D went up to 5000 IU, Vitamin C (Ester C) up to 2000 (anymore would upset my stomach) and she upped me to 100mg of Zinc. I was also put on baby aspirin as a precaution, Zyrtec, Mucinex, and Pepcid.
Through the weekend I suffered with a fever, again reaching as high as 103 degrees. I experienced severe body aches, leg pain, the worst headache I have ever experienced, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, chest pressure and crippling fatigue. Sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it? While I suffered these miseries it occurred to me I had never experienced anything like this before. This sickness felt so very different with its random symptoms popping up unpredictably. Throughout these days I kept up with my healing protocol including self-healing and having friends, colleagues and students sending me healing energy as well. I could barely eat (only small amounts of oatmeal) so I stayed focused on my hydration. I managed to keep small amounts of oatmeal in.
On Monday, December 21st, the phone call from my doctor brought news that I tested positive for Covid-19. I was not surprised but it still felt like a punch to the gut when reality hit. I was instructed to continue with the medical instructions I was previously given and to keep isolating. I have to admit my mind went a bit off kilter when I thought about how I had the novel virus and how freaky and weird it was. And then the panic hit when my doctor recommended my husband and daughter get tested. My daughter had some nausea and body aches but otherwise she was okay…or was she? My husband seemed fine but…. Thankfully both of their tests came back negative and they remain virus free to this day.
I don’t know how my husband and daughter didn’t catch the virus as we live in a relatively small house and share one bathroom. Yes, we were careful but so are other people in this situation and they do not fare as well. I do believe it was the diffuser of essential oils that I had going constantly. This is not something that people who are not Aromatherapists would think to do and, in my mind, it made a difference. Also, as an herbalist, I made them drink herbal infused tea regularly. And they too were put on a new regiment of supplements.
The next thing in the Covid-19 experience is contact tracing. I learned through contact tracing that every person I contacted during the 8 days before I became symptomatic did not have this virus. I also learned that no one contracted it from me. This experience reminded me of just how many people we contact in our regular lives without really thinking about it. My anxiety level decreased considerably as soon as I knew that I did not inadvertently sicken anyone. That is a huge relief to me.
I often think about where I caught Covid-19 but I still do not know. I caught it somewhere and I can speculate about whereuntil the cows come home, but I will never really know for sure. They categorize a case like mine as “community spread.” I just call it mystifying. However, knowing that I did not spread it any further is something I do know and it is this glimmering light that I try to focus on in my darkest moments.
It took about 7 days for me to start to feel some relief from my mixed bag of symptoms which just happened to be Christmas Day (A small Christmas miracle in my mind). I had a bit of anappetite and, overall my peaceful day home with just my immediate family was as good as could be expected. From that point, my symptoms started to get a little better each day with the exception of the fatigue. The fatigue did not lessen at all no matter how much I rested. This was both frustrating and disappointing (and still is).
About a week later, on Jan 2nd, I started to feel crummy again. Back came the body aches. I also had tightness and pressure in my chest with a cough and pain in the diaphragm and ribs. Afever popped up again and my heart rate became elevated. I had heard about cases where the sickness got better before coming back full force and I feared this was happening to me. It was a tough night – physically and mentally.
The next day I put a call into my doctor and she had a great many questions. Her concern was that I had developed pneumonia. Apparently that is how my body was acting; with signs of an infection mixed with classic Covid-19 symptoms. She prescribed an antibiotic and a rescue inhaler. She wanted me to keep in touch and urged me to go to the hospital if my breathing became more problematic. She commented thatbecause I have no secondary health conditions and I am overall a very healthy 45 year old woman that these things work in my favor. I guess this was her way of giving me inspiration.
Fast forward 3 days and my symptoms are worsening. This, I know, is not a good sign. I find it painful to breathe, as if I am wearing a corset that has been laced way too tight. My sternumfeels bruised, like someone had kicked me. My chest feels like there is an elephant standing on it. My fever is 101 and my lymph nodes are so swollen I have pain in my groin, neck, and jaw bone. I have leg pain that is so intense it keeps me from sleeping. Once again, I call the doctor. After she consults apulmonologist she tells me to go to the Emergency Room as there is concern that I have had a Covid-19 relapse including an infection. There is also concern about blood clots; another covid-19 complication. My oxygen levels, while not great, were not in the danger zone which gave me some relief. To calm myself I practice the deep meditative breathing techniques I use in meditation and while performing Reiki.
The 6 hour long Emergency Room is a story in itself. While there I struggle with a fever, elevated pulse and high blood pressure (which is unusual for me). I look around and see other people in the same condition that I am in and get a firsthand experience in what it is like being part of a pandemic. For tests Iwas given an EKG, chest x-ray, and lots of blood was taken. My vitals were taken several times. After an extremely long and uncomfortable wait I finally meet with a Nurse Practitioner and Physician. They explain to me that my x-ray shows I have pneumonia and also what they call “Covid Spots”. “That’s just wonderful”, I think to myself. I learn my EKG is normal (yeah)and my bloodwork shows that I don’t have blood clots or any heart issues (whew). My blood work does show, however, I havean elevated white blood cell count which means I am fighting off a bacterial infection. She tells me they believe I have developed bacterial pneumonia and “Post Covid Syndrome”. I am like “Okayyyyy so what is Post Covid Syndrome ?????”
Not everyone develops Post Covid Syndrome which means I have earned another statistical designation in the pandemic. I am about to learn what this means. (breathe in Jess, count, and release. Stay calm. Positive thoughts.) Rather than medical mumbo jumbo they cut right to the chase, Post Covid Syndrome is when someone continues to struggle with Covid symptoms because their immune system is over-reacting to the virus. This over-reaction causes a lot of inflammation and problems. So, they put me on a stronger antibiotic for the infection and a 5-day round of the steroid “Decadron” to help calm things down. They also tell me to continue the deep breathing technique even if it isuncomfortable as they are convinced that this is the main reason I was able to keep my oxygen level out of the danger zone.(Yeah, holistic healing methods!) I must admit I gloated a bit to see the doctors so impressed by my technique. Then came the usual… stay on all the supplements and meds my doctor had me taking, rest…blah, blah, blah. I also was continuing the herbal protocol but added in a tincture of pleurisy root and marshmallow. I changed my essential oil blend to “ Respir-aid”from plant therapy which includes oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, cypress, pine and marjoram in a cool mist humidifier.
After 24 hours I did feel better. I still felt wiped out and exhausted but had no fever. The discomfort in my diaphragm was also considerably better. The steroids were working their magic! I was still not myself but I could breathe without discomfort. My doctor urged me to continue to rest as she was worried about a relapse due to an overworked immune system.So I continued to rest and do my best to get sleep.
The 5 days I was on the steroids were fine. Things were looking up. I finished them on Saturday 1/9/21. Then, on Sunday 1/10/21, my symptoms started to return. Back came the fever, shortness of breath and diaphragmatic pain and discomfort. My heart rate became elevated again. My exhaustion was getting more severe. I had a headache with inflamed lymph nodes in the neck. The Covid monster was back and I was frustrated. My hopes of recovery were slipping away fast and I could no longer see an end to my difficult journey. I was again advised to go to the ER if my condition worsened; I was determined not to.
Come Wednesday I am back on a telehealth session. This time I am put on a steroid inhaler with hopes that this will help. My friends also sent me some powerful energy healing virtually with energy that I firmly believe helped me. (I wonder what those ER doctors would think about this!)
As of now I am still running low grade temps and dealing with serious fatigue. By the afternoon, breathing becomes a bit toughbut my oxygen and pulse monitoring show I am doing fine. And yes, I faithfully do my breathing exercises. I am resting and continue to use steamy aromatherapy showers and herbal baths. I am now using Frankincense essential oil which helps the inflamed tissue of my respiratory tract. I speak to my doctor regularly…it seems they keep tabs on Covid patients. Although I am not exactly better I am no longer getting worse or backsliding which I am extremely grateful for. I am hopeful and feel lucky. Yes, I absolutely know, it could have been worse.
Why am I sharing all this? I wanted to share my Covid experience because it is such a lonely and frightening experience but it doesn’t need to be. Anyone who reads this will realize that Covid patients share many of the same symptoms, problems, complications and fears. We feel helpless because this illness is frustratingly unpredictable. We are all scared for our loved ones with a tinge of guilt that we brought it into the home. We all rejoice if no one gets sick from us and are all broken-up if someone does get sick. We all know this virus is not like the flu or regular pneumonia even if some people insist that it is. Those of us that suffer with Covid -19 are not alone or helpless, we are fighters battling an illness that little is known about. That makes us warriors!
As a professional in the holistic medical field, I feel this virus leaves no room for friction between the holistic wellness vs. allopathic world. This virus requires us to combine all our knowledge and experience together to bring about the best healing we can find. This virus is unusual and not yet well understood. For some reason it is gentle on some people and wreaks havoc on others. It is because it is so new and different that we must look toward different methods of healing with an open mind. If not now, if not during this horrendous pandemic, then when?
For the record, I am not a purist nor do I claim to be nutritionally superior because I take supplements and herbs. I do not claim my immune system is more efficient than the average persons because I am an Aromatherapist. After all, if I had the ability to be a superwoman I would never have gotten the virus, right? No, I eat relatively healthy and integrate herbs and supplements into my regular health protocol. I am currently not on meds but am not averse to taking them if needed. I get annual medical and dental checkups. I also get regular acupuncture and energy healings. I am just an ordinary person who owns and practices as a Spiritual Healer and Holistic Energy Medicine Practitioner, at The Soul Purpose in Swansea, MA. I run a holistic wellness center and I believe…no, I know… we have a lot to offer!
During this harrowing medical journey, I’ve received lots of messages from well-meaning people. Some gave me much appreciated support and reassurance. Others offered advice or shared their own experiences. Oddly, some people asked why I felt I “attracted” this virus! Well, I do not know how I got the virus and I certainly didn’t go about looking for it but it found me somehow. Although I am a healthy person I am not immune from illness and, perhaps, it was just meant to be.
Of course, being positive minded I have found the silver lining in this experience!• Being unable to work during this time of chaos in our country, has given me time to reflect on things that I ordinarily would not have time to think about.• Not having any distractions aside from being ill has allowed me to be quiet and meditative – another reflective opportunity I value greatly.• I have been able to use, test and tweak my own self-healing modalities.• I have been able to ask for help and support – something I find difficult to do and need practice at doing!• I have been able to really discern how valuable my energy is and how easily it can be drained.• I have witnessed people’s fear and anxieties grow to unbelievable levels, becoming a super prominent focus in our country on so many different levels and for a range ofreasons. This has allowed me to think about ways to ease people’s fears and anxieties through spiritual and holistic healing. It has reminded me that The Soul Purpose has much work yet to do. I have been reminded about whom and what is important and that is the biggest gift of all.
Finally, I leave you with advice. I recommend, aside from caring for your personal health and making choices that work best for you, that you begin or continue practicing self-healing. For me it was deep meditative breathing, for you it may be something different. I recommend you practice safety, eat well, rest and be spiritual. I think essential oils and herbs help. Meditation, self-hypnosis and prayer are always good. Energy medicine, reiki, acupuncture….try it all!
As for me, I fall into a small percentage of patients (about 10%)that seem to develop Post Covid-19 syndrome. I will recover. I plan to incorporate my experience and the techniques that have helped me cope with this virus in my work including myaromatherapy and herbal programs, as well as, my meditation and self-hypnosis monthly classes. I will keep spreading the word through my many classes about holistic and spiritual healing (available in person or on zoom) only now I hold myself up as an example! I will share all I know. I will continue to stress that holistic and spiritual healing is not a replacement for medicine, but rather, is to be used in conjunction with it. I will continue to certify more people so they can teach others. And, someday and somewhere, just maybe there will be a diffuser in an intensive care unit puffing out an essential oil blend with lavender and mandarin so that the patients in the ward can get some much needed sleep!
note: The picture is of East Beach in Westport that I took last weekend. My husband brought me to breathe in the salty air which really helped my lungs 💖
Please visit my website www.soulpurpose.health
In Peace & Wellness