My COVID Chronicles: Life Changes

My world felt like it fell apart after the clot diagnoses. Suddenly everything was different. I was thrust back into a world of needing movement, but not too much movement; eat this, not that; drink this, not that; remember to take your meds or you could die.

Food-wise, I felt like I did after my last kidney stone, which had required surgery. It’s so hard to cut back on certain foods, especially when they are healthy ones that you like. And of course, it gets confusing because the different medical sites – and even between doctors themselves – will have slightly differing opinions. But general consensus on blood thinners is to cut back on bananas, broccoli, greens like spinach, and cranberries.

Just in general, for the rest of my cardiovascular issues, I of course needed to cook at home more and try to increase my fruit and vegetable intake even more than I already consume.

Movement was already a little tricky. I had twisted my knee in the early fall, so I was already taking steps one at a time like a toddler. After working with young children for 30 years, between babysitting and the classroom, my favored sitting position was still cross-legged. The additional discomfort of the DVT made sitting with my legs straight out almost unbearable at times, but I needed to shift more. Either position was painful. And I was already trying to stand up and move a bit on a regular basis, because now all of my work is sedentary. Only now, I have to pause when first standing. First, I have to make sure that I have the balance and that my legs are not going to give out. Then with the medications I take, I have to make sure that I am not dizzy when standing. It is weird for someone who is used to bouncing up and moving, especially after all of those years with kids.

And then there is the whole weird balance between doing and not doing too much. Remember, doing too much threw me back into the ER. I was finally finding that wall of pain and exhaustion. It came on too quickly for my liking, especially with my head clearing. But all I could do – and continue to do several weeks later – is continue to move if and when I can, acknowledge that wall, and also rest when my body demands it.

And finally, the beverages. I don’t mind drinking water. In fact, I had recently collected several water bottles to refill at work to help me drink more. But with COVID, it is even more important. According to my doctor, your body expels 25% more water with each exhale. That’s why they tell you to push so many fluids. But honestly, water bores me after a while. So I try to mix it up by infusing fruit, adding lemon juice (which is good for keeping my kidney stones at bay), and then squirting in some Mio for flavor. The one even has vitamin B in it, which is another recommendation.

Throw in the diuretic I’m on, though, and I am losing even more. So I have also tried adding Gatorade and Pedialyte and that kind of thing. I can feel when my body is dehydrated. Plus I always monitor my urine output and color.

Oh, and the other not-so-fun thing about diuretics is they make you pee. A lot. I would say that for the first month, I had to pee just about every hour while awake. And forget about sleeping through the night. Even if I cut off liquids at 7 PM and went to the bathroom at 11 PM before going to sleep, I was still up at 3 AM to pee. And the thing with me is I do not easily fall asleep again after waking up in the night.

TMI? Maybe. But I am trying to keep it real here.

And then, of course, there is the alcohol issue. I do like my Irish cream and whiskey. I like to sip on a cocktail while unwinding after a long day, while hanging out with friends, and yes, whiskey numbs pain a little better than Advil at times. But on these meds, you run more of a risk of falling down and getting injured. Injury on blood thinners is bad. So no alcohol. Okay.

The hardest part has probably been the coffee. I didn’t drink any when I was sick. I spent a lot of time sleeping. As I started to increase my working hours, though, I started to miss it. Plus I am self-diagnosed ADHD and find that even just one cup of coffee can help my brain to focus better.

I gave in to decaf. It doesn’t taste the same. It has its own health benefits and risks (that I do not like at all). But even the aroma and taste (covered up by whatever) could be enough to trick myself into believing I was having my beloved beverage. At my January checkup, I was told I could probably get away with one cup a day, but no more triple shot lattes. (Now if I could make the Dunkin’ Donuts by work to learn the difference between regular and decaf.) And I will say that I can tell the difference if I have regular coffee vs decaf. I am probably better off, but some days, I really hate it.

And finally, the medication. More so than anything I have taken in the past, it is imperative that I take my meds on time. I actually have alarms scheduled in my phone to help me remember. It’s a weird thing to have to do, again, but there you have it. For the most part it works, but in general, I am not a fan of having to take medication.

Some of the changes have been easier than others. I didn’t have coffee or alcohol while I was down sick, so I just kept going. The hardest food to restrict has been broccoli, because it is one of my favorites. There are some days where I simply cannot drink that much water without losing my mind. Movement is finally getting easier, and I have more stamina. I think by the time we hit spring and all of the ice and snow are gone, I will be ready for neighborhood walks and going to parks.

When I got sick all of those weeks ago, (15 weeks at the time of this posting) I knew that my body was a bit different. But it was such a mild case that I did not expect so many complications and life changes. But there it is. You cannot change the past. All you can do is evaluate the present and take it one step at a time into the future. Be prepared to alter the path again.

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