Carrie Steinweg shares her post-hospital COVID symptoms
COVID Catch-up is a weekly column featuring Lansing Journal journalist Carrie Steinweg’s personal experience with COVID-19 and things she learned from others who shared their experiences. Subscribe today to make sure you don’t miss any COVID Catch-ups. Last week’s column is available here.
By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (March 4, 2021) – Last week I shared many of the symptoms of COVID-19 that occurred before I was hospitalized. Some of the most worrisome, annoying, and painful effects of COVID-19 happened after my hospital discharge. While I had experienced every one of the CDC’s approved list of symptoms on their website before I was hospitalized, most of them remained when I left the hospital and others followed.
Same old symptoms
There were some medications that were being used to treat COVID-19 patients in November, but I was told I had been beyond the window of when they would likely be effective. Since it had been nearly two weeks since my first symptoms, I wasn’t eligible for those available medications. I was given antibiotics, but they didn’t seem to cause any improvement. I felt no better when I went home from the hospital than when I went in. I had been on oxygen since being admitted and once my oxygen hit an acceptable level, I was released.
When I got home, though, I didn’t feel like I was breathing any easier and in some ways felt worse. I still had no energy and felt fatigued. My appetite was getting a little better, but I still couldn’t taste or smell anything. I still had a bad cough and sore throat and was congested. Muscle aches continued and my whole body hurt. The headache was just about gone and that was a big relief. I was still bothered by bright lights and sensitive to noise, but it was getting better. I kept alternating between chills and sweating. I was still getting lightheaded when walking.
As I continued with those symptoms, a whole new crop of things were going on. I had earaches and my neck and behind my ears felt swollen and sore and sensitive to touch. My toes were sore and red and itchy. I was spending most of my time in bed and it was a couple days before I even sat up in a chair. My legs had gotten so weak they’d buckle under me as I walked up stairs and I had to hold tightly to the railing to keep from falling. I’d sit down on the toilet and didn’t have the strength to pull myself up. I couldn’t stand to shower or cook.
In the hospital, I had been given blood thinners. As a side effect, I was getting bloody noses daily. One day, I had a nosebleed that lasted more than two hours. I was also given steroid shots in my stomach while in the hospital. I had a terrible bout of insomnia like nothing I’d ever experienced and I wondered if it was related to the steroids. For almost a month I was sleeping very little—some nights only about 90 minutes. Even though I was getting little sleep, I was very hyper when I was awake and everyone around me got tired of hearing me talk.
I had noticed when my symptoms first started that a lot of my hair was falling out. It just got worse and worse. Soon it was visibly obvious and my once-thick head of hair had gotten very thin.
Intense leg cramps
There were other things going on that were embarrassing or female-related and better left not mentioned here. But probably the worst thing I experienced were intense leg cramps that lasted hours. Unlike a “Charlie Horse” that might last a few minutes and go away as you get up and walk on it, it was non-stop pain for hours and nothing seemed to help it go away. They’d happen a bit during the day, but were worst at night when I’d lay on the sofa trying not to wake anyone else for up to four or five hours just rolling around with pain of about 9 on a scale of 1-10. I took Tylenol, which is what I would normally take for a headache or other pains. It did nothing to decrease the pain. I talked to a nurse by phone who suggested it was just due to the lack of circulation and suggested stretching exercises. It eventually went away as I was getting around more, but the couple of weeks of this intense pain was one of the worst parts of having COVID.
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: Two categories of symptoms (Part 1) (February 24, 2021)
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: Losing someone during the pandemic (February 17, 2021)
- This week’s COVID Catch-up: The road back to normal (February 9, 2021)