My experience battling COVID-19 (Delta variant) alongside ulcerative colitis

Today I wanted to share my experience after a long hard battle with COVID-19 and how it impacted my ulcerative colitis (UC) and symptoms. While everyone’s bodies are different, I feel it’s important for others to know that COVID-19 knocked my UC out of remission almost overnight. I was suddenly battling COVID-19 and ulcerative colitis at the same time. Here’s my story.

Preparing for the worst

I realize vaccines are a big topic of debate these days. That’s not what this article is about. All I will say is that I did take the vaccine. Why? Because I knew that if I got COVID-19, I would be in the immunocompromised group of people. There also isn’t much information out there on how COVID-19 impacts ulcerative colitis, but knowing my body, I knew things would break down super quick.

I’ve been in what I call “remission” (very few symptoms) for a couple of years now from ulcerative colitis. I manage it entirely with my gluten-free diet, supplements, and vitamins. It doesn’t impact my day-to-day, and there are times when I forget I even have ulcerative colitis.

I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in April 2021 and the second in May 2021. I knew I needed as much protection as I could get. Or rather, help fighting it off so I wouldn’t end up in the hospital. Other than a sore arm the next day, I didn’t have any other side effects.

Coming down with COVID-19

On August 19, 2021, I felt a sore throat coming on. I had a bad feeling in my gut (no pun intended) that it was probably COVID-19. I had gone through all of 2020 without it impacting me. But at some point, everyone is probably exposed, no matter how careful you are. 

I immediately started my typical flu regimen of soup, Cayan pepper, Theraflu, drinking boatloads of water, etc. However, things went downhill really fast. 

Within 24 hours, I was experiencing the following symptoms all at the same time: 

  • Fever
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Cough
  • Runny Nose
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches/body aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Complete loss of appetite

And what’s worse is that it knocked me out completely out of remission. My UC symptoms came back with a vengeance. Immediately I started having diarrhea, which is one of the worst symptoms. For those of you who live with ulcerative colitis, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I had to run to the bathroom every 30 minutes. And this alone is exhausting, not to mention all of my other symptoms on top of it. 

Battling COVID-19 and ulcerative colitis is, at the same time, is one of the most excruciating and exhausting things I’ve ever been through in my life. What’s even scarier is just how fast my body broke down. Years’ worth of work getting my ulcerative colitis under control was pretty much undone overnight. I’ve had the flu before, and this was by no means anything close to that.

After developing the symptoms, I had a take-home COVID-19 test that I administered. It confirmed that I was positive for COVID-19. I was already quarantining at this point but made sure not to come in contact with anyone. I was too sick to leave my apartment or even move anyways.

COVID-19 Ag card Pin
COVID-19 Ag card

However, sometimes the take-home tests have false positives/negatives. So after a miserable and long weekend, I picked myself up and drove to a drive-through Walgreens testing center for a PCR test. 

A few days later, I got the results back from Labcorp (where Walgreens had sent the test), and it confirmed that I was positive for COVID-19, specifically SARS-CoV-2, also known as the Delta variant. 

COVID-19 Labcorp test results Pin
COVID-19 Labcorp test results

COVID-19 kicking my butt

I was hoping I could recover from COVID-19 in a couple of days. But boy, was I wrong. I spent the next couple of weeks battling all of those symptoms above. I went through multiple bags of cough drops, numerous boxes of Theraflu, etc. I could barely move, and all I wanted to do was sleep, but even that was hard.

I’m a tall and skinny guy. Losing weight for me isn’t a good thing. However, over the next few weeks, I would lose a total of 15 pounds. My appetite was just nonexistent. I didn’t eat anything for days, and anything I tried to eat just for a little bit of nourishment, would just come right back up or, as you probably can guess, out the other end. 

The nights were really like living in a nightmare. The symptoms were so bad that I couldn’t even sleep for very long periods. I had to try sleeping sitting up because I was so congested. And therefore, I would eventually fall asleep hunched over from pure exhaustion. Not to mention that I would have to run to the bathroom like every 30 minutes. Try getting a good night’s sleep through that.

There were a few nights where COVID-19 almost broke me to the point of going to the ER. 😢Click to Tweet

By September 3, 2021 (two weeks after my first symptoms), I started feeling a little better and tried to get some work done. I still had a horrible cough, but I was at least able to sit up and do some basic tasks. But I think I overdid it. After a few days of trying to do more my symptoms started coming back. I started getting chills and fevers again. 

After that, I pretty much dropped everything that didn’t involve me resting. Sleep is about the only thing you can do it seems to repair your body from this type of virus. 

On September 20, 2021 (a month after my first symptoms), I can confirm it was the first day where I didn’t have to keep taking cough drops all day long. But my lungs and ribs felt like they had aged 50 years overnight. Everything ached from coughing so much.

I took the second half of the take-home COVID-19 test and it confirmed I was negative. Finally some good news.

But even as I’m writing this, I’m still experiencing my ulcerative colitis symptoms. It will probably take me months to get back into remission. I hope by the end of the year, I can be back to what I consider normal. 

Summary

COVID-19 is no joke, folks, especially for those of us who are immunocompromised. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. It’s mind-boggling how fast it ravages your body and how long it takes to recover. It took me over a month to get rid of the cough. With the typical flu, I would have beaten a cough in a matter of days. 

I’m lucky that I already worked from home and my business partner (my brother) was thankfully able to pick up the slack while I was out. I can’t even imagine what others with less flexible jobs have gone through. 

Please stay safe, everyone. We will get through this!

Brian Jackson

Diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at 27 along with gluten intolerance that was off the charts; going gluten-free literally saved my life. Read my story.

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