It’s All Clear as Mud

 

Since the day we learned about this virus, the information that has gone out about it has been, at best, clear as mud. I understood, and still do, that we were dealing with something new, so I wasn’t too upset about it at first and did what I was told like a good little citizen. Then I went to eye-rolling at some point. But now I have resolved to feeling just plain mad if I think too hard about it.

Mad because of the unintended consequences of so many lives ruined and upended by just a small percentage of people in power who have decided how the rest of us should live. Mad because of the theatrics played out by our government and media, the fear and panic they’ve induced, and terrible mistakes they’ve (knowingly?) made. Mad because of how divided we seem to be. Mad for personal reasons: my kid losing a job; other kids abruptly moving back home to finish college online (did you know you can’t take a cadaver lab at home?); my husband working from home, getting a pay cut, having to take forced furlough weeks, and a freeze on bonuses. Please don’t “at least he still has a job” me. Believe me, I know we are still among the fortunate ones. Truly though, I’m mostly mad because of what this seems to have done to make the healthcare system practically collapse on itself, especially in the area of preventive medicine.

My story is very minor, and to this layman it now it feels more like a comedy of errors, as if the Three Stooges were in charge, but if it’s any indication as to how other people in worse situations have been treated, we have a big problem.

Back in January, I left a job I liked because of a boss I didn’t and took a month off before starting to look for another. I was close to getting another one when this thing called the Wuhan Flu hit. The job and others like it vanished into thin air because suddenly we weren’t meeting in groups anymore. That was ok though, because it turned out that I couldn’t have worked for a good six weeks anyway because in mid-March I got sick. It started with an annoying dry cough that became relentless. It was not a throaty cough, but one that I could feel in my lungs. It hurt to take a deep breath. Danger, Will Robinson. I’m not an alarmist, and I knew I hadn’t been anywhere to contract the virus, but at that point we knew that was a main symptom.

It could have been allergies, even though I never had seasonal allergy problems before. The toilet paper and coronavirus jokes were going around my house and every time someone coughed we’d yell “2319!” like in the movie Monsters, Inc. However, I got a fever soon after and called the doctor to inquire about a check-up and test for corona. I was told by my doctor the tests were not readily available and that I should just isolate for 14 days and seek immediate help if my breathing was labored. So I isolated. In between coughing (a lot), sleeping (a lot), eating (also a lot) and twittering (entirely too much), I watched videos of celebrities, sports stars, and politicians recount their experiences about getting the coronavirus test and how they spent their time until getting the results after four or five days. Heroes, all.

This didn’t feel like “the flu,” which I’ve had a couple of times, and I won’t bore you with every detail. Mostly because I already feel like one of those senior citizens who recounts every hangnail as an epic life-changing circumstance by sharing this with you. The story does get better though, including a pinched nerve in my back that I suffered with for 10 days in the middle of this and couldn’t get treatment for because we were being told to not go to the doctor if you were in quarantine unless it was an emergency (warning: when you’re in your 50s you can hurt your back when you reach into the dishwasher). I never had any kind of back pain like that so I had no clue what to do about it. When I called for one of those great new telemedicine appointments through our health insurance company about it, I was put in a queue and they took 15 hours to call me back just to tell me, you guessed it, to go see my doctor. Since that wasn’t happening because I was in isolation, more laying around, ibuprofen, and icy hot patches would suffice. Silver lining: now I know what to do about back pain!

After the isolation period, I still wasn’t getting well so I made an appointment and physically went to the doctor. I had to trudge through a gravel desert landscape and go around to the back of the building where I waited at the locked door. Like a leper, I was handed a mask and ushered in through the back entrance and taken into the very first room in the back hall. After an examination by a doctor I hadn’t seen before, it was determined it was most likely COVID-19, although I was told I still couldn’t get a test and the virus didn’t typically last that long in otherwise healthy people. I mentioned my daughter who had gotten both a flu and strep test just before I got sick, both of which were negative. So she had some unknown virus as well. I was told “they really weren’t doing chest x-rays right now” so we would just treat it as the ‘rona. No mention of any other problem it might be, although I asked. I got a prescription for cough meds and an inhaler, but no antibiotic, and was told to go back home and isolate for another week. So I did. At this point, I was a bit irritated at the fact that I couldn’t get any further tests or treatment “because.”

Fast forward a few days later on a Saturday when I woke up with another fever and conjunctivitis. I actually laughed like a crazy person as I was telling my husband; I just didn’t care too much anymore. Since my last telemedicine appointment on a weekend was so successful, I waited until Monday to call my doctor. The office had just started telemedicine appointments, so I called the doctor back and this time had a telemedicine appointment with the nurse practitioner. She told me that conjunctivitis was a newly discovered symptom of coronavirus. She discussed what was in my chart with me, took one look at me, heard my cough every time I tried to speak, and prescribed a z-pak and some eye drops. She seemed a little perturbed that this wasn’t the route that was taken by the doctor just a few days before. She told me to have someone else pick up the prescriptions and to isolate for another week or two, as we were still treating it like coronavirus with this new symptom. So I did. I felt a little better a couple of days after the z-pak was finished, but would still have a cough and lack of energy for some time to come.

But wait, there’s more! Also, when you’re in your 50s you can cough so much that you create a hernia from a weak abdominal wall due to a surgery you had two years prior. So after the second isolation period, back to the doctor I went. There was only one other person in the waiting room when at any other time it would have been full. But guess what? No scans or elective surgeries could be done at that time and who cares if it was a little painful; it wasn’t a constant pain and I wasn’t dying from it so that would just have to wait until I could see my surgeon. Since then, the overlords in Arizona have deemed it allowable for me to get the proper scans and surgery if needed. Maybe he’ll give me a discount since he’s the one that caused it in the first place. The problem now is that I can’t have anyone accompany me, not even my husband, so I guess I’ll still have to wait it out. I’m not that brave.

It just so happened that this doctor visit took place on the first day that Arizona was opening up antibody tests to the rubes. Since I still couldn’t get the swab-shoved-into-my-brain test, I got my blood drawn and waited for the answer, which came the next day. Good news, I guess. It was negative. I never had the ‘rona and it felt a little like that scene where Forrest Gump suddenly stops running in Monument Valley when he decides he’s done and it was time to go home. What has all this been about? What now?

Nothing, that’s what. No further tests or inquiries. And I know I’m not alone in all of this. Let me be clear: this isn’t just about me, the corona that wasn’t, a pinched nerve, or a hernia. It’s about the other things going on that are as clear as mud that are preventing a seemingly once decent medical system to be working well. I have questions. Why are doctor’s offices and hospitals not full of people who should be getting treatment for a variety of other illnesses that aren’t COVID related? Why are hospital staff members, aka essential workers, being laid off and entire hospitals and clinics closing during a pandemic that we’re told (and has been proven to be in isolated areas) is very dangerous. How could no one see that anxiety and depression levels would skyrocket by keeping already vulnerable people isolated? How about suicide levels rising? This went terribly wrong somewhere. Somehow we stopped listening to the people who were trained in the medical field and started listening to politicians who weren’t. Many medically fragile people are being left on the sidelines. Which comes back around to an adequate system not being in place to help like it should be. But yay us! there are plenty of empty hospital beds and ventilators just in case. I don’t get it.

Ten weeks later and this is what I’ve learned: the medical professionals’ hands are tied and I do not blame them for this; if this is what socialized medicine looks like, nobody in their right mind should wish for it; when you’re inactive and eating more, you tend to gain a few pounds; and finally, when you’re out in public around other people who are scared, but obviously not scared enough to just stay home, and you can’t stifle a cough, you get the side-eye. Maybe I’ll write “I Tested Negative” on a mask. But what good would it do, since that was a couple of weeks ago. Maybe I’m asymptomatic by now. So many questions. What I haven’t learned: what was wrong with me all that time. Allergies, I guess. It’s clear as mud.

For more insightful rants, look me up on Twitter: @lgadbery.

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  1. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Laura Gadbery: Why are doctor’s offices and hospitals not full of people who should be getting treatment for a variety of other illnesses that aren’t COVID related? Why are hospital staff members, aka essential workers, being laid off and entire hospitals and clinics closing during a pandemic

    It’s because government is a very crude instrument–and this crudeness, this inability to balance multiple goals, is greatly increased by the crudeness of the media, most especially cable news, which obsessively focuses on whatever is hottest at any particular moment.

    Relatedly, there is a phenomenon in combat aviation called target fixation–target fixation happens when a pilot is so focused on destroying his opponent that he flies into a mountain, or misses that another opponent has appeared, or any number of bad things.

    I’m pretty confident that if there were evidence of a comet with potential to strike the earth, or a solar storm about to destroy communications & power grids, these stories would get very little attention from a target-fixated media.

    • #1
  2. Doug Kimball Thatcher
    Doug Kimball
    @DougKimball

    Laura – your symptoms mimic a crud that devastated my (AZ) office back in December.  It was a cough fest, a nagging, nasty, debilitating cough that wouldn’t quit.  I could hear everyone hacking away, a symphony of hacks, in their cubicles.  Some went home.  Some couldn’t afford to.  The accounting manager prowled constantly around the office with Lysol, wiping everything down.  Those who were hit the hardest and went to the doctors were told it was not the flu.  It wasn’t the typical cold as it started in the chest and never left.  I managed to get it and was one of those who stayed home for a few days;  I was so miserable.  It took six weeks to shake it.  Yuck.

    • #2
  3. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Glad you lived.   This entire situation sucks.

    • #3
  4. Limestone Cowboy Coolidge
    Limestone Cowboy
    @LimestoneCowboy

    David Foster (View Comment):

    Laura Gadbery: Why are doctor’s offices and hospitals not full of people who should be getting treatment for a variety of other illnesses that aren’t COVID related? Why are hospital staff members, aka essential workers, being laid off and entire hospitals and clinics closing during a pandemic

    It’s because government is a very crude instrument–and this crudeness, this inability to balance multiple goals, is greatly increased by the crudeness of the media, most especially cable news, which obsessively focuses on whatever is hottest at any particular moment.

    Relatedly, there is a phenomenon in combat aviation called target fixation–target fixation happens when a pilot is so focused on destroying his opponent that he flies into a mountain, or misses that another opponent has appeared, or any number of bad things.

    I’m pretty confident that if there were evidence of a comet with potential to strike the earth, or a solar storm about to destroy communications & power grids, these stories would get very little attention from a target-fixated media.

    And in our current circumstances, the target fixation of cable news  is not the coronavirus. It’s Trump. As it has been in every other news topic over the past 3 1/2 years.

    • #4
  5. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    Thank you for this. Best wishes. I think everyone is getting a lesson on unintended consequences and the domino effect

    • #5
  6. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I too had pinkeye.

    • #6
  7. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    When the president said, two months ago, that we had plenty of tests, beautiful tests, all the tests we need, etc, I winced, because it wasn’t true and it would come back to bite him, like “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. It was an unforced error. 

    Forget about the media. If the middle of the country really thinks that Fauci is a fraud, that Jared is an idiot, and the shutdown was “theater”, Trump will not be re-elected. He’s the one who appointed them. It’s as simple as that. 

    • #7
  8. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Glad you lived. This entire situation sucks.

    It certainly does. I hope we learn some lessons.

    • #8
  9. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    When the president said, two months ago, that we had plenty of tests, beautiful tests, all the tests we need, etc, I winced, because it wasn’t true and it would come back to bite him, like “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. It was an unforced error.

    Forget about the media. If the middle of the country really thinks that Fauci is a fraud, that Jared is an idiot, and the shutdown was “theater”, Trump will not be re-elected. He’s the one who appointed them. It’s as simple as that.

    He could have said we would someday soon have all the tests. Anyone with a brain knew we wouldn’t go from zero to 330 million in a week. The problem is there is so much disinformation we don’t know what to think. We’ve been pushing tests now in AZ for a couple of weeks and there are, indeed, all the tests. 

    • #9
  10. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Laura – your symptoms mimic a crud that devastated my (AZ) office back in December. It was a cough fest, a nagging, nasty, debilitating cough that wouldn’t quit. I could hear everyone hacking away, a symphony of hacks, in their cubicles. Some went home. Some couldn’t afford to. The accounting manager prowled constantly around the office with Lysol, wiping everything down. Those who were hit the hardest and went to the doctors were told it was not the flu. It wasn’t the typical cold as it started in the chest and never left. I managed to get it and was one of those who stayed home for a few days; I was so miserable. It took six weeks to shake it. Yuck.

    My bro employs 200+ people and experienced the same thing. He’s also gotten a negative antibody test. You mean to tell me there are sicknesses other than covid? 🤔

    • #10
  11. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)
    @DonG

    Your antibody test is not definitive.  It takes time to build up the antibodies and some people don’t ever build them up enough.  After it mutates and comes around next year, you will have a better chance at getting a test.

    • #11
  12. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    DonG (skeptic) (View Comment):

    Your antibody test is not definitive. It takes time to build up the antibodies and some people don’t ever build them up enough. After it mutates and comes around next year, you will have a better chance at getting a test.

    If true, I have to hear this from DonG (skeptic) on the internet but not from the doctors or serologists. Why is that? 

    • #12
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Dr. Fauci was allowed to peddle an experimental treatment on America without any disclosure of the obvious real public health side effects. The blame for that rests squarely on to the two fellows with the U.S. Public Health Service admirals’ uniforms, who should have had the national experts on behavioral health (suicide and drug deaths), cancer, and heart disease flashing their own scary but actually fact and data based charts warning of Fauci’s favorite plan’s deadly costs way back on Day 1. That would have put Fauci back in his proper box and forced a plan that properly balanced all health consideration.

    • #13
  14. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    When the president said, two months ago, that we had plenty of tests, beautiful tests, all the tests we need, etc, I winced, because it wasn’t true and it would come back to bite him, like “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. It was an unforced error.

    Agree on this.

    Forget about the media. If the middle of the country really thinks that Fauci is a fraud, that Jared is an idiot, and the shutdown was “theater”, Trump will not be re-elected. He’s the one who appointed them. It’s as simple as that.

    Maybe, we’ll see. I think the myopic Fauci has done much harm throughout this disaster providing cover for the despots and tyrants across the land at every turn and that the shutdown has done much more harm than good (with the good being miniscule) but could care less about his son-in-law one way or the other. However, I’ll vote for him because of how awful on every level and on every issue the alternative is. Then again, I’m not a swing voter.

     

    • #14
  15. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I’m so sorry you’ve been through all that. Feel better. Get better. Be well. 

    • #15
  16. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I’m so sorry you’ve been through all that. Feel better. Get better. Be well.

    Thanks, Jules. Honestly I know I’ll be fine. It’s all just been so crazy when it didn’t have to be. 

    • #16
  17. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    When the president said, two months ago, that we had plenty of tests, beautiful tests, all the tests we need, etc, I winced, because it wasn’t true and it would come back to bite him, like “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. It was an unforced error. 

    Except the best evidence seems to be that Obama knew that wasn’t true when he said it, and it was deliberately intended to push through passage of Obamacare.  “Unforced” malicious lie(s) in his case.

    • #17
  18. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Gary McVey (View Comment):
    When the president said, two months ago, that we had plenty of tests, beautiful tests, all the tests we need, etc, I winced, because it wasn’t true and it would come back to bite him, like “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. It was an unforced error.

    Except the best evidence seems to be that Obama knew that wasn’t true when he said it, and it was deliberately intended to push through passage of Obamacare. “Unforced” malicious lie(s) in his case.

    Sure, there’s a difference. I wasn’t saying it was a perfect analogy. Trump believed it. I am saying its political effect is negative, not that it’s going to be decisive. Did we need it? No. 

    • #18
  19. Jules PA Member
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Laura Gadbery (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I’m so sorry you’ve been through all that. Feel better. Get better. Be well.

    Thanks, Jules. Honestly I know I’ll be fine. It’s all just been so crazy when it didn’t have to be.

    Oh, I’m with you there. As Dori the fish says, “Just keep swimming.”

    • #19
  20. JoelB Member
    JoelB
    @JoelB

    I have been told by those having similar symptoms that Mucinex is helpful. It’s anecdotal, but I trust it as much as anything else I have heard lately.

    • #20
  21. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    David Foster (View Comment):
    Relatedly, there is a phenomenon in combat aviation called target fixation–target fixation happens when a pilot is so focused on destroying his opponent that he flies into a mountain, or misses that another opponent has appeared, or any number of bad things.

    This reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the German fighter pilot follows the car into the mountain tunnel . . .

    • #21
  22. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Stad (View Comment):
    This reminds me of the scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the German fighter pilot follows the car into the mountain tunnel . . .

    A sad case during the Korean war:  an American P-80 jet pilot had identified an Soviet biplane (yes, the enemy used biplanes during that conflict–not sure if the pilots were Russian, Chinese, or North Korean) and was, I am sure, confident of shooting him down.  The American was so intent on his target that he didn’t notice his speed was getting dangerously low—stalled, apparently too low to recover or to eject successfully.

    The enemy pilot probably got a medal.

     

    • #22
  23. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    It’s starting to annoy me when the newspaper talks about businesses suffering “because of COVID-19.” That’s almost true, but the reason they’re suffering is really because of the government-ordered lockdown. A different approach might not have caused so much devastation.

    • #23
  24. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I too had pinkeye.

    Not fun. With other symptoms? 

    • #24
  25. cirby Inactive
    cirby
    @cirby

    Laura Gadbery (View Comment):
    If true, I have to hear this from DonG (skeptic) on the internet but not from the doctors or serologists. Why is that? 

    Most physicians stop learning after just a few years in practice.

    Sure, they still go to continuing medical education courses, and quite a few of them read a bit, but as far as changing the way they practice, or keeping up with emerging diseases? Not going to happen. That’s like having a second full-time job, just keeping up with the new things that make people sick.

    For this, the most physicians are sitting around, reading news, and hoping that someone from a big pharmaceutical company will drop by with a few boxes of “COVID-19 Therapy #1” that they can dish out to the patients who aren’t getting better after their Tylenol-and-antibiotic treatments.

    (A few years after a very clever Australian doctor figured out that stomach ulcers were mostly caused by a bacterial infection, I watched a room full of practicing physicians almost lynch a speaker for saying that they should give people antibiotics for ulcers.)

     

    • #25
  26. Lois Lane Coolidge
    Lois Lane
    @LoisLane

    I will not complain again about my own experiences.  Lordy!  I will say, however, that my father’s chemo was moved to an indefinite future date because Covid might kill him, even though Cancer is killing him.  I lost my patience a long time ago.  

    • #26
  27. Weeping Member
    Weeping
    @Weeping

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):

    It’s starting to annoy me when the newspaper talks about businesses suffering “because of COVID-19.” That’s almost true, but the reason they’re suffering is really because of the government-ordered lockdown. A different approach might not have caused so much devastation.

    Yes! The looming economic problems are to due to government reaction to the virus, not directly to the virus itself. There’s an important difference there.

    • #27
  28. ChrisShearer Coolidge
    ChrisShearer
    @ChrisShearer

    There is one other factor regarding your experience with the doctors and health care providers:

    I think a lot of them were scared for themselves

    • #28
  29. Laura Gadbery Coolidge
    Laura Gadbery
    @LauraGadbery

    Lois Lane (View Comment):

    I will not complain again about my own experiences. Lordy! I will say, however, that my father’s chemo was moved to an indefinite future date because Covid might kill him, even though Cancer is killing him. I lost my patience a long time ago.

    That is exactly what I’m talking about. That’s way worse than my deal. Complain away. We each have our own experiences! Bless your dad and I hope he gets better. 

    • #29
  30. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Doug Kimball (View Comment):

    Laura – your symptoms mimic a crud that devastated my (AZ) office back in December. It was a cough fest, a nagging, nasty, debilitating cough that wouldn’t quit. I could hear everyone hacking away, a symphony of hacks, in their cubicles. Some went home. Some couldn’t afford to. The accounting manager prowled constantly around the office with Lysol, wiping everything down. Those who were hit the hardest and went to the doctors were told it was not the flu. It wasn’t the typical cold as it started in the chest and never left. I managed to get it and was one of those who stayed home for a few days; I was so miserable. It took six weeks to shake it. Yuck.

    Something similar went through our social circle (retired, so office not relevant) in December through January, up here in Idaho.  Similar symptoms and duration, and it even got the same ad hoc name: The Crud.  Took three weeks for me to shake it and about four for my wife.  It never got bad enough to go to the doc, just hung on and made you miserable and groggy.

    • #30