After my first post, I have had a little bit of a brain freeze. Some self-inflicted pressure and unwarranted anxieties about content. All shenanigan thoughts. So... here goes nothing…
Breaking free … 2 weeks and 2 days post-onset of COVID-19 symptoms.
It was an overcast, grey day. Cold. The crisp cool of spring had not yet taken over the winter chill. The 2016 Mazda groaned and shuttered at being awakened for the first time in over 3 weeks. She took a few seconds to recognize she was being called to action and requested a few minutes to assess the effect of being dormant. The dog quivered with excitement, pacing the back seat at the thought of going on a ride.
I sat with my hands on the wheel, closed my eyes, and inhaled deeply. I was wary of my energy. My body felt like I was moving a boulder uphill. I thought: maybe I should have stayed on the couch … I haven’t left the driveway yet, I can easily go back inside … At this point, I am on day two (or maybe even three) of the same sweats, a makeup-less unwashed face and my hair in a pile on top of my head. I am not even sure I brushed my teeth. A look that I normally do not allow out of the house. I exhaled and opened my eyes … I need to do this. I need to get out. I need to at least drive a little and feel something, anything different than how I have been feeling.
I put the car in reverse. The Mazda growled a little at the request, but relented and started to move along. Driving felt brand new again. Almost like I was sixteen, sitting next to a person with a checklist. My palms were sweaty and it was tough to swallow. I was afraid to glance away from the road and both hands were properly placed on the wheel. Focused and apprehensive.
I drove west to “The Point,” Point Woronzof Park on the outskirts of Anchorage, and the parking lot was crowded. From my understanding, people were supposed to be “hunkering down.” Why are people out and about? People were coming and going as if the world hadn’t just turned upside down. Didn’t it? The realization hit me that I really have been living in my own little bubble. It made the weight on my chest a little heavier … I sat in my car. What is going on? I observed people. Some appeared slightly apprehensive, while others carried on weaving in and out of other’s six-foot radius. I turned my gaze upon the ocean scenery.
Despite the grey skies, the view was as spectacular as always. Located west from Anchorage across the Cook Inlet is Mount Susitna, also called Sleeping Lady due to its appearance of a woman sleeping on her back. I did not get out of my car. I didn’t even roll down a window for Diesel to put his head out. Fear that somehow the Covid that is with me, would make its angry way through the window, fight through the wind and end up with someone else. I wanted to get out and walk but there were too many people to dodge away from. I put the car in gear and retreated.
At the time of this adventure, no one could confirm or deny if I was contagious. Details from the nurse and the CDC on how to manage the illness were still changing daily. All I knew for sure was that I was still symptomatic and I needed to change my environment to assess my body and mind’s response.
Heading back east toward town, I eyed pull out spots along the trail, hoping to find a less busy area. The success came at the last turnout before committing to the return home. Earthquake park. There were a couple of cars parked but no one was around. This was our chance.
Diesel and I got out of the car. Cautiously, I looked around for other people. I felt like there was a blinking red light reading Positive above my head and if anyone noticed they would start yelling “She’s positive, get her!” and have me sent to a pillory or some other form of punishment for leaving my driveway. Gratefully, there wasn’t anyone around to implement such a penalty... and for the other obvious reason.
I walked along the snow-packed trail, keeping as far to the right as I could get without post-holing through the snow. The closer we got to the coast the wind picked up to an aggressive gust. Only my eyes were visible. My face was tucked into my jacket to keep my giant nose from freezing off. Despite the chill and the weariness of my body, we continued to walk. A couple of runners were traveling on the opposite side of the trail and at a fair distance away, others were moseying along. I remained hyper-aware of keeping an extended distance from everyone. Similar to the distance between a pitcher's mound and home plate. If someone came up behind me I would turn off the trail, look away, ensuring (again) my face was covered, make it look like I was allowing Diesel to explore off the trail, AND hold my breath… taking what felt like extreme caution to manage any vapors escaping my lungs that may put someone else at risk.
I discovered there were other small trails off the main trail that ventured into the woods. I wasn’t quite ready to retreat and Diesel still had more energy than I could handle. These trails proved less likely to have people around. We headed into the woods, moving slowly, observing the calm the trees provided from the wind. Senses continued to be heightened but gratefully the apprehensions of being out in “public” dissipated. As we wandered along, the sound of a heavy foot and a branch breaking off to the right caught my attention. I quickly looked around to see if another person was coming toward us. About 20 yards out I noticed a movement in the trees, a shift in the branches… I let out a sigh of relief... Only a moose. At this point, it felt “safer” to social distance with a moose. I crouched down and watched. Diesel remained oblivious to the large animal that we happened upon… some hunting dog.
Moose are interesting animals. Their demeanor appears nonchalant, almost like you could walk right up to them and kiss them on the nose without them reacting. Try your best to resist. They really aren’t that cute … and being charged by a thousand-pound boulder on stilts is not the best way to increase your heart rate. They can be unpredictably aggressive, faster than expected and don’t even bother to ask for forgiveness if you cross a momma with her calves. Needless to say, Diesel and I watched from a safe distance.
Throughout our trail adventure, we happened upon five moose. The people-to-moose viewing ratio was about equal for the outing.
The drive home was one of contentment. It was like a switch flipped and the grey sky started to look a little brighter. This type of outing was the medical treatment I needed. When I pulled into the driveway I had a stir of energy and a whole new outlook….and you know what I did with it... I washed my hair.
Before I call this post finished… I have a soapbox to stand on and kudos to you if you are actually still reading… In summary: the importance of movement and fresh air as a rehabilitation and treatment plan is under-prescribed or often ignored. Throughout my professional career and personal experience, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of movement even if it is walking in circles around your house with a window open. Our body’s response to safe movement, within our body’s abilities, and fresh air only facilitates the healing process.
Case in point….check out this article by Richard Hobday:
Jessica Schultz is a 2x Olympian, has over ten years experience as an orthopedic Physical Therapist Assistant and personal Trainer, and is the Executive Director for curlAK.