May 29 was my scheduled six-month CT scan at the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital, under whose care I have been since flying home from Amsterdam last year. The five-hour drive seemed less daunting as my strength and confidence returned, and the appointment appeared poised to be the maiden voyage for the new car we bought at noon on Friday, March 13.
Friday the 13th. While we were at the Earl Stewart car dealership, the public schools closed. By the end of the weekend, Florida and the rest of the United States were in the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown. Suddenly, getting in a car to go anywhere — much less five hours away — was fraught with danger. We waited at home for things to get better.
Things are not better. Five months later, America’s shameful government leadership has failed to stop the Coronavirus. The number of cases in Florida alone is far greater than other countries’. We still are home most of the time, but, when we do go out, we wear masks, wash our hands, and keep our distance from people.
Recovery is a long, slow, and uncertain process in the best of times. A wise doctor in Amsterdam counseled me to keep my expectations low, treasure the small accomplishments, and stay in it for the long game. It did take me a full year to feel like myself again.
Those who survive COVID have it much, much worse, as the medical community is discovering in the survivors they’ve described as the long-haulers. But one thing that I have in common with these brave souls is hair-loss. Alyssa Milano’s recent Tweet documenting her own hair loss went viral.
In her recent article in USA Today, reporter Adrianna Rodriguez has written about hair loss as another consequence of the coronavirus. The Harvard Medical School says that “telogen effluvium,” the medical term for this condition, can be triggered by major physical trauma, a shock to the system.
There’s a growing phase, a resting phase and a shedding phase. When you see a lot of shedding, that’s when people perceive hair loss.Jennifer Ashton, MD
Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal says that hair loss comes after the illness.
This is why we’re seeing these patients now, several weeks after COVID-19 symptoms resolve. Telogen effluvium isn’t a symptom of COVID-19 as much as it is a consequence of the infection.”Dr. Shilpi Khetarpal, Cleveland Clinic.
So, losing my hair was part of getting better. It became very thin about three months after my illness. Though it sure didn’t feel like a positive thing at the time, it was the beginning of recovery. Although it’s not very stylish (stay-at-home-mullett!) and gray/brown/blond (stay-at-home-color!), it feels thicker and curlier than it was before. Silver lining category.
The long game seems endless, and then you put a pan away without thinking and realize you’re getting better.
This morning, I took another step in the right direction by finally getting my six-month (now an eight-month) CT scan. My diagnosis in Amsterdam was Segmental Arterial Mediolysis, a disease in which the walls of the abdominal arteries are weak. It’s a relatively rare diagnosis about which not enough is known, including whether it can resolve itself. In addition to keeping blood pressure in control, you want to keep an eye out for aneurysms. Now that I am able to move as I want, it was time to be sure my body and my head are in synch.
With a nod to the pandemic, Shands sent the order down to an imaging facility a mile from my house. I suited up — mask, gloves — and followed the distancing protocol to guard staff and patients alike. I was in and out quickly. Fingers crossed.
Meantime, I’m taking Kumba’s lead and not worrying about what I can’t control. Wishing you and yours continued health and courage!