David Gary Wood

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The long arm of the virus

May 22, 2022

Along came the bug

We got sick, as a family, at the end of March 2022. We used RATs to test for COVID, and came up negative each time. Symptoms wise, we had aches, headaches, malaise, brain fog, bad guts, small coughs and sneezes but not the overt respiratory that comes with COVID.

It lasted for around a week. About 9 days after initially becoming sick, we were feeling well enough to go out. We drove up to Paraparaumu. We had lunch by the beach, on a bench there.

Paraparaumu Beach

I walked down to the water and back. By the time I reached the bench this photograph was taken from, my legs hurt badly. I felt out of breath. Given I was running 5K no problem, prior to the illness, this was extremely unexpected. Thankfully, I was the only one in the family experiencing this after effect.

Burning out

For the next couple of weeks, pain kept coming and going from my legs. I rested, and fell into a routine of just getting up for work (from home), and being extremely sedentary.

I tried to take short walks. My new “PB” was 1KM, and that meant I needed to rest for over an hour afterwards. Exerting myself was now leading to bouts of fatigue along with the pain.

I contacted my doctor. They recommended I rested as much as possible, as at that time it was still ~3 weeks since being ill. Recommended I took vitamin D tablets.

I was managing the pain with paracetamol. Somewhere along the line, I found a box of long acting ibuprofen and that relieved things some too, but it didn’t last. I was grimacing my way through the day, and not really realising just how burnt out I had become.

“Normal”

I messaged the doctor again at ~ week 6 of the pain. They sent me for all the blood tests. Full panel, Vitamin D, the works. The results came back: “normal”.

I wasn’t bloody normal though, was I?

I booked a face to face appointment with my doctor, and had a couple of days to wait.

I went to the internet and started searching. The link of inflammation kept bugging me. I take Montelukast, to help with reducing asthma triggers. There had been some preliminary studies done in 2021 to see if Montelukast could be useful prophylactically for COVID, in reducing the potential for long COVID.

Given I’d been prescribed 10mg before, and had reduced to 5, I decided to pop another 5mg pill and see if anything happened. My pain reduced that afternoon, and that evening I went to the supermarket on my own. Success! … Sort of.

Review with my doctor

I explained this with my doc, and they advised that I could take my 10mg of Montelukast, and we agreed a safe higher dose of anti histamines. The doc also signed me off for just over a week from work, so I could recharge, and work on getting in sync with meds.

The back-stop was prednisone. If this didn’t work, we’d try a short course of that. I wasn’t keen. As an asthmatic I take enough steroids via my inhaler, and I know prednisone can have side effects and can be something people struggle to come off when they’ve been taking it for a while.

So anti histamines and montelukast it was. Along with codeine for pain just before bed, to help ensure I got a better night’s sleep, and ibuprofen during the day.

So many pills now, I rattle.

Rest. Pills. Rest. Zombie mode.

I rest. My workplace made sure everything important was covered, I had nothing to worry about. I appreciate the support. I stop setting an alarm (although the cat still wakes me up).

Things were better, but not fixed. The anti histamines and montelukast combined with ibuprofen were basically keeping things in check, and pain was reduced but not gone. The Cetirizine was turning me into a zombie though.

I decided to try a different anti histamine. Fexofenadine. I’d taken it before, it works slightly differently to Cetirizine but doesn’t make me as drowsy.

The pain came back with a vengeance. I had to wait another day to get back into my Cetirizine protocol, and the pain was incredibly bad. I messaged my doctor, and asked for the Prednisone.

Welcome to the PredniZone!

A short course, one week. The hope is it will turn things off and on again.

[Homer Simpson, turning a light switch on and off again]

So far, the prednisone is helping. Significantly less pain. I’m keeping up my increased cetirizine doses, but have shifted to taking them in a block at night, instead of split in the morning and evening. I take the montelukast in the morning so I’m not filling up with too many things all at once. I take the prednisone after I’ve eaten breakfast.

I still ache in my joints and muscles in my legs. But I’m no longer experiencing the pain. I get it back a little in the evenings.

The prednisone gives me a bit of mania here and there, which I’ve been trying to ride out. I want to do EVERYTHING that I’ve ever had an ambition to do, all at once. I think this has also been just joy at no longer feeling so much pain.

Where next?

I’m concerned it won’t be a sustained effect after the prednisone course is done this week. I don’t particularly want to be on prednisone long term, if I don’t have to, and especially not on top of asthma medication, and everything else I take. It might be necessary though. I’ll know in a few days.

Otherwise. I don’t feel recovered enough to take up exercise again yet. It’s early days still. I’ve done Yoga this last week, and it has been tolerable, but it really depends on where the pain is at.

I want to run. I want to be back to doing my 5KM on Saturday mornings at ParkRun with my friends. I want to be able to do the walks in my local area I’ve been doing on and off since we went into lockdown in 2020.

I’m crossing everything I don’t end up just grimacing through the day again, day after day.


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