Traveling with Long COVID, Part 1.

Traveling. Such an innocent thing and yet highly controversial, especially paired with COVID. My husband and I had to postpone our 15 year anniversary trip last year because of it, but we thought surely we’ll be able to go in the summer of 2021. That’s why we booked the cheap tickets to Europe when no one else was scheduling trips. Sure enough, as more and more people got vaccinated, ourselves included, various countries began to open back up to visitors. Unfortunately, only two of the countries we had tickets for were open; the other two, still closed. So we decided to just spend the time in New York City. We had tickets there anyway, where we were going to fly to Europe from.

The decision to travel has always been a risk to weigh. With new COVID cases as low as they were and being fully vaccinated it seemed the risk was worth it. But doubts were creeping into my mind the closer we got to our vacation. Not worry about putting others at risk though that was still on our radar, but more about how or if I would be able to handle it.

In my last post, I told you about how I got COVID in December and about my long term symptoms that are only getting worse. That’s the worry. The weeks leading up to our departure I was so fatigued that I was sleeping several hours a day every day and longer when I went on walks or played my flute with the band. And anyone who knows anything about NYC knows that it requires A LOT of walking. Not only that, but my resting heart rates were all over the place from the 30s to the 150s, and my doctor didn’t know because the last time I’d talked to a doctor I didn’t know about the heart rates. It was only one week before our trip when I finally got that doctor’s referral for a Pulmonary Function Test to go through. When I called to schedule it, the soonest they could see me in Flagstaff was August, they could see me sooner down in Cottonwood. But… I was about to be gone for the next couple of weeks, so I ended up not getting the appointment until July 27th.

Now that the doctor appointments were starting, should I even be going on this trip? Shouldn’t I be trying to figure out what’s going on with me sooner rather than later? I also knew that several other Long Haulers had had no success with doctors because either the doctors told them it was all in their head or they just didn’t know how to help. So I packed my friend’s nebulizer and my inhaler and vitamins and left the kids at Grammie’s.

The day we arrived was the worst. We started early by driving from Tucson to Phoenix to catch our 4 hour flight only to take 3 more hours to reach our hotel! PAY ATTENTION to the name of your hotel before just going off to find it on foot! It was hot and humid and a little disorienting. By the time we finally got to the Arlo NoMad, I was so ready to be done walking only to find out that it was the wrong hotel, we needed the Arlo Midtown instead which required us retracing our steps with our bags slung across our shoulders (no wheels), not quite the neighborhood walk we were planning after checking in to our hotel. As much as I didn’t want to leave the hotel at that point, we still needed dinner so we walked down to the corner pizza shop for our first NYC meal. And it was delicious, BUT I could barely finish one slice. My heart rate was through the roof and I had to stop after every bite to catch my breath.

The next day was a lot better. Even though it was a lot of walking in the humid heat, I was able to take many breaks and even a nap before our Peruvian dinner.

The only other thing we did but apparently have no pictures of is the 9/11 memorials and museum which was totally worth it. Also, we had the best gyros for lunch, the best food truck of the whole trip 🙂 It was really nice not having to prepare any food all week and not have to worry about kids needing one thing or another. They were perfectly content to swim in Grammie’s pool all day long every day.

Day 3 we visited the American Museum of Natural History, ate lunch at the best Italian place, Pappardella (Definitely one of my favorite meals!), walked across Central Park (we didn’t really get lost or have to ask for directions 😉 just enjoyed a leisurely stroll sitting on as many park benches as needed for as long as was needed), visited the Guggenheim Museum, and took another nap before dinner at a burger place. Again eating was one of the more challenging parts of the trip, constantly short of breath.

Day 4 was our biggest day, thankfully broken up with longer subway train rides between places. On our way to the MET we ran into some Cottonwood friends in Central Park! Then of course, if you’ve never been to the MET, it’s just awesome! We could have spent the whole day there but we decided to check out the Cloisters too which are free if visited on the same day as the MET. The Cloisters were nice and lots of beautiful scenery but it only took us an hour to walk through it and there was soooo much more to see at the MET. After that, we took the subway down to Chinatown where we had one of our cheaper meals and most delicious: Dumplings! To close out the night, we went to a $10 Comedy Club that was supposed to be in the park but got moved to a barber shop due to the rain. Like I said, it was a long day and I didn’t even get a nap.

The next day was the middle of our trip and the most relaxing day, just what the doctor ordered. We went to church then walked the Highline, an old railway converted into a nature walk. Back at our hotel, I got another nap while Ryan planned where we were going for dinner. We ended up going to the Empire State Building (no line!) and then grabbed food at a hole in the wall curry place and ended our evening at our hotel’s rooftop bar. This is where nasty long COVID decided to rear its head at me. I shouldn’t have had any drinks but I did (2 drinks) and I paid for it. Once we were back in our room, my heart rate dropped into the 30s and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I remember tapping Ryan’s leg and trying to tell him I couldn’t breathe but passed out before I could get a response. In the morning he didn’t recall it because he had already fallen asleep.

The last three days were pretty low key. We went to the Tenement Museum which had a lovely tour guide, Katz’ Deli (delicious corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, pickles were way too salty for my Covid taste buds), walked the Brooklyn Bridge, rode citi bikes at Prospect Park (I barely managed it, had to walk the bike in several places, just couldn’t do it: fatigue and short of breath), Grand Central Station, Bryant Park, New York Public Library tour, Mamoun’s Falafel, Artichoke Basille’s Pizza, both very very good, High Line again, spent an afternoon at the hotel watching Loki and sleeping, went to MOMA, walked Central Park again, people watched, and went back to Greenwich Village where we ate at The Half Pint (nice relaxing atmosphere), Rocco’s (canoli), Joe’s Pizza (horrible pizza).

First part of our travels, done! Overall, I’m glad we went even if it stretched me more than I would have liked. If that had been the end I would have been satisfied, but I had another week of traveling coming up a couple days after getting back from this one. But that will have to wait for the next post. Hope you’ve enjoyed walking through my travels with me and are encouraged that there is hope for us Long Haulers yet. We just have to pace ourselves.

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