What It’s Like Having Crohn’s Disease and COVID-19
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on everyone over the past two years. The effects have been far-reaching, touching various aspects of our lives. From health concerns to supply chain shortages, we have faced challenges on multiple fronts. Lockdowns, social distancing, and online teaching have become the norm. It is now uncommon to find someone who hasn't had personal experience with COVID-19 or knows someone close who has.
During the crisis, individuals with autoimmune disorders, chronic health issues, or severe inflammatory conditions were categorized as high-risk. This meant that if they contracted COVID-19, their weakened immune systems would struggle to fight it off. As someone with Crohn's disease and other chronic conditions, unfortunately, I fell into this high-risk group.
Throughout this journey, I took every precaution possible. I wore masks, used hand sanitizer regularly, and followed strict hygiene practices. I avoided crowded places and luckily had the opportunity to work from home. However, despite my precautions, I still contracted the virus.
Experiencing COVID-19 along with Crohn's disease and other chronic conditions was incredibly difficult. Even with 14 surgeries in the past 15 years, this was one of the worst experiences I've had. Fortunately, I didn't display symptoms until January 2022, almost two years into the pandemic. By that time, the Delta variant had subsided, and the milder Omicron variant had taken its place.
Although Omicron was considered less severe, it still caused me severe discomfort. I spent over five days struggling to sleep, unable to keep anything down, and feeling mentally foggy. The symptoms started with an unfamiliar tickle in my nose, which nasal sprays and allergy medication couldn't alleviate. I also experienced an excruciating sore throat and extreme fatigue.
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During those five days, my Crohn's disease flared up, and I experienced a host of COVID-19 symptoms. Muscle aches, headaches, runny nose, loss of smell (but not taste), and nausea and vomiting became constant companions. Ironically, I didn't have the respiratory symptoms commonly associated with COVID-19. On top of that, my Crohn's disease symptoms exacerbated, making me feel utterly miserable.
After five days of suffering, my doctor advised a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment at the hospital. The treatment needed approval from insurance, but I was fortunate to get an appointment within two hours of the request. The treatment, which lasted 30 to 45 minutes, was administered in a treatment room similar to the one I had previously received infusions for my Crohn's disease.
After the treatment, my symptoms began to subside faster than before. I felt incredibly grateful for the opportunity to receive this treatment and wondered what would have happened without it. However, it has been two months, and I still face lasting effects. I struggle with memory, often forgetting even simple tasks or requests unless I write them down. I lose track of time easily, and some days are less productive than before. My Crohn's disease persists, causing ongoing discomfort, and my inflammatory levels are high. My gut health is severely affected, and I constantly feel exhausted, regardless of how much sleep I get.
It makes me reflect on the long-term impact of COVID-19, especially for individuals like me with autoimmune disorders, chronic health challenges, and severe inflammatory conditions such as Crohn's disease. The symptoms I am experiencing are common among COVID-19 survivors, and it raises concerns about our health in the future.