I had COVID-19. Here is how that went.
Spoiler alert: This isn’t a riveting account of survival against all odds.
Early bird gets the worm (er, virus). It was late February, and the novel coronavirus news was still mostly comprised of questions. I asked my rheumatologist about suspending my biologic as a defensive move. There wasn’t enough information on the virus to get solid guidance, but I made the call to stop taking Enbrel anyway. I assumed it was “just in case,” but within three weeks, I had contracted COVID-19.
So how did it go?
Well, my entire household ended up getting sick. This thing is pretty contagious. My wife does not have any underlying conditions, and is about the same age as I am (late 50’s). She had the tougher go of it, with all the symptoms you hear about. She did NOT end up going to the hospital, although it was under consideration for four days. She recovered unevenly, and took more than two weeks to feel completely better.
In contrast, I started with many of the same initial symptoms, such as a low fever, and had unusual body aches, but I had no second wave at all. I experienced about 36 hours of flu–like symptoms, with the addition of lung pain. Who says “lung pain?” I have never felt my lungs before, but that is how I described my pain to the doctor. After a couple days, I was done! (Which annoyed my wife.)
What was unusual: My lungs ached like a bruise, and I had pain in strange places, like the sides of my legs, and the backs of my arms.
What was familiar: It felt like the flu. I was exhausted. I got sick, and then I got better.
So yes, I was less sick, and for a far shorter time than my wife. I don’t know if it is because we are just different people, or if having AS and being HLA-B27 positive, or being on Enbrel for many years had a positive effect on my response. I was not as sick as in previous bouts with the seasonal flu. The virus was very contagious, but didn’t seem very strong in my case. For me, that was the end of the description. For my wife, she had what felt like a second wave of issues to work through. We now hear that the second wave may be the immune system overreacting to the novel pathogen. Why didn’t mine overreact? I don’t know.
What I can say, is that my immune system, for all of its faults, and pains, did its job well. I tried to help it along by resting when I needed to, and moving when I could – a very common game plan for people with RA and AS anyway. For this reason, I wonder if we may be better positioned to cope with COVID-19 than regular people.