Raleigh, North Carolina – I’m done with COVID-19, but it’s clearly not over with me. If you missed it, in September I wrote about the hellish month of August in which COVID-19 kidnapped my entire family, one by one, saving me until last. You can read about it here.
Our quarantine ended at the very end of August, we all tested negative and came back to our somewhat semi-pandemic life. The kids were back to school and I went back to the mad rush who is an independent stay at home mom. Except there was a catch. Getting back to normal in my case involves high intensity interval workouts 3-4 times a week. After COVID, my workouts left me breathless and with a dry, dry cough. For the past two months, I have taken a post COVID-19 journey that seems to never end. The only thing I have to be thankful for is that I am the only one in the family who is still struggling.
So if you’ve had COVID-19 and things aren’t feeling right, these are things to think about.
Things to look for after COVID
My first symptoms were shortness of breath, a dry cough after exercise and a feeling of heaviness on / in the chest after exercise. Seemed as good as any other time to visit my primary care doctor. She took care of writing references to rule out pulmonary embolism (blood clot). I began by :
- A series of laboratory tests (blood test)
- A chest x-ray
- A prescription for an inhaler
After a few weeks the inhaler helped me exercise, but I used it once or twice a day and the feeling of heaviness in my chest was getting harder and harder to predict. A quick exchange of emails and my PCP wrote a reference for pulmonary rehabilitation.
I planned to follow up on my first date to see how things were going. Obviously they weren’t improving and unfortunately the pulmonary rehabilitation clinic weren’t rushing to schedule me.
By ruling out pulmonary embolism, the next step was to rule out any heart problems, especially myocarditis (inflammation of the outer wall of the heart) and pericardial effusion (fluid around the heart). At this point, I had also started to experience dizziness and indigestion. It was now time for a visit to the cardiologist. This visit allowed:
- An ECG
- A reference for a cardiac MRI (some cardiologists also recommend an echo)
- Guidelines to make exercise easier and increase electrolyte consumption
Exercising after COVID
If you’re lucky, going back to exercise after COVID-19 is okay. I know my husband had no problem. If you’ve read this far, you already know I’ve been less fortunate. Movement is something I need for my sanity and that’s why I took this journey to figure out what’s wrong. If I actually have myocarditis, then exercise is a big ‘no no’.
Three times a week I find myself in Joyner Park, exercising with Gladiator Camp. Immediately after I got the directions from my cardiologist – you can exercise, don’t sweat, and don’t get short of breath, I sent them to my trainer. When I broke the news to her, she replied that “we can get around this problem completely.”
So my workouts are a bit different these days. Walking, weight training, nothing that could potentially strain my heart. There is a long waiting list for the X-ray right now and I hope to have the MRI before December, but by then I am walking. At least I move and any movement is better than nothing.
Nili Zaharony is a Go Ask Mom contributor. She is the mother of 3 little ones (aged 5, 3 and 6 months) who keep her constantly on her guard.