Now it can be told…

Well, I’ve been missing from these pages for a while but I think I’m back. For those interested, here’s what’s been going on with my health. For those not interested, wait a few hours and there’ll be a picture again!

4 weeks ago, I was working at my desk when I realized I felt a little woozy. Not dizzy and not light-headed, just a little woozy. I waited for it to pass but it didn’t. Then I made the classic mistake of looking up wooziness online. The first couple of possibilities were clearly not relevant: dehydration and low blood sugar. I’d had my usual 2 mugs of coffee, a bowl of fruit salad and had gotten through my 3/4 liter seltzer bottle already. The next 2 possibilities were a little more frightening: heart attack or stroke. I was advised not to ignore it but to seek medical attention.

Under the guise of making doctoring more convenient, I now reach my doctor via an app where I can leave him messages and he can write back, anytime, from anywhere. In reality, this means I don’t hear for, typically, 24 hours.

So eventually, after not hearing back, and not wishing to risk a stroke, I decided I’d toddle off to an Urgent Care facility around the corner from me that afternoon, run by Mt Sinai Hospital. My wife accompanied me but, due to Covid restrictions, had to wait in the outer waiting room. I was feeling a bit worse but still nothing really serious. Blood was drawn, an EKG taken and a gentle nasal swab administered. Nothing was found but I’ve reached that age where the young doctors say to me, “if you were my father…” I’d definitely go to the Emergency Room of the hospital (A&E for you Brits). First they gave me an anti-dizziness pill.

So a cab ride to the Mt Sinai ER (really the old St Lukes) and I was triaged, once again leaving my wife on her own to return home. They refused to look at the test results and EKG from the Urgent Care facility and re-administered the blood-work, the EKG, a CAT scan, a chest x-ray, and another gentle nasal swab in between which I sat in a chair in a bay of the ER until after midnight. The anti-dizziness pill had kicked in and I felt fine, if a bit hungry. At this point they wanted to admit me for overnight observation and to get an MRI.

Around 1:00 am a nurse took pity on me and got me some pretzels, a fig newton and 2 containers of applesauce (without spoon). I slept through the night except for the obligatory 4:00 am bp check and the groans of my roommate. Woke to not a bad breakfast and, eventually an MRI. After the MRI I had a quite good lunch (not what I’d ordered when asked, but close) and eventually 2 doctors showed up to discuss my condition with me. All the tests were negative. No Covid, no heart attack, no stroke, no sign that anything untoward had ever occurred. I was advised to follow up with my personal physician and discharged. In the meantime he’d written back to suggest I wait for it to pass, inquired how I was feeling now and suggested I come in for a check-up in 2 weeks. I said to the doctors in the hospital, since you didn’t find anything that means I don’t have to worry if this happens again, right? “No, no, no,” they said, “you must come back to the ER immediately if you feel this again.”

So I took a cab ride home and went about my business. The Urgent Care facility called to say their Covid test came back negative. I continued to feel a bit low, tired, and other kinds of peripheral symptoms of a cold, but nothing serious. No congestion, no sore throat, no coughing or sneezing, just a general malaise and slight disorientation. I started sleeping a lot, in between zoom calls for work and all night. I tried to get an earlier appointment with my GP but no slots were available. A week after returning home I went back to the ER because these annoying symptoms weren’t getting better or going away. Again I was triaged and in a short while another young doctor came and asked me a series of questions. She then left to review my test results from the previous week and returned to say I should go home and see my GP for a follow-up.

I languished for another week, feeling weaker and tireder all the time. Finally, 2½ weeks after it all began the day came to see the Primary Care Physician. I was feeling a little better. I took a cab over, and he interviewed me about what I’d been feeling. He discussed several possibilities and a program of testing to narrow down the possibilities. He had already reviewed all the hospital test results and ruled out anything wrong with my heart, or brain, tumors and neuro-degenerative diseases. He thought the most likely case was a flu, probably Covid. Blood was taken and a painful nasal swab – the kind where you worry about being lobotomized. I was sent home to await results.

Next day, Friday, the Dr called to tell me I had Covid, had had it since the beginning, was no longer contagious, and had passed the 10-day period for isolating or quarantining. and, although my wife had never suffered at all (other than helping me about), she was now past the period of needing to isolate after being in contact with someone testing positive. “How could the Urgent Care and ER have missed that,” I asked. 2 false negatives at 2 facilities seemed statistically unlikely. Probably didn’t really push up there high enough, the Dr replied.

The following Monday, contact tracers from the NY Health and Hospitals called me and my wife and, in the course of long discussions on the whole tale, they informed me of all kinds of benefits available to me and that I was past the point of being contagious or needing to isolate.

That was a week ago. In the meantime I’m mostly recovered. the mystery is how I got it in the first place. Since the pandemic started I seldom go anywhere and am very careful when I do. In fact, there are only 3 possibilities:

  • My wife and I had a timed appointment to visit Fotografiska a few weeks before (see my earlier post). All the other visitors wore masks but I do remember thinking some were closer than I was absolutely comfortable with.
  • Since the beginning of January, my building management have sought to fix a leak in our 90-year old plumbing, embedded in concrete in the floors. A small stream of masked workers have entered our apartment daily, marched to the back room where they have, behind closed doors, removed almost all of our bathrooms and, slowly, started to reconstruct them.
  • A week before I fell ill, the contractor on this job, drove us to a tile warehouse in Queens to choose tiles for re-doing the full bathroom. He tends to wear his mask below his nose, as did many of the workers at the tile warehouse.

So, beware – if your Covid test swab doesn’t make you want to scream, that negative result may be false and not only may you be sick, you may be contagious. Insist on being hurt!