Erik Forsberg, 36 – From fully healthy to 12 days covid-19 intensive care

Erik- Forsberg - Covid 19 journey

My name is Erik Forsberg and I am a 36 year old male living in Järvsö, Sweden. I would say that I live a pretty healthy and active lifestyle and have photography and training as two of my biggest interests.

My journey with Covid-19 started with fever chills Monday, 23rd of March, I was shaking like a leaf and decided to take some fever reducing pills and go to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with rapid heart palpitations, high fever and a dry cough, in addition, every time I took a deep breath I got an excruciating pain in my chest. The symptoms persisted all week, day and night.

I continued to treat myself at home until Thursday, then I was advised to visit my local health care clinic after a conversation with 1177, the Swedish phone health advice service. When I arrived I was shown to a special entrance which was for patients with respiratory symptoms. They checked my blood pressure, temperature, the Biernacki Reaction and oxygen levels, even though I had persistent fever since Monday, they deemed nothing alarming and sent me home to rest.

A few days goes by – and on Saturday, I decided to finally go back to my local health clinic as all my symptoms persisted, they’ve checked my Biernacki Reaction again and found that it went up from 40 to 170. I received penicillin for suspected pneumonia and a sedative for my heart palpitation so I would be able to sleep.
During the weekend I tried to lower my fever with fever-reducing pills but to no avail, at this point I still had heart palpitations day and night, fever, dry cough and difficulty breathing.

Erik- Forsberg - Covid 19 journeyOn Monday morning I was feeling so unwell I needed to call the ambulance, the ambulance arrived after 20 minutes and drove me directly to the infection ward at Gävle Hospital. I was met by a handful of assistive health professionals with full protective clothing and gas masks. They gave me oxygen and took multiple tests including one for COVID-19, after all the tests, I got moved to a room where I received heated humidified high-flow oxygen.

I have some memories from my time in the hospital but it is mostly a blurr. Many details I got afterwards from family and friends, they told me that I was very confused and that my personality had changed. I had existential thoughts and felt “invincible and healthier than ever”, I guess the confusion was a result of barely being able to breath and getting an overdose of oxygen. When I felt the “best” I had unknowingly removed the oxygen mask for almost two hours resulting to my oxygen levels where down at 85%

On March 31 I finally received the test results confirming I had COVID-19. During the night of April the 1st I experienced difficulties breathing, despite being given oxygen gas. The doctors decide to sedate me and connect me to a respirator in the intensive ward. I was told that I was very happy and talked a lot to the staff before being sedated, I was probably unaware what was happening around me, and did not comprehend that I was going to be connected to a respirator, however I fully trusted the hospital staff. Once sedated and connected to the respirator I slept peacefully, my vitals looked good minding the circumstances. Long story short, my lungs were in desperate need of rest due to the infected pulmonary alveolus.

On April 2, I finally woke up, and as my first conscious action, I went straight to a blackboard and happily wrote “I felt superb”. Later that night, the tube was removed from my throat and replaced with an oxygen mask as the staff told me afterwards that I had started to develop worrying and sad feelings during the procedure. Nevertheless, to my excitement, slowly but surely my health improved and so did my test values as they now ​​looked normal.

On April 3, I was now feeling better even though the fever had gone up a bit. They removed the one antibiotic whose side effect was an extensive feeling of worrisome which suppose to improve my overall mood.

On April 4th I got some sedative so I was not very aware but instead spent the day mostly sleeping. When I finally woke up I felt very worried again and tried to desperately take off the oxygen mask. It was then decided to anesthetize me again and put me in a respirator as my body was still just not ready yet to take care of itself. During that time, I was awake on and off and wrote some questions on a blackboard. The questions were mainly about my mood.

Later that day, they took a spinal cord test (Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) collection is a test to look at the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord) to rule out meningitis (inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) – my relatives had later told me the relief they felt when the results came back negative. As for my Biernacki Reaction value, it was now set at 225.

On April 7, I was feeling even better, and they gradually lowered the sedative dose.

On April 8, the doctor told my partner that they are reducing the pressure in the tube and that my lungs were now finally starting to work on their own.

On April 9, the tube was now removed and all my health values ​​were looking much better. I am still worried, but I was able now to have the oxygen mask. Finally I manage to cough up mucus which feels liberating.

On April 10, things were still progressing. I was still not completely clear in my head and I was starting to hallucinate as I was talking about my serious illness to my brother, which was most probably myself being a third person.

On April 11, I was finally released from having the oxygen mask and instead got oxygen from a halter installed in my nose. Now they started preparing to moving me to another department.

On April 12, they put my smartphone in my hands for the first time in a long time and as my first sign of life I sent an article link to my sister and cohabitant. They both understood that it really meant “Hello, I’m back”, but was a little touched that I succeeded in all the steps needed to send the link but couldn’t spell the word “Hello”. I obviously had some cognitive problems in the beginning as it was hard to even hold the phone properly and what I wrote became just strange characters as for instance my hello message that I wrote to my brother looked like “Wfidesroyrtnrtn”, I really thought I wrote ”hello”.

The same day I was moved to an infection ward and got a roommate – he too was infected with the same COVID-19 virus. It turned out that he originally come from a place not very far from Ljusdal (the place where I live) and we therefore had things in common to talk about. He was suffering from high fever, rapid heart palpitations and was having a hard time breathing – just what I suffered through at home for not so long time ago. I really felt with him and was worried about how he was doing. I even called the nurses a few times on his behalf. I felt helpless and powerless because at this point I couldn’t even raise a glass – my hand just shook. I was not even able to walk forward to talk to my roommate as I couldn’t hold my own head or control the movements of my feet.

On April 13, I needed almost no help from the oxygen machine, oxygenation was now good and the Biernacki Reaction was down to 15. I got nutritional drops and Fragmin (Dalteparin) against blood clots.

On April 14, I was completely free from having to get artificial oxygen, with the help of the health staff I was now able to sit up on the bedside and got to eat mashed food.

On April 15, I was moved to the COVID-19 department on the 12th floor of the hospital – a large room with room for four beds. I had this room for myself during the rest of the week.

I was now entering the rehab period, I trained daily with a physical therapist to get myself up on my legs and to regain balance and strength so that I could walk without a walking frame. I met a doctor and a therapist to talk about what I had been through. I also spoke to a speech therapist to evaluate my swallowing reflexes. In the beginning, I most say it was difficult to even drink liquid water.

On April 16, a new COVID-19 test was taken, which on April 17 would come back proving to be negative. To my very relief, I had now official survived the COVID-19 virus.

On the morning of April 18, I finally got to go home. I was now symptom-free but for me I had no interest in hurrying home. The only time I really felt in a hurry was when I first had to go to the hospital with critical COVID-19 respiratory symptoms. Once in place, I felt the rest would settle.

Nevertheless, when I now reflect back, I don’t really feel that I “slept” for a week, my perception of time thankfully disappeared, but for those who were following me from outside, those who were not able to help or even come by to check how I was feeling – for them probably they’ve experienced every hour as an eternity. When would the doctors call and what message would they give?

There have been occasional sad tears among family members and friends during these weeks of waiting. Tears of powerlessness, worry and fear. Even I have been told that I too cried on several occasions, but I want to think that it was tears of joy – that I received such a nice help.

I would like to send a HUGE thank you to all the staff at Gävle Hospital who cared and took care of me during these difficult weeks – I really hope you guys read this.

My wish is that this post is shared so people realize the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus. In a sense, whatever our age, we all belong to a risk group.

Photo: Emma Jonsson