Dear Tampa Prep community,
Thank you very much for all of the support and well wishes we have received. It has meant a lot to Family Plummer. I am living that moment of care, kindness and understanding that is a hallmark of the Prep experience and that I speak so often about to others. While no one ever seeks that spotlight, when you experience Prep’s kindness and care it’s wonderful, humbling, and I am grateful.
I wanted to take a moment to share a bit more about my COVID experience from the onset of COVID-19 through to the decision to return to Prep.
On September 30, I took both a rapid test and the RT-PCR test. My temperature at the clinic was 98.7, and I shared that I had a light cough during the day. Within 30 minutes of the visit, I received a call with the news that my rapid test was positive. While in the clinic, I also received the RT-PCR test which requires a very fine nasal swab. The test was not as miserable as I had imagined and once the swab was in my nose, it felt like the swab was just below eyebrow level. (I don’t even know if that is physically possible as I am not a doctor). A bit of a burning sensation in my nose accompanied the procedure, and my eyes did water. Other than that it was over quite quickly. The results of the RT-PCR Test arrived in my email box the next day, October 1, just after midday. TGH was also kind enough to give a follow-up call and see if I had any questions and to ask me how I was feeling and a series of symptom questions.
Friday morning, October 2, I received a call from the Hillsborough County Health Department. They called to share the results from my RT-PCR test and also shared the results from my rapid test. Needless to say, I felt a great sense of relief to live this moment and see the process of COVID-19 positive test results being followed through on multiple levels.
During that call I was asked a number of questions:
- My employer
- My height and weight
- Whether I have or have had pneumonia
- Whether I have experienced renal failure
- If I am a current smoker
- If I am diabetic
- If I have had chronic kidney, liver or heart disease
- If I have had any change in blood pressure
- Whether I am immunocompromised
- Whether I have had any mental disorders (anxiety, depression, nervousness)
- They asked my race, and I was given an opportunity not to respond, but I did as I find it to be important for the cumulative assessment and research during this pandemic
- If I Iive alone or with family--if the latter, how many in the household?
- They asked if they had been tested as well. I shared names, date of birth, test results and location where the tests were taken.
- They asked if I was quarantining
I did share with them that I have notified the School community of my results and reached out to everyone with whom I had recent meetings. TGH also called Friday afternoon with a follow-up on the RT-PRC and asked if I had any questions.
This blog is a summary of a daily diary I kept throughout my experience. Learning that you have tested positive for COVID-19 is unsettlingly to say the least. You are incredibly aware of two distinct new life facts. One, you are positive, and two, you are about to experience something that is unlike anything you have experienced in your life. Hearing the results is one matter and living the experience of COVID-19 is a completely separate thing.
October 1- October 9
Deeper symptom onset fell almost immediately. My temperature began to fluctuate from “normal” to 103 degrees. The fever, for the most part, felt relentless. There were times when I physically felt better and times that I did not, and how I felt was not correlated to my temperature. There were plenty of moments when I “felt” better at 103, and some moments when 103 felt awful. This was pretty much how it was across the range of temperatures. A light cough has persisted throughout this ordeal, and my physicians have said that I should expect to have a light cough following a return to feeling better and return to work.
Although I did not lose taste or smell through the experience, certain foods, like pizza, were not as tasty as I remembered. Fruits tasted the best and really became a craving along with chicken noodle soup and salad with vinaigrette dressing.
During this early stage of COVID-19, I regularly took Tylenol to provide some measure of comfort, and reduce the duration and height of my temperature. For the most part, the strategy was successful. Yet, each day during this period felt like “groundhog day.” Hydration became a goal, and I tried to drink as much water as possible each and every day. Temperatures were generally lower in the morning and higher at night, just before bed. Some days my appetite was bigger, generally for breakfast (fruits and boiled eggs for proteins). I tried as much as possible to be up and active, walking around the house and backyard, sitting up at the kitchen table (one of the quarantine areas I could go to in the house) or venturing outside to the porch for Zoom calls, emails and communications with and for Prep. I missed just one Prep meeting during the week and I felt like that was a “win” for some reason.
COVID-19 did not feel like the seasonal flu to me. My experience with the flu has always been shorter, in its worst moment addressed by Tamiflu, and the flu never stole how I felt. The best way to describe my experience with the flu is temporary. COVID-19 did not feel temporary. In fact, a significant aspect of the intellectual side is trying to create some set of expectations.
One of the most unique things that has occurred is that my sense of smell improved. I never considered myself as a person with a strong sense of smell and the scent of most things (sports equipment, nature, flowers, candles and the like) was a kind of non-event. Now I can smell everything. I can smell chocolate, plants, food ingredients and even the small citronella candle on my porch. My sense of smell and sensitivity to scents has definitely improved.
I spoke with six people who have recovered from COVID-19 who reached out to me during my quarantine. (Uniquely, of the 6 people I spoke with, I only knew two of them had tested positive in real time.) My quick takeaways from those conversations are as follows. COVID-19 is a unique experience person-to-person. The symptoms, their severity, duration and type varied greatly, and some experienced far deeper and graver challenges than I did. What I will never figure out is why my experience did not become more severe or fatal. This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of having COVID-19: the lack of certainty, confidence and understanding about what is happening to you and wrestling with what can potentially happen. How severe or moderate your experience will be and what triggers the severity of the experience, are two questions that are always present. These unknowns weigh on you throughout the experience until you begin to feel better each successive day.
There were a number of COVID-19 symptoms I did not experience. I did not experience exhaustion, achiness or headaches. I really never felt tired, but I have always believed in an old wives tale that sleep is your friend if you feel poorly, thus I did try to force frequent naps on the weekends and before dinner. I also did try and force myself to go to sleep as early as possible. I also did not experience congestion, phlegm or respiratory discomfort. One of our Prep Dads sent me a video on deep breathing and COVID-19 respiratory exercises from a respiratory therapist and I added those exercises to my daily routine.The exercises included deep inhales, hold and release followed by two brief forced coughs. It felt a bit like yoga breathing or a wellness exercise, and after a few cycles I actually did feel a difference.The deep breathing exercises felt great each day, and I believe they helped lessen the respiratory impact of COVID-19 for me.
Part of the grind of the experience was not feeling like the best version of yourself day after day. It is mentally, physically and emotionally challenging to consistently not feel optimally. I became most tired of and most frustrated with the experience of not feeling like the best version of me. Quarantine is a challenge. Part of the challenge is fighting the desire to be involved, knowing that you are missing out on daily experiences, many of them at Prep, and knowing that it is critical to stay in quarantine. Being aware of the goodness of the school, the work of students and colleagues, the support of Prep families and experience of the school continuing without you is one of the most difficult moments of my life.
October 9-October 16
This week was a significant time of transition with the most significant aspect being the reduction and elimination of Tylenol. I knew it would be critical during quarantine to have symptom-free days without the assistance of fever reduction medication. Tuesday, October 13 felt like a significant transition day for me, as it was my second full day without Tylenol and my first full day of no fever, a trend that continues to this very day. That morning I awoke feeling the closest to myself in a long time. My temp was 98.7 and it stayed there through the day. I felt good and had a number of Zoom meetings that were productive and energizing. I forced a nap in the late afternoon. I was beginning to string together consecutive days of normal temps.
After October 13, I did not experience another day of fever. The focus continued to be on completing a successful quarantine period and making sure that no other symptoms presented and that the fever would stay away particularly given the end of the use of Tylenol.
Some may wonder why I am sharing all of this? The answer is simple. While no one should draw a definitive conclusion of COVID-19 from my experience, if you become positive with COVID-19, and I pray you will never know that experience, for those that do, some will feel better and some worse. I write this hoping to share, and if it helps someone in the future then it will have been worth it. I write hoping to provide a bit of insight since thankfully there are far more of us who have not experienced COVID than have. I write hoping to remove some stigma, mystery and wonder. I write to share a bit of the seriousness of the moment. I write to share my sincere gratitude to Prep for its support. I write because I feel incredibly grateful for the moderate nature of my experience and the return to health.
I also wanted to share my experience early in the process with testing and follow up experience with TGH and the County Health Department. The range of COVID-19 impact is vast and well documented, and I am someone you know who has lived through the experience recently. I have volunteered to be a part of any research needs that TGH may have for COVID-19.
Before I returned to Prep, I wanted to exceed every expectation of Tampa Prep’s Illness Protocols, including the quarantine period, days free of fever without the use of fever reducing medications, and days of improvement in any COVID symptoms. Those expectations and goals have been achieved, and, thus, I returned to campus, Tuesday October 20.
Thank you Tampa Prep for your support.
Kevin Plummer, Head of School