August 12, 2021

Getting Pneumonia & my Period all at once: a “Sit the F*ck Down” from the Universe.


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Two weekends ago, I developed a fever.

I’d taken my son, Zachary, to the emergency department in the middle of the night for some extreme pain he was experiencing and after not getting much sleep the following morning, I spent the day Friday feeling feverish and lethargic. I thought it was from lack of sleep.

But the next day wasn’t any better, and Zach said he felt off too (outside of the symptoms that had brought him to the ER the night before).

So, off we went to get tested for COVID-19. I was slightly nervous, but couldn’t fathom how I would have picked it up. Despite having gotten both Pfizer shots, I still mask up everywhere I go, sanitize and wash my hands carefully, and do not go to any social or group events. My son goes out even less often.

We chose the rapid PCR test, which meant we could get results that day, but it also meant two swabs—if the first was negative, they would send the second to the lab for a more concrete result. I hated getting the swabs—not quite painful, but almost, and incredibly uncomfortable.

Most of my nerves weren’t about being sick with Covid, because I knew that with being vaccinated, chances were low that I’d need hospitalization, even with having co-morbidities. I was mostly nervous about an upcoming visit with my younger son, Noah. That day was Saturday, and the upcoming Thursday, he was set to fly in for a month-long visit. I’d been beyond excited, as I hadn’t seen him since just after Christmas in 2019. I’d missed an important 16th birthday, a Christmas, growth spurts, learning to drive, and other milestones, and I was really looking forward to seeing him. If I had to cancel…

Thankfully, we both got texts that evening with negative results. (And another text the next day with the more concrete negative results from the second swab.)

So why was I feeling so crappy? It didn’t feel like a regular flu or cold, where I’d have a fever for half a day and then the usual coughing, runny nose, tiredness. It was just a fever, extreme fatigue, and a bit of a cough. My son was already feeling better—he’d only had a bit of a headache.

I tried to push through the next few days with cold and flu meds and staying as rested and hydrated as possible. I hoped whatever it was would resolve itself. I work Sundays to Thursdays, and Sunday and Monday were relatively okay, but still pretty tough. When I was done working, which only involves sitting in front of a computer, I was wiped. I would flop on the couch, alternating between sweating and chills, unable to do anything but scroll on my phone and nap. My son ate frozen meals I’d put away in the freezer for dinner—I had no appetite and really hadn’t eaten anything since the Friday evening before.

Tuesday arrived and I decided not to attend a weekly “on-cam” meeting because I was still feeling miserable. I didn’t think I was up to getting presentable for a meeting, but I could still work as usual.

On top of that, I’d gotten my period.

Now, I don’t believe I’m in peri-menopause just yet, but I am in my 40s and I can feel it coming. My period has changed quite a bit from normal but heavyish to a red nightmare for two days. The first two days, I soak through a pad every hour (and then some) and my stomach has a mind of its own. Anything I put in is out within an hour. I’m crampy and in pain. It’s gross and messy and every month, it makes me wish for my period to finally stop. So this, on top of how I was already feeling…I was thinking, please for the love of—just lay me to rest. Regardless, I still thought I could heal on my own.

But by the afternoon, things had taken a turn for the worse. I checked my oxygen on a pulse oximeter and it was low-ish, 93. My pulse was fast, and I was breathing quickly. My fever was breaking through the meds I’d taken. I felt dizzy and was having chest pain and palpitations (though, this was more likely due to my anemia issues—made worse from not having eaten).

I panicked, called for help at work for a task that requires constant monitoring, packed a handful of pads (and a change of undies just in case) in my purse, and asked my son to drive me to the hospital. I told him not to wait with me because I knew they’d sequester me into a “Covid” waiting area (anyone who has symptoms must be separated).

It was a six-hour wait—the ER was busy due to rising Covid cases, some breakthrough, but mostly of the unvaccinated. In Canada, the ER waits can be long. Anyone who’s in immediate danger or distress will of course be prioritized above people like me who weren’t immediately dying. I don’t pay anything out of pocket for care, so I am happy to wait. There were people around me in the waiting room who were even more miserable than I was, and I felt sorry for them. One young girl in particular—alone, crying in pain, doubled over, and retching into a emesis bowl—if it were up to me to decide who goes when, I’d have gladly let her go ahead of me.

Finally, it was my turn for a bed. The doctors and nurses were fantastic. The doctor would give me a little reassuring toe squeeze every time he came into my room to discuss what was happening, and somehow, that little gesture just made me feel so safe and cared for (on top of the actual care they were giving me). Our doctors and nurses don’t get paid what they’re worth, truly. They drew all sorts of blood and did other tests (including another Covid test, and this one felt way worse­­­—the nurse really dug deep) and then they warned me that I’d probably have to stay overnight since some scans would only be available in the morning.

However, thankfully, they were able to do an X-ray at around midnight that revealed I had pneumonia in my upper left lung. I’d just need a round of antibiotics and I could go home. He gave me my first dose, wrote a prescription for the rest, and I called Zach for a pickup at 3 a.m.

I thought that within a day, I’d be feeling better and I sort of considered working the next day, pushing through the fever and lethargy since I knew I’d be okay. I’d just sleep in a little and be fine, right?

See, I’m not technically an employee at Elephant Journal. I’m self-employed and Elephant is like my “client”—similar to being a contractor. So I don’t have sick time, benefits, health insurance, any of that (though Elephant does help take care of me in other ways). If I want insurance or unemployment benefits, I have to pay for that out of pocket. I choose not to pay for either, so if I lose this job, I can’t rely on unemployment benefits until I can get a new job. I save for health or job loss emergencies and pay other health costs out of pocket (for the non-Canadians, that means “supplementary” healthcare like medications, vision, dental, medical equipment, and any other services like physio, mental health, chiropractic, etc.)—since the insurance coverage isn’t currently worth the cost for me.

But being self-employed also means that when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. And I wanted to make sure I was going to get paid, even though I have emergency money stashed away for occasions just like this.

Well, the universe and my son had other plans—they both told me to sit the f*ck down.

And really, I had no choice. I was dead to the world. And while I thought that just two days of the antibiotics would make me right as rain, they did not. It actually took a full seven days just for the fever to break. Not to mention, my period was still joyfully wrecking the rest of me.

If this was just pneumonia, I couldn’t imagine having Covid on top of it. Many with Covid wind up getting pneumonia too. Not being able to actually breathe, massive headaches and body aches, plus this bullsh*t? No, thank you, ma’am. (Please, everyone, get your shot!)

So, in the meantime, I had to accept help.

This is incredibly hard for me. I hate to ask for help and I hate to accept it. I don’t like feeling like a burden and I like to be in control (something I keep working on). But like I said, this time, no choice.

Zach was an angel. He knew I’d wanted to clean the whole house top to bottom before Noah arrived, but I couldn’t even get the energy to eat a bit of fruit and walk to the bathroom, never mind clean. He vacuumed the whole house, kept up with the dishes, helped with laundry, and took care of the cat litter and general care of the pets. He drove to the store for supplies. He readied Noah’s room for his visit. He made sure I was doing okay throughout the day—getting me my meds, water, tea.

It was strange, because it’s usually me doing the caretaking. I struggled with it. But I was so grateful.

The next day, I worked just a couple of hours, but that was all I could manage. Again, I had no choice—my body was saying, no the f*ck you aren’t, and that was that. I couldn’t even muster the energy to go to the airport like I’d hoped. While I napped on the couch, Zach drove to the airport to get Noah and they picked themselves up some dinner on the way back.

The next week, up until yesterday, both boys have been incredibly helpful around the house, minding the pets, making sure dinner is taken care of, and making sure I’m good. I’ve worked fewer hours and my coworkers have been just as gracious with asking after me to see how I’m doing, helping to cover some tasks, and also being so kind when, in my fever fogginess, I’ve made some sloppy mistakes.

Finally, today, I’m starting to feel like my old self. I can eat a little bit (I’ve lost 15 pounds over this ordeal), my period is done, and I think I can cook dinner for the kids again tonight. I’m so relieved.

Over the years, I’ve been driven to keep the house perfectly clean, have all the laundry done, work 50 hours a week, cook a proper meal every night, maintain relationships, oil changes, yard work, helping family—this on top of the usual parenting and pet-minding, and still making time for exercise, hobbies, and mental self-care.

Inevitably, one or two of those things slip. And I’m realizing it’s kinda nice having a little help.

I guess this was the “sit the f*ck down” I needed to remind myself that I don’t need to have pneumonia to relax a little and accept some help now and again. That working as much as possible isn’t going to make my life any better, really. (I mean, the money’s helpful, yeah, but I didn’t give a sh*t about my bank account while waiting in the ER, let me tell ya.)

So, in case you needed a little reminder too—before it’s dire straits:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you need to do it all, and you’re working yourself into ill health to do it—you don’t need to. Sit the f*ck down. Ask for help, even if it’s just the dishes.

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