COVID Brain Is Real and Here’s What It Feels Like
You'll never know this by just seeing that headline. But it took me about forty-five minutes to type it. I couldn't concentrate long enough to decide how I was going to name this article. In fact, over the last few days I seem to have developed a new coronavirus "symptom." I forget what I am saying as I am saying it. I forget what I am doing as I am doing it. To write that headline I had to do something I never do. I had to call Ashley Sollars, our Digital Managing Editor here at WBKR, and ask her to write it for me.
I'm not making this up. It's not in my head. Today marks Day 30 of my ongoing COVID-19 battle and, in the last seven days, I have developed what some scientists, doctors and their patients have labeled COVID brain or COVID fog. I have heard people mention this as a lingering symptom for some COVID patients. I now know what they're talking about. But to help you understand what this sensation is like, I need to give you some perspective.
Since I was a kid, my memory has been relatively photographic. My cousin and I were just talking about this recently. He sees and remembers things like I do. Like a series of snapshots that we can almost instantly recall. When someone asks me a question, I scan my my mind for the picture that houses the answer. If that answer is written somewhere, I will scan until I find, in my memory bank, the piece of paper it's written on and I will see exactly on the page where it's written.
A couple of days ago, I stopped by Price Less Foods, picked up a basket so I could grab a few things, then suddenly couldn't remember a single thing. I stood in the middle of the produce section. I had already placed three baking potatoes in the basket, but I couldn't remember what else I was supposed to be doing or why I was even there in the first place. I literally just stood there. Perfectly still. And blank. Two employees walked by me. A bit later they walked by me again. I hadn't moved. I finally started scanning the store to see if something, anything could trigger my memory. I needed something to lift my "fog." Finally, after a couple of minutes, a package of fresh green beans jarred the memory bank. Oh yeah. I am making dinner. I need green beans, half and half, some Monterrey Jack cheese and something else. By the way, as I relay this to you, I can't remember what that "something else" was. I have absolutely no recollection of it.
Late last week, I was chatting with Brent Gardner, our Production Director here at the station. I was in his office for something (I can't remember what it was). As I was talking with him, I stopped mid-conversation. I completely forgot what I was talking about and he had to help me remember. As vividly as I remember him helping me back on the tracks, I am sitting here typing unable to remember what we were talking about and what threw me off them in the first place. I honestly have no idea. I can't remember. My brain's in a fog.
And I am not alone. When I started having symptoms of COVID brain/fog, I started researching it to see what other COVID patients were reporting. An article from New York-Presbyterian's Health Matters spelled it out simply- "memory loss, trouble finding words, problems with attention, and being overwhelmed by simple tasks." That's me. I made Hot Browns the other night, from a recipe I have used multiple times before. I couldn't remember from step-to-step what I was supposed to be doing. Several times I stood in the kitchen holding utensils or ingredients and I didn't know what to do with them.
My friend Jill Conrad, who also recently endured COVID-19, shared this on her Facebook page:
I completely relate to that. My friend Ashley Bradshaw does too. She says, "Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy. I didn't have a great memory, but phone numbers were my thing. I randomly could remember them and now it's like someone's asking me for the VIN number off a UFO. And my credit card number? I knew that by heart. Now, I do good to know my own zip code. I HATE THIS."
I do too. Because, quite frankly, it's not me. And I know Jill and Ashley feel the same way. It's hard to describe, but I feel like there's actually fog inside my head. It doesn't hurt, but I can "feel" it. I can feel there's something standing in the way of me thinking, speaking and functioning like I normally would. I'm with Ashley. I HATE IT.
Heck, I can't believe it's been over a month since I started showing symptoms. And while the symptoms that knocked me to the floor have dissipated, I definitely have lingering effects of the virus. I still assert that, on paper, I should have been able to roll right through this. Instead, it rolled right through me.
There are folks (and this baffles me to no end) who are still dismissing the seriousness of COVID-19 and claiming it's "like the flu" or a "cold." Ashley's response to that? The perfect one. "If anyone wants to talk about this being just a cold or the flu, please come do the things in my life I am unable to do." Luckily, Ashley's improving. Jill is too. I am as well. And while we can picture that day we wake up without any lingering symptoms, that day, for now, still seems a little foggy.