After more than twenty-one months of managing my pandemic anxiety, I have come face-to-face with the enemy: Omicron. I had lowered my defenses. I counted on my anti-vax son (hereafter called Sonny) who works in home renovations to alert me when exposed to someone infected with the virus. He had done that in December 2020 when his cousin’s wife had contracted the virus. At the time, when he also became sick, he self-isolated in his then newly rented apartment, adjacent to ours. His older brother took care of his meals.
The Omicron variant is different. When Sonny returned home on Thursday, December 30, after completing a two-month home renovation project in Palm Springs, he was unaware of Omicron’s sneak attack. He complained of general muscle pain, not unusual in his line of construction work, and spent the evening resting. He did not mention having a fever. On New Year’s Eve, he and another cousin went to a house party to welcome the New Year with their friends.
On Monday, January 3, the cousin tested positive for the coronavirus. The next day, my firstborn and unvaccinated son, who has been working from home since the lockdown in March 2020, took in with flu symptoms. He decided to isolate in Sonny’s apartment with the hope that I would not get infected. Too late. My head cold and cough started the following day.
That Wednesday, January 5, my temperature rose to 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit. My turn had come to fight the fearsome enemy that upended our lives worldwide. I faced the assault with calm. My concerns were for my firstborn who has health issues that could compromise his immune system. In Brazil, he was the only one of the three of us hospitalized with dengue hemorrhagic fever. It was now Sonny’s turn to care for his older brother. I checked in daily by phone.
Armed with two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, administered in February and March 2021, and a booster shot on December 9, 2021, I readied myself for battle with Omicron. I treated the persistent cough with cough drops and a cough medicine. The pain in the top right side of my head, on the left side of my back near my heart, and behind my eyes passed as quickly as they appeared. The dull pain turned on and off like light bulbs. Omicron’s failed skirmishes on my body’s defense systems?
At no time did I lose my appetite, but Omicron played havoc with my lower digestive system. First came constipation, followed by diarrhea. A persistent itchy scalp drove me to a Google search. It pleased me to discover that I was not the only one with the coronavirus scratching my head.
My temperature rose and fell as my body fought to overcome and conquer the invader. By January 14, my temperature returned to normal. I had defeated the enemy. Or so I believed.
Beginning on Monday, January 17, after a two-week-break, I restarted my Monday to Friday video workouts of 30 to 45 minutes duration. On Monday evening, I breezed through the 30-minute, two-mile “boosted walk.” I felt no muscle fatigue during Tuesday evening’s strength training exercises with three-pound weights. I started out well on Wednesday evening during my favorite 45-minute, Latin dance cardio workout. I could not keep up with the intense pace.
When I awoke on Thursday morning around 7:30 a.m., I knew that something was wrong. My heart fluttered. I was dizzy on getting out of bed. My hands trembled. I drank the glass of water I keep on my bedside table at night, then lay in bed taking slow deep breaths. Should I take my daily medication for hypertension, instead of waiting until noon?
I took my blood pressure at 9:12 a.m. The small screen of my blood pressure wrist monitor read: 92/60 with a 75-pulse rate. How could my blood pressure be so low? A heart symbol indicated an irregular heartbeat. I called Sonny at his work site. I did not call my firstborn: He had problems of his own with high fever and incessant coughing that made his chest hurt.
“You need to rest, Mom,” Sonny told me.
What did I expect? My son is not a doctor.
Since I am on a low-salt diet, I drank a glass of coconut water that is rich in electrolytes. It worked. The dizziness passed. By 11:25 a.m., my blood pressure had risen to 121/75 and the irregular heartbeat symbol had disappeared. I sighed with relief. That day, I skipped my blood pressure medication and continued to monitor my blood pressure throughout the day.
According to the UCLA Health website, it is not safe to resume exercise immediately after recovering from COVID-19. Why didn’t I know that earlier?
When it comes to exercise, the current advice for people recovering from mild or moderate COVID-19, and who were not hospitalized, is to wait at least two weeks before resuming physical activity. It’s not only much-needed rest; it’s also an opportunity to evaluate how you feel being up and about, what kind of activity causes fatigue and at what point you tire. For those who experience a continual recovery in the weeks after being ill, it is considered safe to gradually resume physical activity once the two-week rest period is over. But it’s important to ease back into being active. Pushing yourself post-illness does more harm than good.UCLA Health Website
Although Omicron may be a less virulent variant, we cannot underestimate the damage it can inflict on our body, especially if, like me, you are over sixty years old and have a pre-existing health condition. We may think of COVID-19 like the familiar cold or flu, but it can also “adversely affect the body’s blood-clotting mechanisms and cause lingering systemic inflammation. Scans of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 reveal damage to the lungs, heart and kidneys, as well as dangerous levels of blood-clot production.” (UCLA Health)
I give thanks for the vaccine shots I received and for a strong immune system. As recommended, I plan to ease back into exercising again. I will have to wait a while longer to lose those extra pounds gained during the 2021 end-of-year holiday season. I will contact my healthcare provider for an earlier consultation than my scheduled check-up on March 3.
Following the latest CDC guidelines, I ended my quarantine on January 18 after five days of consistent normal temperatures. My firstborn remained in isolation until January 22. While his cough has subsided, his voice remains gravelly. Given that we in America cannot agree on the measures needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, I expect that this virus will be with us for many more years to come.