If you go solely off a glance at statistics every day, as I do, you might begin to believe that COVID-19 is a binary proposition. The media mostly reports on confirmed cases, and then they report on deaths, so it doesn't take too long before you start to think of corona that way. "If I get COVID, then either I die, or I'm fine." But the virus is not an either/or scenario, and while I'm a little bit embarrassed that it took someone reminding me of this fact for it to sink in, now that they have, I have begun to look at this disease entirely differently. So with that in mind, I wanted to write this article to pass along what will be a fairly obvious truth to many of you, but a truth that I still think bears repeating: Even if corona doesn't kill you, it can still really fuck you up.
Hopefully, you responded to this with "No duh" and did not have your mind completely dragon-fisted as I did upon hearing it. But again, in defense of myself and anyone else who thought similarly, we rarely hear about the cases where people get severely ill and then recover, and when we do, we don't hear about the potential long-term effects on their health. Because even those among you who are more cognizant of the 20% of COVID patients who become severely ill, there's probably many among you who don't realize what exactly that entails. Let me tell you, not even Edgar Allen Poe on a coke bender could devise a more terrifying disease.
25%-50% of those hospitalized with the virus develop kidney abnormalities with around 15% further developing acute kidney injuries, potentially resulting in long-term kidney damage. About 17% of patients develop arrhythmia, with 7.2% sustaining acute injuries to the heart, which again, poses long-term effects. 33% to as high as 45% of patients will develop neurological issues that can range anywhere from an alteration of consciousness to loss of smell to a stroke. Long-term effects may also be included. It's also theorized that the virus causes a "cytokine storm" in young patients (you know the "safe" ones) which turns their strong immune systems against them, causing it to attack their lungs. Sometimes this will kill the patients, but even if it doesn't, it will cause long-term damage.
The most gruesome development is acute respiratory distress system or ARDS. Basically ARDS is when the lungs fill up with fluid, but for some reason, Coronavirus has given ARDS entirely new abilities like it just went through a Super Saiyan transformation. Typically, ARDS takes time to develop as the lungs become more inflamed, but with COVID-19, it's happening almost overnight. Here's a first-hand account from a medical worker:
"It first struck me how different it was when I saw my first coronavirus patient go bad. I was like, Holy shit, this is not the flu. Watching this relatively young guy, gasping for air, pink frothy secretions coming out of his tube and out of his mouth. The ventilator should have been doing the work of breathing but he was still gasping for air, moving his mouth, moving his body, struggling."
So what do you do with this information? Probably call your mom (which really should do anyway). My point here isn't to scare you into never leaving your room or building yourself a house made entirely of soap. I do think, though, it's important that we stop only fixating on the 2% of infected patients that die and instead think more about the 20% who are severely ill. Every choice is a risk-assessment, and I think we'll be better at making those risk assessments (even if it's a completely narcissistic one where we don't account for the other people that we might infect) if we remember that even if COVID-19 doesn't kill us, that doesn't mean it won't leave us with a lifetime of problems.
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Top Image: U.S. Air Force