May 29, 2019 was my very last blog post. Wow.
This blog post has been a long time coming. Literally years in the making.
What’s happened since then? Well, a lot.
First, let’s tackle why I stopped posting.
The short answer? Life. Life just got in the way. But let’s dig into the long answer.
I believe it was around the time of my last post that my part time job offered me the chance of full time hours. Full time hours really cut into the time I had available for reading, writing, and especially blogging. Suddenly my 4 hours a day committed to my day job doubled. Plus, I still had a family to take care of, as well as my publishing work for Melange Books and our imprints, Satin Romance and Fire & Ice Young Adult Books.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. You know what else happened in 2019? The extensive ad campaigns for the 2020 US Presidential election. This was a real mind trip for me, as I had (and still have) very strong feelings toward that election. But I won’t get into politics here.
Okay, so the election was over. What stopped me then? Well, you may have heard of this little virus called Covid 19. It was everywhere. Nobody knew what was happening, people were being hospitalized and dying at alarming rates. My brain was not in a place where I could do anything more than keep reading and listening to learn what the hell was going on in the world.
Covid sucked. For sure. But for the first year, it didn’t personally affect me all that much. Sure, I knew people who had been diagnosed with the virus— hospitalized even—but I didn’t know anyone who had died. My heart ached for those who did experience that, of course, but my day to day didn’t change much. My husband still went into work every day. My kids did “Zoom School” at home, and I’d check in with them throughout the day to make sure they were staying on task.
Due to the nature of my day job, I never stopped going into work. In fact, I was the only employee at my small company going into work in the beginning of Covid. I’m not going to lie, aside from the fact that I had to leave my house, I liked being there alone. I could put on music, an audiobook, or a movie and just do my job with zero interruptions. Aside from the few months when my gym was closed, I continued to drive to the gym on my lunch breaks and lift weights.
Speaking of lifting weights. I’m pretty sure I performed a bad deadlift and “mildly” hurt my back. On January 10, 2020 (my birthday), I “treated myself” to a day of doing nothing but sitting at my computer and playing The Sims 4. Boy did that backfire! I’m not gonna lie, I’ve never had proper computer chair posture. I’m literally the absolute worst. (After this mess I bought a kneeling chair with no back to force myself to sit upright, and these days I sit on a balance ball on top of my under-desk treadmill!) And this day was the straw that broke the Caroline’s back. Almost literally. I sat for so long in a slouched, scrunched up position (8+ hours probably, because time has no meaning when The Sims are involved!) and the next day, I could barely move. My entire back had seized up.
Learn from my mistakes. When someone tells you to sit up straight, do it! It was weeks before my back didn’t hurt anymore. It was so bad my chiropractor said there was literally nothing she could do for me, I needed to get my back muscles to relax. And by early March, my hip was still aching so bad I actually went to a doctor. She diagnosed me with SIJD (Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction) which basically meant that the hip wasn’t moving properly in the joint on one side, causing the other side to overwork and become very, very sore.
She sent me to physical therapy. I think I attended 3 sessions of physical therapy, and then the following happened.
On Thursday March 25, 2021, Covid struck too close for comfort. I woke up that morning around 3 am alternating between chills and hot flashes. I remember getting out of bed and searching my entire house for the thermometer. I finally found it and I was feverish—100.2°. I was shivering so badly that my husband woke up. I remember him finding more blankets to put on me and it wasn’t enough, I couldn’t get warm. He snuggled up against me, and it still wasn’t enough. I texted in sick to work, said it was probably a flu bug, I’d had a pretty nasty one the year prior. I spent all of Thursday in bed resting.
Friday I felt great! I had an appointment for a rapid Covid test and I had texted my boss and coworkers “My test is at (such and such time), once I have my negative results I’ll be back in the office!”
Except… my test wasn’t negative. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot of CVS, answering the call with my results, and feeling the numbness wash over me as the woman on the line told me I had tested positive. What? How could that be? I washed my hands. I wore my mask. What did I do wrong? Where did I pick up this nasty virus? (I still don’t know the answer and honestly, it ultimately doesn’t matter.) I texted into work. “Guess I won’t be in. I’ve joined the Covid club.” I stopped at work to pickup my work laptop, there were some pieces of my job that could be done from home. They set it outside the front door when I arrived and I put it in my car and left.
Easter was just around the corner. I’m normally super ahead of the game with having everything ready for my kids’ Easter Baskets. But this year, I had been planning to go to Target that upcoming weekend. I had absolutely nothing for their baskets. So, I placed an order for curbside pickup (my first time ever!) and had my kids goodies deposited into my trunk.
Thank goodness I did too, because even though I felt great that day, it was downhill from there. The next week I spent alternating between fever and no fever. The body ache Covid symptom you probably heard about? It wasn’t my body that hurt. It was deeper. It felt like my bones hurt. It was hell. I was exhausted, my head hurt, I was coughing up a storm, and my throat ached. I had zero appetite. My fever peaked on March 30, at 100.3° but the reading I took after that was “only” 102.6°, so I kept waiting it out. My husband was getting concerned.
I ordered a finger oximiter from Amazon to check my oxygen levels. When I was laying in bed they were fine, mid-upper 90’s if I remember correctly. However, when I stood up they dropped. I remember walking from my bedroom to the living room —only a few steps—and collapsing on the floor. “I’m… fine…” I panted, as my oximeter alarm blared that my oxygen levels had plummeted to 70%. Once on the ground, they quickly ticked up… 75%… 80%… 83%…. 88%…
April 1st, one week after my symptoms appeared, my husband called the ER and described what he was witnessing. They said to bring me in. So we packed a bag. I remember him being mad because I insisted I needed my iPad and my chargers! He thought I was being ridiculous. But I got the last laugh. Because the ER admitted me.
At the hospital, my vitals were fine. I had no fever. I must have looked and sounded pretty bad though, because they moved me into a room that was no bigger than a closet, and shut the door. They first ran an EEG, which was fine. They put an IV port in my arm, but when I asked for IV fluids, they said no. You guys, I was so thirsty! At some point they ran a CT with contrast, which was an interesting experience. The tech warned me “It will take a minute for the contrast to work it’s way down your body, when it hits your abdomen it’s going to feel like you’re peeing. You’re not.” And he wasn’t kidding!
I was wheeled back to my closet room to wait. All I had to entertain myself was my phone and the battery was draining quickly.
Then they came with my CT results. “You have bilateral glass shards in your lower lungs.”
I had Covid pneumonia.
I was being admitted to the hospital. Just not that hospital. They didn’t have room for me. I think I was brought to the ER at 8 pm, and it was around 3 am that I was being loaded into an ambulance and taken to a hospital clear on the other side of the Twin Cities where I live. It took them hours to find a hospital that had room for me.
After enjoying my first ambulance ride (not that exciting!) I was wheeled to the Covid ward of my new hospital. I believe it was in the ER they gave me my first dose of meds, a steroid to help my lungs. And remember that hip pain I was attending physical therapy for? FINALLY GONE!
The next 2 days were a combination of solitude, 3ish times a day visits from people in hazmat suits, and bingeing Criminal Minds on my iPad. (See, I knew I would need it!)
Unfortunately, it was also meds and being stabbed with needles. They put me on Remdesivir, which is an antiviral to stop the spread of the infection, and continued giving me the oral steroids. They also kept stealing my blood. I think it was the second morning I woke up to a nurse stabbing me in the hand with a needle to draw blood. I wasn’t even fully awake! I screamed so loud they probably heard me on the other floors. The next day when the nurse came for my blood I was awake, and I tried to decline. She told me what they were testing for—blood-clots among other things—and I reluctantly agreed, but only if she would take the blood from anywhere but my hand, which was by this time a giant bruse.
I was admitted in the wee hours of Friday April 2nd (after going to the ER in the evening of April 1st) and they agreed to release me Saturday afternoon. I wanted so badly to be home with my family for Easter. I was sick of being locked in a room by myself, not seeing another human face. (Hazmat gear, remember?) I jumped at the chance to leave. My doctor told me I was much better, that the steroid and Remdesivir had done their jobs and I had turned the corner.
I was very happy to go home, but I still had weeks before my general doctor was willing to let me go back to work. “But I managed to walk 7,000 steps yesterday!” I remember telling her, only to be scolded because, “Your lungs are still healing. You need to take it easy.” I was only allowed to move from point A to point B until she cleared me.
During covid I never lost my sense of smell or taste—except chocolate. For about a day and a half I could not taste chocolate, and let me tell you, it was awful! I remember biting into a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, my absolute favorite candy, and all I could taste was the fake peanut butter inside. I had someone else try another one from the pack and they confirmed it tasted normal. It was me. Fortunately, that went away pretty quickly. However, I couldn’t eat a Reese’s for over a year because they never did taste right until Halloween 2022 when I tried again. Aside from that, I became very sensitive to salt. Even a little bit tasted like someone dumped the whole shaker on my food. That went away too! In the year after Covid I would have phantom smells, cigarettes. Looking back, I think it was any time I was around a perfume/body spray kinda smell.
During Covid, I also lost 8 lbs in that first week. I don’t weigh that much to begin with, so it was a pretty significant loss. I like to tell people, “I lost 8 lbs on the Covid Diet. 0 out of 5 stars. Would not recommend.”
Okay. So that was a good two months of my life, having and recovering from Covid. Surely that’s the end of it right? No way could things get worse, right?
Remember that hip pain? When the steroids ended, the pain came back. Once I was well enough, I went back to PT. Except now, my heel was numb. And my leg started having a tingling sensation.
Historically, when I get tingling in my leg, I go see my chiropractor and she pops me back into place and it goes away. Except she couldn’t fix me this time. And each PT session made me feel worse. It got to the point where I could not lay down. I couldn’t sleep. I was sleeping on my living room floor because the solid wood beneath the carpet was less painful than my mattress.
Eventually, I was able to get an MRI to see what was happening inside my back and the results were… impressive. I had an 8mm herniation in my L5-S1 disc and it was compressing my left L5 nerve root, causing my pain and all my symptoms. I also had a smaller 2mm herniation at my L4-L5 on the right side, but we ignored that one because it wasn’t causing symptoms.
I quit PT. I tried rest—except I still had to work. And my work involved lifting large 11 lb boxes repeatedly during the day. Eventually I got the order of no lifting, and then I became a burdon to my coworkers who had to pick up my slack.
Long story short, after 3 months of pain, 2 epidural steroid injections (that were nothing more than a bandaid), a couple rounds of Prednisone (an oral steroid) and another attempt at physical therapy, I had back surgery.
Do I regret my back surgery? No. I only regret that I was neglectful of my body enough that I needed the surgery. I truly believe that if I had not had the surgery, I’d be in more pain than I am in now. Because my pain isn’t completely gone. It’s mostly gone. I can ignore it mostly. But my left heel is still partially numb and sometimes I get a muscle spasm in my foot that is absolutely excruciating.
What caused my disc to herniate? Pure speculation here but I believe it to be a combination of decades of poor seated posture, the poor gym lift mentioned above, weak muscles after my battle with Covid, and a sneeze. That’s right, while laying in bed sick in bed with Covid I twisted to the side to grab something and at that moment I sneezed. I felt a pop. I screamed in pain. Then moved on with my life. I think that’s the moment I went from a bulging disc to full on broken.
So, if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably thinking, “Holy crap, Caroline, surely something good has happened to you in the last almost 4 years?!?” and you’d be right! I have had some good things happen.
In January 2020 my family was supposed to go on our first out of state vacation—a Caribbean cruise—obviously Covid put a pin in that plan, but we did rebook for January 2021 and had a wonderful time enjoying the 80° temps while back home in Minnesota it was much, much colder! My husband and I also had our very first trip to Vegas with his extended family, which was 3 days of fun.
And the biggest news of all? I was recruited for a new job! I left my previous job and started a (mostly) work-from-home job and it’s been so good for my mental health. I’m a homebody, so being able to roll out of bed, walk to my desk in my living room, and start my day has been amazing. Of course, like every job, there are pieces of it I’d rather not have to do, but find me a job that doesn’t have that! I’ve been with my new company for about 9 months now and my coworkers and supervisor and boss are all amazing. They’re so helpful. If I’m stuck on something, I know I can go to any one of them for help. I even helped a friend/former manager of mine get a job working with me, so I have someone I can chat with on Teams throughout the day who already gets me!
So, what am I doing posting here now?
It’s time. I think I’m finally getting out of the (almost) 4 year crud I’ve been in, and I want to get back to the things I’ve loved in the past, including book blogging and writing my own books. I can’t count the number of times I’ve written this post in my head over the years. Laying in bed, sick with Covid. Hunched over, suffering from awful back pain. Wanting to get this all off my chest, and out there for anyone brave enough to read all of my rambling!
So if you made it this far, wow! Thank you!
(Now go purchase a copy of one of my books if you haven’t yet. 😉)