A Survivor’s Guide to COVID-19

Sunde White writes and illustrates about her experience having COVID-19

Lookin’ good, feelin’ good!

Back in the 1800’s, when the pioneers trudged across the Great Plains to build their new life on their homestead, they had to survive any way they could, they were on their own.  When a woman got pregnant, she’d just have to get through it and pray for a safe delivery.  Injured?  Whelp, you’d better figure out how to stop the bleeding or splint that arm ‘cause no one’s coming to help you.  What about getting sick?  All you could do was use your age old remedies handed down from generations before you and hope for the best.

The day I realized I had COVID19 it felt like I was all alone, a pioneer on my little homestead with no one coming to help me.  I got it early, a few days before the quarantine.  When people were barely talking about it and there was definitely no way to get tested for it unless you were actually intubated.

The government was not going to help me, give me suggestions or guidelines.  A doctor had no cures and I was not about to go contaminate an emergency room.  I knew then that I would have to just trust my instincts, pay attention to my body’s signals and use every holistic remedy I had acquired over the previous twenty years during which I didn’t have health insurance.

My sister in Brooklyn had gotten it about a week earlier than me so she was invaluable in shepherding me through the stages of the illness she had already had.  Every day we checked in to discuss what remedies and foods were working for each of us, bouncing ideas of what to try depending on what was presenting itself in our bodies.

Hers was worse than mine.  She went to the emergency room with the “shattered glass” feeling in her lungs and difficulty breathing.  A single mom of two kids, she was terrified.  She asked for a test, the doctor said they would like to but she’d have to call the New York Health Department.  She called them from the quarantined ER room.  They refused to test her because she had not recently been to China.

She tried for two more days to get a test, calling her OBGYN and her kids’ pediatrician.  They told her to call the testing company to ask them to send one to them so they could test her.  She tracked down the testing company and they told her they would send one if she had permission from the New York Health Department.

The doctors at the ER wanted to send her home in an ambulance but she didn’t want to contaminate it.  She walked the 6 or 7 blocks back to her apartment.  She spent a sleepless night trying to breathe through her congested lungs, sitting upright in bed and trying to stay calm.

————————————————————————————————————————-

For months this winter I had been reading about a weird epidemic in China that was freaking out all the experts.  They kept frantically posting charts on Twitter exclaiming that Wuhan was locked down and that the West was next.  The drum beat got louder and louder.  I started grabbing a few extra canned goods and Gatorades whenever I was at the store (although I really overlooked the need to buy toilet paper and paper towels).

I went to Walgreen’s and picked up everything I thought I would need if we were to get a flu like illness.  I knew once word got out about some sort of pandemic that the shelves would be empty.  I grabbed Airborne, cough syrup, decongestant, cough drops and rubbing alcohol but forgot hand sanitizer.  Then I went to my natural food store and grabbed Golden Seal, Oil of Oregeno and a wellness formula tincture that I figured I’d try.  And then, a few weeks later, the cough started.

I couldn’t figure out how I would have gotten COVID19.  I’m practically a shut in.  I work from home and when I’m out of the house I don’t hang out with anyone but my dogs.  I don’t surf in groups or go to bars or the theatre and I ride my bike or drive instead of using public transportation.

“Remember that day I worked on Scott’s lights back in February?”  My husband Britt, an electrician, asked me about a week into both of us being sick with the virus. “He had just gotten back from Europe and he was so sick he couldn’t even get off the couch while I was there.   He was coughing too, I bet he had it.”

“Oh that makes sense.”  I said, “Because you got it a few days before me.”

We settled in for a couple weeks of quarantined healing, having no idea the whole world was about to shut down.

We both made it through the illness but we were careful and disciplined, sticking with our protocols, not missing a day of our Airborne mixtures.  Resting, not doing too much.  But it was up and down and scary because you’re always waiting for it to get worse, go into the lungs and take you down.  With each cough you start to imagine the worst.

I’m writing this so you have a guide to lead you through this very weird illness.  This is a combination of my sister’s  and my own experiences and experiments that we did to get better because really, when you get it, it’s just one big experiment.  When you get it you know you have it because it attacks you differently than anything else.  Here’s everything I can think of that might inform you if this virus finds you.

Oh yah, also, I’m obviously not a doctor and I’m not giving you medical advice.  This is just my experience and these are the actions that I took to get better.  I am in no way saying you should do this I’m just saying I did these things.  By all means check in with your doctor, get a test if you can find one, cover your mouth, wash your hands, wear a mask, stay positive and STAY HOME!

 

Symptoms

The tricky thing about the Corona Virus is the exact symptoms and the pacing and severity of them are different for each person.  It’s like a burglar trying to get into the house wherever they can find a weak point like an unlocked window or a carelessly unlocked garage door.  COVID tries your throat, your nasal cavities, your GI track, your eyes to try to get in to their Mecca –your lungs.

 

1. Dryness

The one symptom I’ve found that each of us had (Britt, me and my sister), was dryness.  It’s a very dehydrating virus.  I read recently that nurses can tell someone has it because they have “Corona Eyes”, red rimmed, bloodshot eyes.  You will think you have seasonal allergies because your eyes are so dry and scratchy.  No amount of water will quench your thirst.  At night you will wake up totally dry mouthed and suck down a bunch of water with it hardly mattering.  Your mouth will feel hot for most of this illness.

2. Hothead and Headache

This virus causes extra heat in the body, that’s why it’s drying and I really felt it in my head.  I was constantly fighting off migraines and, although it was not mucus causing, my head felt stuffy like it was full of hot air, which I think it literally was!  This also is a symptom that makes people think they have seasonal allergies.

 

3. Dry Cough

I got a weird unproductive dry cough before my fever but Britt got his after he started to come down with it.  Again, it seemed like a kind of allergy cough because, like, what the heck is a dry cough?  Like what is it, even?  And in the damp and cold Bay Area???  Usually, during a normal flu the cough comes last after the fever and mucus.  It starts to settle into your lungs about a week out but still you’re coughing up stuff, it’s never a dry hot cough.

4. Fever

I only had a fever for about a day or two and it was very off and on. I had one full day of fever and then it varied by the hour.  Sometimes it would last for an hour or two or even a few minutes, like a wave washing over me.  Britt barely had a fever but a lot of peoples’ fevers last for days.

 

5. Exhaustion

Britt and I both were very run down and exhausted.  You drag around and just fall asleep randomly.

 

6. Lack of Focus, Foggy Headed

I found it very hard to focus on reading or working, making art, coming up with ideas, conversing on the phone or writing, especially figuring out how to spell words.

 

7. Nausea and GI track discomfort

Britt didn’t have any GI things but I would get little waves of nausea randomly but I never vomited.

 

8. Non Linear Experience

I heard someone describe COVID this way and it’s so true.  When you have the flu there is an expected journey you go on with a familiar conclusion.  Swollen glands, fever, aches, exhaustion, coughing sneezing, clear mucus then yellow mucus suggesting healing then a productive cough, clearing of mucus and increase in energy.

But this is like, cough first, then fever, then a blast of energy then fever, then fatigue, then no cough, then cough, whoops, nausea alert, back to fever, some aches in the second weak all of a sudden, then cough again, oh everything’s fine, phew then fever again and increased cough…well you get the idea.  It’s just a random hodge podge of symptoms that occur just as randomly and you just have to hang on and ride through it.  And everyone’s experience will be different.

 

9. Light Mucus and No Swollen Glands
The weird thing about this was I had very little mucus and no swollen glands.  Britt didn’t have these either.

 

10.Lack of Appetite

 

Remedies

I’ll emphasize again that I am not a doctor.  I am just describing my experience and what I did to get better.  Also any remedy that you decide on, do it religiously.  Make it your protocol that you do not skip.  One day of skipping and the virus can get its power back.  It feels like you have to be constantly tamping down the fucking thing.

 

1. Vitamin C

My sister told me that she only wanted to drink fresh OJ and eat berries.  So she did that and I would take two Airborne tablets dissolved in water every single day.

 

2. Oil of Oregeno

This is an anti viral and it’s super strong.  It needs to be dissolved in water because it will burn you.  Follow the directions because when they say 5 drops, they mean 5 drops.  I put five drops every day into my Airborne while my sister would gurgle with it and then swallow it because the virus lives in the throat but I could not handle that.

 

3. Goldenseal

Yes, this is an antibiotic which is irrelevant for viruses but it also boosts your immune system and COVID can cause pneumonia which is bacterial so it will help to keep bacteria from overgrowing in your lungs.

I added half a dropper into my Airborne every day.  My sister did not use this.

4. Wellness Formula Tincture

I’ll be honest with you, I just grabbed this off the shelf and it had a bunch of healing herbs that I can’t even remember but I just went with it, because, like, why not?  I put half a dropper into my Airborne.

 

5. Cranberry Pills

Every woman knows about cranberry for UTI’s.  The cranberry has a property that doesn’t allow bacteria to grab on to the liner of the bladder so infection can’t take hold.  So I applied this same reasoning to my illness and took a pill each day.  No idea if it worked.  My sister did not do this.

 

6. Probiotics

I took at least one good, refrigerated probiotic each day for the following reasons.  First of all when your GI track is strong with good bacteria then your whole body is stronger.  Second, I knew my immune system would be run down which means I’d be susceptible to weird infections that normally wouldn’t take hold.  And I was right because near the end, I hadn’t been taking my probiotics and I got a really crazy skin infection that I won’t get into but needless to say I got right back on the probiotics and it cleared itself up but I was reminded how vulnerable my immune system was.

 

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is amazing.  It’s antiviral.  The coconut oil acts as a sticky magnet to the virus which then gets all stuck together and sucked into the coconut oil like in the horror movie TheThing.  My sister swears that swishing (aka pulling) the coconut oil in her mouth for 5 or 10 minutes saved her when she was having trouble breathing.  I experienced the same thing.  Whenever my cough got bad and I got scared I would melt some coconut oil and swish it in my mouth for about 5 minutes and I swear you can feel things getting sucked out of you into the oil.  After swishing spit it out in the trash not the sink because it will clog your plumbing.   I found that it lubricated everything and was a salve for the lungs and made the cough settle down.  Britt found the same thing happened for him.  It felt miraculous.

When my sister was having her really bad lung situation she would gargle oil of oregano every three hours during the night and then do the coconut oil before bed and again in the morning.

You can also ingest a tbsp. every day and night to help if it’s attacking your GI track or read remedy below.

8. GI Track Remedy

This is actually something you can do if you’ve ever been food poisoned or been camping and gotten Giardia from dirty water.  I found this natural remedy from some nice lady that had a holistic website and I’ll be grateful for her forever.  FYI, I also give this treatment to my dog if she drank dirty water and has diarrhea and it stops it immediately.  Like all these suggestions I don’t know if this will stop COVID but this is all one experiment. It’s natural and has worked for me for all GI issues.

  • Enzyme capsules (found at health food stores)
  • Vitamin C Powder
  • Coconut Oil Vinegar-If you can’t find that you can combine Coconut Oil and Apple Cider Vinegar or just Coconut Oil if you don’t have both
  • Goldenseal

Open one enzyme capsule and empty it into about a 1/4 cup of water. Mix together and drink.  Just this usually settles down GI issues within a few minutes.  Wait about an hour and then combine 2 tbsp Coconut Oil Vinegar (or 2tbsp Coconut Oil with about 1/4 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar, or just the Coconut Oil) with a quarter dropper of Golden Seal and about 1/8 tsp of Vitamin C.  Drink it down.  It’s tastes really gross but it’s amazing!

 

Diet

1. No Starches or Simple Carbs or alcohol!

This stupid virus is so into starches and carbs that it will literally start having mind control over you insisting that you buy a box of Cheezits  and stuff down the whole thing while watching Netflix.  I made “quarantine crepes” because I was following my viral masters’ directions.  I haven’t made crepes in years and, like a baking zombie,  I whipped up about a thousand of them and Britt and I ate every last one.

 

After every crepe session my throat would feel swollen and I would feel run down.  The same thing happened with my sister!  She was strangely compelled, right when she was feeling a little bit better, to go down to her natural foods market and grab her favorite box of healthy crackers, eat the whole thing and then the next day she’d be lethargic and her lung difficulties would be back!

 

The final straw that made us both realize this was when both Britt and I were starting to feel better and we were dying to eat popcorn.  We each had our own giant bowl (and I had a nice big glass of wine) the next morning Britt was run down and I was literally feverish, heavy headed and exhausted again.  Starches and alcohol feed the virus! Don’t feed the virus!

 

2. Eat light, non spicy foods

You probably won’t want to eat much anyway but I just had soups, veggies, fruits, whole grain toast, some eggs etc.  Whatever is right for you, go for.  Again, no starches and no sugars(which are like starches) and no spicy food.  The illness puts a lot of heat in your body, don’t add more with spicy foods.

 

3. Hydrate!

Whatever non caffeinated thing you like drinking, drink it.  But I’d stick with water water water and also I had Gatorade because sometimes it’s the only thing that properly rehydrates you.  Even if you don’t feel like drinking, drink.

 

4. Replenishing Proteins

At the end of my illness, when I felt like I was doing great, I suddenly had a setback.  I woke up exhausted, lethargic, fuzzy headed.  But I remembered my sister telling me the same thing happened to her so she made a stew type of thing with beans and mushrooms and steak.  I try not to eat much meat but it did feel like an iron deficiency.  I grabbed some ground beef out of the freezer and for a few days I ate a hamburger patty with cheese, avocado and red onion and cilantro on top.  No bun because I was still trying to stay away from starches.  This helped me gain my strength immensely!

 

Cleaning

1. Keep Sanitizing

Remember when you were scared of getting the ‘Rona and you would disinfect your doors and computer and handles and remote with rubbing alcohol?  Keep doing that all through the sickness.  The more virus that is around you, the more will go in you.  To fight it, you need to keep their numbers down.  Clean your pillow case, sheets and blankets as much as possible.  Change your towel daily.

 

2. Change your toothbrush

Or if you can’t do that you could actually clean it with soap and water and rinse it thoroughly so that you’re not inserting the virus vigorously into your mouth every morning and night.  You could also pop it into the microwave which kills germs like they’re Gremlins.

 

3. Shower or Bathe

Keep yourself as clean as you have the energy for.  Again, the virus is everywhere so if you have energy try showering.  It’ll make you feel nice.

 

 

Emotions

1.Laughter is the best medicine

My sister told me that her and her kids tried to watch a lot of funny movies and play games and laugh as much as possible.  She felt like it kept all the bad stuff moving through her throat and lungs and not getting caught up anywhere.

I have a funny trick to start laughing which is you stare up at the ceiling and just start saying, very matter of factly, “Ha, ha, ha, ha…”  and it just starts cracking you up!

 

2.Stay Calm

I know this is scary as hell but the bottom line is stress and panic tightens up the lungs and, even under the best conditions, makes it difficult to get a full breath.  Try to find methods to calm yourself and I would practice, while your lungs are okay, doing daily deep breathing that you can go back to if there is an emergency.

 

3.Accept Ups and Downs

This is a very manic depressive virus.  You will feel good for a couple hours and then like shit again for the next few hours.  You’ll think your cough has gone and then it’ll come back ten times harder tomorrow.  Try to remain grounded during these swings and know that it will pass and one day you will be healthy again.

 

4.Try to not stress

Yes I know the economy just collapsed and we’re in the middle of a world wide pandemic but you have to go within yourself and find a way to soothe the high level of stress.  Through positive visualization, sitting in the sun, breathing techniques etc.  Stress makes you sick even in the best of times so we have to practice conscious positivity right now, even if that feels impossible and idiotic, we have to find a way to have a few moments of calm and positivity during each day.

 

5.Get a wellness buddy

This could be a friend or relative or someone on Twitter, but you can’t be alone in this.  You have to have someone, whether they have COVID or not, that will check in with you every day.  That has contact info for you or can help you get supplies you need, whether it’s dropping them off at the door or ordering them for you online.  You need to know that someone cares and is watching over you, even if it’s from a far.

This can be a very isolating experience because you are terrified and terrified of spreading it and terrified of being blamed for spreading it but you have to tell someone that you trust that you have it so they can check on you.  They will want to do this and they will want to help, I swear!

 

Exercise

 

1.Don’t

“Oh Sunde,“ You’re saying right now, “I always do light exercise when I have the flu.”  Well it’s not the flu so sit quietly instead.  You have to save all your energy for the inward battle of this virus.  Every time I did anything it felt nice because it’s normal to be active but I always regretted it because my cough would act up and I would be exhausted a few hours later and the next day.

I truly believe that a lesson we all could learn from this illness is to sit still again.  Just calm the fuck down, sit quietly and be present.  It’s fine to not constantly be out doing things.

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————

 

A few days ago, I was on the phone with my sister after the danger had passed for both of us.  She was taking a short walk.  A siren interrupted our conversation.

“The sirens have been so bad, Sunde.”  She said.  “Just a constant, awful background noise.  But today, for the first time, it felt like there were less of them, just by a little bit.  Maybe it’s just in my mind though because I’m used to them now.”

“Wait,” she said.  I could picture her stopping on the sidewalk.  “There’s people screaming, or…maybe… oh everyone’s cheering!  Everyone sticks their heads out their windows at seven to cheer the health workers.”

“It’s four o’clock here!  Seven there!” I told her.

My sister put her phone on speaker and held it out to Brooklyn and we started cheering together.

P.S.-Love you guys, stay safe and stay home!  We’ll get through this together.

Fuck off!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.