Battling COVID-19 with an Autoimmune Disease
In this blog post, we share 3 members' experiences battling COVID-19 in the year 2022. *Disclaimer: Please consult your doctors if you have COVID-19. This blog post only seeks to share our members' experiences and should not be construed as medical advice.
"I KNOW I CAN MAKE IT."
Y, 38 years old
Diagnosis of autoimmune disease: SLE Lupus
Current medications: Prednisolone, cellcept and hydroxychloroquine Fully vaccinated
I went to work as usual with my routine ART testing being negative. During lunch, when eating halfway, I felt a slight pain in my throat. As time passed, my sore throat worsened. I self-medicated with Panadol and Leftose, hoping it’s not Covid. By the middle of the night, I started to have a fever of 37.4 degrees. ART was still negative. But from my past experiences, I knew something is not right.
I went to see a doctor to get my PCR done. I was given 5 days MC to rest while I waited anxiously for my PCR result. My temperature started to climb to 37.8 degrees and my sore throat got a bit worse. Things are still pretty much in control with some medication. My retching started the whole night and I could only sleep 1-2 hrs. I knew it was going to be a bad infection which I have not had since I started IVIG in the year 2018.
My sore throat worsened with a burning sensation. My temperature continued to hover around 37.3 to 37.8 degrees even after taking Panadol once in 4 hours. The dreaded 2 lines appeared on the ART kit. Shortly after that, I received an SMS informing me of my positive PCR result. Vomiting started in the afternoon and my fever spiked to 38.2 degrees. I spoke to my rheumatologist as the vomiting persisted and Panadol can no longer be taken orally. My rheumatologist advised me to stop Cellcept and take Prednisolone at least. She also advised me to be admitted if my vomiting continued. The vomiting continued and my throat was burning. Hence, I headed to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) A&E.
At TTSH A&E, multiple patients were seen on trolley beds or chairs waiting for admission. Despite the bed crunch, things were all in order. ECG, blood tests and X-rays were done immediately. My fever spiked to 38.9 degrees. IV Paracetamol & ondansetron were administered within an hour. Phlegm started to have thick blood clots (my common sign of bad Upper Respiratory Throat Infection (URTI). After waiting for 5 hours on a trolley bed, I was wheeled to National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).
My throat continued to burn with a high fever. The vomiting stopped and returned in the evening but I was still unable to swallow. IV meds and drip continued.
The fever subsided in the evening. Managed to eat something.
They took off the drip and I can’t wait to be discharged. The cough worsens a little.
PCR was done again and the results came back with a CT value of 26 (CT stands for cycle threshold. CT above 25 means not infectious. The doctor discharged me and I was advised to stay home for another 14 days to avoid getting infected again.
I am now recovering slowly with a slight cough. Though it is not my worst infection, the burning sore throat is the worst I ever had.
Covid has given me another ‘victory medal’ against my other medical conditions. While I know my body has been trashed again, and the recovery back to full energy level is probably going to take another few months. But looking at my past "medals", I know I can make it.
"I GOT THROUGH IT WITH MEDICATION, REST AND LOVE FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS."
N, 29 years old, female
Diagnosis of autoimmune disease: Peripheral spondyloarthritis
Current medications: Infliximab
I tested positive when I was doing my rostered routine testing early in the morning before I went to work. I was having some mild discomfort in my throat when I saw my GP. My GP informed me that I would be on closer monitoring as I am on immunosuppressant treatment and he asked me to inform my rheumatologist too. GP did ART and PCR tests for me and prescribed me medicine for fever, cough, flu, and sore throat just in case. In the afternoon, I started having a fever, flu and a bad sore throat.
A doctor from a private clinic called me to do a teleconsultation and checked on me. I was also offered to be sent to a community facility as the doctor said that I belong to the higher-risk group of patients. I declined as I was still coping well at home.** After 72 hours of isolation, I was still very positive in in my ART results so I continued to isolate myself. Had been having on-and-off fever.
I had diarrhoea and a very bad stomachache at night. Coincidentally, the doctor from the private clinic called to check on me the next morning. I informed him of my symptoms and he prescribed me some medicine for diarrhoea and stomachache.
I was still having flu symptoms and went to see a GP. My MC got extended by 3 more days. My ART test was still positive and the GP advised me to continue my isolation at home. He also mentioned that if I showed symptoms, I should stay at home as I might still be infectious.
I recovered and finally tested negative! My advice for people is to prepare these at home: masks, sanitiser, thermometer and oximeter. **I was told of the severe symptoms that might occur as I was immunocompromised and that it might also result in death. They informed me that there was a form to sign to decline admission into the community facility.
"EVERYONE WILL REACT DIFFERENTLY TO COVID-19. TAKE YOUR TIME TO RECOVER FULLY."
C (pseudonym), 24 years old, male
Diagnosis of autoimmune disease: Myasthenia Gravis
Current medications: Azathioprine and Pyridostigmine
I had a sore throat and decided to test myself with an ART kit, and it turned out positive. I went to the Quick Test Centre (QTC), which was really fast because there was no queue at the time slot I booked. A while after the QTC, MOH will start sending a lot of SMS. Do watch out for a form to register your household members so that you can collect ART kits from them.
I also emailed my doctor and she replied quickly even though it was a Sunday. She advised me to see a GP, which I did. The experience was less pleasant- the receptionist was rude because I already tested positive for COVID, and the waiting time went into hours. By that time, I already had a fever too. Luckily, the GP decided I was suitable for home recovery. Of course, this highly depends on your condition and the seriousness of COVID- see a doctor when in doubt, but only go to the emergency department if it is a real emergency or advised to do so.
For the next few days, it was just like the flu. I had a runny nose, a cough, and even lost some of my sense of smell. Thankfully, I have largely recovered from this. My autoimmune condition also flared up slightly. I felt tired and my eyes became more droopy to a greater degree than usual, even though I was taking my medication on time and did not do strenuous activity. But I have also recovered from that.
I mostly recovered around day 7 and in the second week, I tested myself using ART and it was negative. I did not test every day when I was ill because I felt it was unnecessary - you can exit isolation after the seventh day and if you are feeling well. Of course, this also depends on the circumstance you are in- some of you might want to be more cautious. In between, I also constantly monitored my temperature when I had a fever, and checked my oxygen levels. If your oxygen level is consistently low (90-95% and not recovering after resting), you might need medical care.
Be in contact with your doctor as soon as possible so you can get advice. You might be eligible for home recovery.
You are managing 2 problems - COVID and your autoimmune disease. Monitor and prepare for a flare up.
Expect quite a bit of preparation that needs to be done to go into isolation