Patient Blogs | Crohn's Disease
What It’s Like Having Crohn’s Disease and COVID-19
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Over the last 2 years, COVID-19 has impacted everyone in one way or another. We’ve had severe health concerns, medical staffing issues, empty grocery store shelves, and supply chain shortages.

We’ve had lockdowns and mandates, social distancing and online teaching, sports cancellations, and recommended vaccinations. Nowadays, it’s honestly rare for you to encounter someone who either didn’t have COVID-19 themselves or didn’t know someone close who had.

During this crisis, people with autoimmune disorders, chronic health challenges, or severe inflammatory conditions were grouped into a “high-risk” category.

What this meant was that if you were considered “high risk” and developed COVID-19, your body might have a harder time fighting it off than someone with a healthier immune system. As someone who not only has Crohn’s disease but a few other chronic health issues as well, I, unfortunately, found myself falling into this category.

Throughout this journey, I personally felt like I took all the precautions. I wore a mask wherever I went. I constantly had hand sanitizer at the ready, and anytime I was out somewhere, I immediately came home, threw my clothes into the washer, and took a shower.

I didn’t frequent places with large crowds indoors, and luckily, I got to work from home as an online teacher most of the time. However, as careful as I was, it still caught up to me.

Now, I’m sure that having COVID-19 has been no walk in the park for anyone. We’ve heard of all the symptoms and side effects, and we still seem to be constantly monitoring for them.

However, having COVID-19 and Crohn’s disease (and a few other chronic health conditions) was one of the worst things I have ever experienced (and I’ve had 14 medically necessary surgeries in the past 15 years).

Through all of this, I do feel that I ended up lucky. I didn’t develop symptoms of COVID-19 until January 2022, almost 2 full years after the pandemic started.

By that time, the more severe Delta variant seemed to be calming down while the milder Omicron variant took over. Even though this variant was supposed to be a milder form of COVID-19, I spent over 5 days sleeping, barely keeping anything down, and feeling as if I couldn’t put my thoughts into words and words into sentences. I almost felt delirious.

At first, I thought my allergies might have been bothering me, but as that initial day of symptoms wore on, I knew this had to be more.

My symptoms began with a very strange tickle in my nose that I’d never experienced before, and I couldn’t get relief from any nasal spray or allergy medication.

I also had the worst sore throat I have ever experienced and was so fatigued that I couldn’t stay awake even if I tried.

I spent the next 5 days moving back and forth from my living room couch to my bedroom and trying to keep something anything – down.

During this time, my Crohn’s disease flared, and it felt like I was experiencing every COVID-19 symptom in the book. I had muscle and body aches, headaches, a sore throat, runny nose, loss of smell (but not taste), nausea and vomiting, and extreme fatigue.

Ironically, the only symptoms that I didn’t have were the respiratory ones, which is what I thought most people struggled with when they had it.

In addition, I had the many not-so-pleasant symptoms of Crohn’s disease flaring, which caused me to feel completely miserable. By the end of the fifth day, I was still struggling with a multitude of symptoms. So, my doctor recommended that we schedule a COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment at the hospital.

He first had to send in a request for the treatment, which had to be approved (by insurance, I think?), and then the hospital would call me to schedule an appointment.

At only 36, I have to admit that I was worried that I wouldn’t be approved for this treatment. However, only 2 hours after the request was made, I had an appointment.

Upon checking in at the hospital, I was taken to a treatment room usually reserved for IV infusion therapies. The nurses had to ask multiple questions and remind me that the COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment was considered experimental.

The actual treatment only lasted around 30-45 minutes, and it reminded me of infusions I used to receive for Crohn’s.

Shortly after my treatment was over, I was able to go back home. Afterward, I still had some symptoms, but they started to subside faster than they had before my treatment.

I honestly felt so blessed that I was able to receive this treatment and don’t know where I would have been without it.

It’s now been about 2 months, and I can honestly say that some things just aren’t the same as they were before.

I seem to have problems remembering even the simplest of tasks or requests. I also must write everything down or I will instantly forget. I lose track of time very easily, and some days are just not as productive as they once were.

My Crohn’s disease is still flaring and causing me some misery, and my inflammatory levels are off the chart.

Throughout all this, my gut health seems to be severely impacted and I am always so tired; the kind of tired where it doesn’t matter how much you sleep, you’re still going to be tired.

Even though I’ve been told that many of these symptoms I’m describing are common for most after COVID-19, it does make me wonder just how much of an impact COVID-19 will have on our health long-term, especially for those of us with autoimmune disorders, chronic health challenges, and severe inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease.


Photo Credit: eyesfoto / E+ via Getty Images

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Tina Marteney

Tina Marteney

Diagnosed since 2016

Tina Marteney has lived with Crohn’s disease for over 15 years (and she’s only 35!). She is an education leader, autoimmune advocate, and published writer. She is also a mom, dog mom, and wife. Marteney has made it her mission to help others learn how to live well with illness. She shares health tips, patient stories, and helpful resources on her blog and Instagram. Connect with her here.

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