My Corona Diary – Convalescence.

My Corona Diary was getting a bit long, and was nowhere near over, so I decided to break it off after my return from the hospital and document my convalescence.
You can find the first part of My Corona Diary here.
You can find the second part of My Corona Diary here.

FYI, all measurements are Dutch/European. My normal body temperature is 36.5 Celsius. Normal glucose levels are between 5-8 mmol/l. Normal blood pressure for me ought to be 129/85, but I usually have 135/90.

(April 30th) I slept fairly well, no coughing bouts and only one early morning toilet break. At 07.30 hours I woke and switched off my oxygen, then measured my saturation, which was 88% but climbed to 92% within minutes. So I left the oxygen off and sat at my desk doing breathing exercises. Probably will be sent home this afternoon, so I better prepare to have energy for packing my bags. I will ask for the hospital to arrange transport back home though. It’s about ten minutes by car, but I don’t want to accidentally infect a taxi driver if it can be avoided. Although I’ve been tested negatively for Corona twice. So I told them I needed oxygen during transport, and they would arrange for transport by ambulance.
I was told the ambulance would be there by noon, so I packed my bags — a heavy one with my Kolibri typewriter and all my writing materials and the photos and my maps with poetry and the DRONE draft; another slightly less heavy bag with my regular stuff, like my vaporizer, headphones, the camping lamps, extension cords and adapters; a daypack with my toiletries, eyewash, medication, et cetera; and a bag with my sheepskin and bathrobe. Plus my sling bag with my valuables.
They put a wheelchair near my room and I told them it would be quite a strain for them to use a wheelchair to cart me with an oxygen tank and five bags to the exit. 
Ten minutes to noon I was ready and waiting. And waiting. And waiting some more. At ten to one, one of the nurses told me she’d bring me to the ambulance taxi. A small Moroccan woman to push a wheelchair with a man weighing 96kg, plus five bags. I asked her if she was sure, but it looked like she had no choice.
With both heavy bags on my lap and the sling bag hanging from my shoulder, and the two lighter bags hanging from the handlebars she pushed me to the exit. I inquired about the oxygen, but she said I didn’t need it for the wheelchair ride to the exit, and the ambulance should have its own supply.
After she got me outside, it turned out that the ‘ambulance’ turned out to be a van without an oxygen supply… No surprises there.
The medics who helped me were friendly and carried my bags into my house, so no complaints there, but they told me nobody mentioned me needing oxygen…
But, hey, I’m home again and reunited with Mingus.

My friend M arrived around 17.45 hours and the cleaner S some ten minutes later. We spent about an hour talking through my situation and what I needed, then S went to clean up the kitchen, toilet and bathroom and vacuum the house. He’s fairly young and has been working as a ‘thuishulp’ for six or seven weeks, but he’s capable and friendly, so I’ll probably ask the service for him to be my regular cleaner.
When it became time to go to bed, I still hadn’t be able to figure out how to connect the oxygen cylinder to the air converter, so I took two cylinders, put them next to my bed and connected the oxygen tube straight to the flow meter.

(May 1st) Sleep didn’t come easy — I had lots of lung spasms when I lay down on my flat futon bed, without the ability to raise the headrest. After I fell into a fitful sleep, plagued with nightmares, I woke up with severe cramps in my back and a blocked nose. My saturation was 77%, despite the oxygen.
I woke up my friend M, who could look in my bathroom cabinet for my nasal spray to unblock my nose and to rub my aching back. It took me another hour to get back to sleep. 
I woke up the next morning at 08.45 hours without oxygen because the cylinder ran out, so my saturation was at 83%. I woozily switched the flow meter to a fresh cylinder, friend M by my side while I waited for my saturation to stabilize above 92%. Even with 1.5 liter, it took almost ten minutes to get back to ‘normal’ saturation levels. From my knowledge of oxygen, I knew it was better not to kickstart my saturation with 2 or 2.5 liters, because that would cause my saturation to drop sharply if I disconnected to take a shower. 
With M’s help I weighed myself at 97.2 kg and measured my glucose at 11.6mmol/l. I took a shower without oxygen and M waiting outside the bathroom. After my shower my saturation had dropped to 83% again, but it rose quite quickly once the oxygen was reconnected at 1 liter.

My saturation after my shower, right after I connected the oxygen again.

With M’s help I made myself breakfast, then called Westfalen Medical about my inability to connect cylinders to the converter. Which turned out to be hilarious, because I didn’t have to connect anything to the converter. The six cylinders were for emergency air in case the converter broke down and they would need time to come over and repair/replace the converter. Or if I had to go outside for groceries or hospital visits with my own oxygen. Also, the operator told me I could call 24/7, because the operators were available from 08.00 – 20.00 hours and from 20.00 – 08.00 hours the calls were rerouted to an emergency service.
With the converter running I could have a continuous supply all over my house with the long oxygen tube. So I put the flowmeter at 1 liter and spent the rest of the day hooked up to the machine so my abused body could recuperate and build on its reserves. My kidneys still hurt from the lack of oxygen.
I called the OLVG to complain about the ‘no oxygen’ transport and demanded to speak to whomever had gone against my reasonable wishes. Turned out that Sylvana, the nurse from yesterday, had both nixed my oxygen transport — because I could clearly handle walking around my hospital room without oxygen! – and she has also cancelled my request for Thuiszorg (home care) because ‘I was capable enough’.
I spoke to the lung doctor, Ronald, and told him I was going to file a complaint with the hospital about the (lack of) treatment and the abuse of power, both for Sylvana who deliberately screwed up my transfer and Hilde who on April 22nd had tried to ‘punish me for smoking weed’ by radically lowering my oxygen from 4 liters to 1 liter. 
He thought I sounded ‘angry’. Damn right. I was furious. And I hadn’t been able to express my anger while in the hospital, for fear that my ‘insolence’ would earn me even worse treatment than I had received. This type of abuse of power should infuriate anyone, especially those who run victim to such small medical despots.
After I hung up, I called the hospital again, this time to speak with the eye clinic. During my stay I had requested a visit to the eye doctor several times, but it had been denied by the staff of the lung ward. This time I spoke with the secretary and she had me called back by the eye doctor. The eye doctor who called me back during her hectic schedule explained to me patiently how the unit could only see eight patients per day, and those patients were selected on the gravity of their complaints. She suggested that I used the carbogel more frequently as it could take a day or two for my eye to go back to normal after the dehydration it had suffered and to call back if the situation worsened. If I didn’t call, she would call me back on Wednesday to check up on my situation, but if I felt any indication that my vision was seriously at risk, I should call and they would take immediate action.
Such a relief to talk to a doctor who takes you seriously.
I spoke to my huisarts (GP) next. She was appalled at my story of being mistreated and being denied services, hoped I would recuperate at home now that I got my converter going.
On my request, she prescribed sachets of 200mg Acetylcysteine that would help me to cough up the slimy sputum remnants left by the virus in my lungs. Since I was in a ‘weakened condition’ and the side effects of the Acetylcysteine could be severe on a weakened system, she suggested I’d take the solution only once a day (instead of three times daily), preferably after breakfast, when I was settled. 
Plus she would have her assistant call me Monday morning to arrange a Thuiszorg nurse to help me every morning to start my day.
I called the pharmacy to make sure they had the Acetylcysteine and friend M went to pick it up before closing time.
Time to get some rest.

The afternoon went better than the morning, especially from having consistent air supplied to me as I walk around the house, but I still feel like a broken puppet on a lifeline leash. 

My friend J arrived around nine with pizza and potato wedges. It was so good to talk to her again in person. Calm and focused, I felt so much more at ease. Around 23.30 hours we went upstairs and she gave me a long backrub massage that got all the kinks out of my overstressed back muscles, which had been cramping up from the lung spasms. It was so good to be touched with care and love after seven weeks of hell. 
A hug a day keeps the doctor away — going without any loving touch for seven weeks has hurt me more than I realised, even though I’m a shiatsu practitioner myself.

(May 2nd) I slept like a baby, instead of like the dead. Woke at ten to six to go to the toilet, got back into bed and slept to 09.30 hours. This supports my own theory — I suggested getting oxygen at home at April 16th (the day I was taken to the hospital for the third time and was sent home without oxygen). 
Those thirteen days at the hospital they did nothing for me except give me oxygen (and fuck about with that, giving me stress and anxiety). I received on additional medication or procedures. Not even an extra lung x-ray or CT scan. They took my vitals — blood pressure, saturation, heartbeat — every few hours, but that also is something I could easily do myself. My saturation meter gives accurate readings of saturation and heartbeat, I have an automatic sphygmomanometer to monitor my blood pressure, I have a glucose meter to monitor my diabetes… 
Of course, not every patient is skilled or medically adept enough to keep track of their vitals like I can, but just giving me the oxygen and having me filling out the Corona Check App once a day would have been cheaper and much better for my healing process than thirteen days of hospital stay. 

Good friend FR expressed in a chat, responding to my angry phone call to the hospital yesterday:
“I definitely know/understand the necessity of restraining one’s emotional displeasure when in a vulnerable situation (when the ‘authorities’ can make decisions counter to your well-being and preferences). It is survival, quite literally. Once free, it takes a while to get back to doing what you know and want, and insisting on proper responses.”
I could feel myself tear up at her message. She is so right and this is not how it’s supposed to be. 

Friend J helped me through the morning and went away around 10.00 hours. I spent a few hours by myself, quite happy, and Friend ID came around 14.30 hours with groceries and gifts. She made curry for me and we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Before bed, she gave me a relaxing massage, then went to sleep in my daughter’s room. 

(May 3rd) I woke at ten to six to go to the toilet. My saturation was around 87%, but sitting up in bed and doing some deep breathing boosted it to 94% and I went to the toilet downstairs, then slept again until 08.30 hours, when ID came to check up and me and curled up next to me, caressing the pain from my back. We had a leisurely morning and I took my second Acetylcysteine sachet, together with vaping cannabis through my PlentyRippa.

I hawked up some sputum from my lungs, but not much. Maybe the 200mg is not powerful enough (it’s basically the dosage for children), but maybe I’ll try to take another sachet this afternoon when I have to vape again.

My friend ID got me some final groceries and left at 15.00 hours. I haven’t used the oxygen tube since then, walked around, made tea and sandwiches, and sat behind my laptop working. The improvement I’m making is measurable though. Two hours without oxygen supply and my random saturation testing reveals 96-97% saturation at rest. Which is three point above yesterday and four points above the day before yesterday.
I’ve also been making plans to exercise outdoors by carrying a canister of oxygen in the front crate of my transport bicycle, so I can have extra oxygen while cycling outside.
I just went upstairs, took the laundry from the washing machine, put it in the dryer, cleaned the dryer’s lint filter, started up the dryer, went downstairs to the kitchen, made myself two sandwiches and sat down in my easy chair again. Saturation 94-95%. Yay! My recuperation time is seriously decreasing. Of course, it’s late afternoon and my energy drops in the evenings, but still, I’m happy.

I went to sleep around 23.00 hours and woke briefly at night from a whistling sound that was the air tube, which had slipped out of my nose. I put it back in and resumed sleeping. 

(May 4th) I woke around 08.30 hours, feeling pretty good. The air tube was wrapped loosely around my neck, so I must’ve rolled around a bit during sleep, but not alarmingly so.
I used the oxygen to go downstairs and use the toilet, but upstairs I hung it on a peg and weighed myself (97.2kg, same as yesterday), and checked my glucose (10.2mmol/l, 0.5 points lower than yesterday). I took a shower and after that checked my saturation, which was at 87%, but shot up to 93% as soon as I paid attention to my breathing. So, I switched off my converter, but took the long oxygen tube downstairs to hang it in the entrance of the living room. I have to train my lungs again to saturate my blood by themselves without any help. 

Around half past three, after I had some lunch, I decided to get some exercise and loaded a bottle of oxygen in the crate of my bicycle, to ride around town for the first time eight weeks.
I was pleased to notice that I rode about 12 kilometers without needing the oxygen bottle and with my saturation staying over 91%. I got back home around 17.30 hours and made a microwave dinner. Didn’t touch the extra oxygen at all. Yay!

(May 5th) Liberation Day. I slept with oxygen, but switched off the converter after getting up. Weighed myself at 96.7kg, glucose a bit high at 11.7mmol/l, but I feel pretty good. My kids are coming over this afternoon and my daughter wants to go to her (open air) kung fu class, so after breakfast I took her bicycle to the repair service to get the front tyre fixed. I also got the pedals of my own bicycle replaced, then rode to the supermarket to get croissants and other groceries. No extra oxygen needed.

My kids came at noon and were ecstatic at being home. The cat was almost hugged to death and we had lunch with croissants. I went with Nica to the repairshop to get her bicycle and at 15.30 we rode our bicycles to the Herenmarkt, where Nica had Kung Fu in the playground and Tycho played with the other kids, while I did some tai-chi and sat on a bench watching them play. We went home around half past five and my ex collected them at six. Such a lovely afternoon. I had taken my oxygen bottle, but didn’t need it.

The only problem I had during the day was blurry spots in my vision again, which I treated with eye wash and carbogel, but it didn’t help much. Maybe I just strain my eye too much.
My evening was peaceful, I watched part of Apocalypse Now Redux, and I only took oxygen again when I went to bed.

(May 6th) Slept quite well, woke at 07.30 hours, switched off the oxygen and went back to bed to snooze while listening to music. Woke at 10.00 hours and measured a saturation of 86%. So it’s quite obvious I cannot go without oxygen if I cannot consciously breathe deeply.
I didn’t have a relaxed morning, as I had to talk a suicidal friend down from the ledge — she’s been in therapy for almost two years now, but it’s still going nowhere. Terrible. I’ve called the caregivers with the message to call me back and discuss her therapy, because the therapist she’s seeing now is not helping her, but making her situation worse.
I also got a copy of the discharge letter from the hospital. Again, the lung doctor, who should know better, referred to me ‘smoking weed’. Stupid asshole. I called the hospital lung ward and told them that I do not ‘smoke weed’ but ‘vape medical cannabis under prescription of my eye doctor’, so they need to change the file so I won’t be regarded as a ‘pothead’. This may sound trivial, but judging by the attitude of some nurses in the lung ward, the distinction is important. I’m a glaucoma patient using alternative medication, not someone who is deliberately risking his health by smoking pot.

A friend sent me an article in the NY Times from Richard Levitan, a doctor at Bellevue:
“We are just beginning to recognize that Covid pneumonia initially causes a form of oxygen deprivation we call “silent hypoxia” — “silent” because of its insidious, hard-to-detect nature.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs in which the air sacs fill with fluid or pus. Normally, patients develop chest discomfort, pain with breathing and other breathing problems. But when Covid pneumonia first strikes, patients don’t feel short of breath, even as their oxygen levels fall. And by the time they do, they have alarmingly low oxygen levels and moderate-to-severe pneumonia (as seen on chest X-rays). Normal oxygen saturation for most persons at sea level is 94 to 100 percent; Covid pneumonia patients I saw had oxygen saturations as low as 50 percent.”
“We are only just beginning to understand why this is so. The coronavirus attacks lung cells that make surfactant. This substance helps the air sacs in the lungs stay open between breaths and is critical to normal lung function. As the inflammation from Covid pneumonia starts, it causes the air sacs to collapse, and oxygen levels fall. Yet the lungs initially remain “compliant,” not yet stiff or heavy with fluid. This means patients can still expel carbon dioxide — and without a buildup of carbon dioxide, patients do not feel short of breath.”

This is exactly what happened to me. And why I’m so furious about not getting oxygen at home when I asked for it. I urge anyone not feeling well to get an oximeter and track your saturation. 

I spoke to the eye doctor and she’s going to see if she has a spot for me this week to come over to the hospital and have my eye checked out. 
Meanwhile, I had to ride my bicycle to the other side of town to get a free food package from Guerilla Kitchen at 14.15 hours. As a friend of mine lives nearby, I shot him a message I was going to be in his neck of the woods, so we arranged to meet up at GK. Just before I left home, the hospital called and said they could fit me in for an eye examination at 16.00 hours.
T was waiting at GK and we went from there to Monks, where we got cappuccino that we took to a nearby park. It was good to sit on a bench in the sunshine with a cappuccino and a good friend. 
I left at 15.20 hours, took the food parcel home and went to the hospital to have my eyes examined. As expected, the dehydration was severe while I had been cleaning and moisturizing my eye continuously. Part of the dehydration could just be the COVID-19 infection, as these viruses have a tendency to dehydrate. The doctor gave me an ointment that was thicker than the gel I was using during the day and told me to apply it before going to bed, as the ointment would be so thick that I wouldn’t be able to see through it, but like a dressing it would keep my eye moistened throughout the night and hopefully help to hydrate it enough to take away my blurry vision. She also saw a tiny spot that could be a pigment flaw, but she wanted to discuss that with my regular eye doctor, who was currently doing administrative duties only as chief of the eye clinic.
From the hospital, I rode around the park some more, then went home to have some dinner and watch the rest of Apocalypse Now Redux. 

(May 7th) Before I went to sleep, I put the ointment on my eyes. Felt good.
I slept till nine in the morning and went through my morning ritual of weighing myself and measuring my vitals. 96.8kg, 11.6mmol/l, 94% saturation, and blood pressure 118/84 < very good for someone with ‘high blood pressure’. Made myself breakfast and took Metformin. Now I’m heading out to the park with my bokken, to do some kata training in the open air.

I had a great time swinging my wooden sword around in the pavilion of the Oosterpark, working through my battojutsu kata.
Afterward, I went to visit my friends at Speeltuin De Waag, the playground where I volunteer. So good to see them face-to-face again.
I also went by my local comic book store, Lambiek, where I got some books set aside for me weeks ago.
Then I went home to get some lunch and take my Metformin. I notice that my saturation, which hovered around 91-92% a week ago, is now hovering around 95-96%, so there’s definitive improvement in my health and stamina.

(May 8th) This morning, I had a Thuishulp (cleaning lady) helping me out. I had some things that were too heavy to do by myself, like airing out my futon and changing the bedsheets, washing the windows of the living room, and vacuuming and mopping the floors. So I can look through clean windows again and my bed is clean and fresh again.
After she left, I packed my bag and cane, and went on a long bicycle ride, taking the ferry to Amsterdam North.

I had a cup of coffee at Cafe Zamen and rode around Vliegenbos (Forest of the Flies) which was mercifully devoid of flies.

I love being out of quarantaine — you never miss your freedom so much as when you’re forced to stay inside. Riding around the forest, smelling the earth and the leaves, the fresh air… everything was much more acute and alive. I listened to Philip Glass and Erik Satie on my phone and felt a profound sense of peace.

I took the ferry back to the city centre and rode around the familiar streets, meeting friends and having face-to-face chats. I went home around five, so grateful I hadn’t needed any extra oxygen.
My next door neighbor welcomed me back, telling me she was afraid I might die, every time the ambulance took me away, but she was overjoyed that I was back and getting better. I always got along pretty well with my neighbors, but this pandemic makes this neighborhood even more cohesive than before.

In the evening, I wanted to write some poetry, but my eye started getting blurry again, so I went to bed, put on some music, put ointment on my eyes and lay there in the dark, listening to Seventeen Seconds by The Cure and speaking poetry into my voice recorder.

(May 9th) Another beautiful day. Got up around eight, took a leisurely shower, weight still around 97kg, glucose an all-time low of 8.1mmol/l. Around eleven my buddy MP came over and I made the cappuccino he likes so much. We talked for a while, then went together to Nieuwmarkt, where I went to Jacob Hooy to get Zinc tablets. MP went to the Chinese supermarket and I stood outside, watching over the bicycles and flirting with some women in those summer dresses that don’t leave much to the imagination. One of them was really interested in whether I still had an eye under my patch and she looked a little flustered as she told me that I looked like a pirate biker. Then her boyfriend came out of the Chinese supermarket and dragged her away.

I went for some groceries myself at the regular supermarket, made some lunch, then took my swords to train at the park. As I was stalking around the pavillion swinging my wooden sword, a tourist came up on the pavillion and took a boatload of pictures. I ignored him and just kept training. After he wandered off I wondered if I should’ve given him my card and asked him to mail me the pictures, but I was too late.

I went home to write out the poetry I recorded last night, then made myself some baked potatoes with lettuce and cold roasted chicken flakes.

All similarities to any women, living or dead, is purely circumstantial.

After dinner, I rode around some more, enjoying the warmth of the evening as I rode around the park. Then I went back home, watched a movie and a documentary on Charles Bukowski. And went to bed around one.

(May 10th) Woke up early, half past five, and knew I wouldn’t sleep anymore. Sometimes you just know. I snoozed for a while, but got up around six, took a shower. Glucose was at 8.8, not bad.
I made myself breakfast, reading while I ate. Around eight I packed my swords and cane and went to the park, where I met a friend who took some pictures and filmed me doing battojutsu and canefighting.

I went home around lunchtime and soon after the weather turned colder, so I spent some time working on typewriters.
Just before dinnertime my daughter Nica arrived and we baked potatoes and curry chicken, and had some peas with that. Nica was happy to be home and we had a relaxed evening. Since she didn’t have to get up early — she had Monday and Tuesday afternoon school and Thursday and Friday morning school — so I allowed her to stay up until ten, gave her a massage and she went to bed.
I read some more and went to bed around midnight.

(May 11th) With my daughter’s return, life seems to get back to normal – we took it easy in the morning, my weight was stable at 97kg, and she was interested in how my glucose meter worked, wanted me to check her glucose as well. So we measured hers as well – mine was 10.7, hers 4.9 – and she went to eat her breakfast while I took a shower and washed the ointment from my eyes.
It was a windy cold day today, so I rummaged around the house until she went to school, then rode around on my bicycle and picked her up from school at three to do some grocery shopping. The playground was closed, so we went home and she played Sims while I wrote on my draft. We made dinner together, her favourite pasta sauce with tortellini, and she showed me what she made on her computer before it was time for her to go to bed.
Life starts feeling ‘normal’ again.

(May 13th) Although I’m still not 100%, I feel much better. This morning I woke up at half past six with clogged sinuses from the oxygen. I disconnected the tube and cleared my nose and went to bed again, where I slept until I woke at 10.30 hours. My saturation was good, 97%. And my glucose was 9.8mmol/l.

With all these good signs of my recuperation, I think I don’t need to add more to this convalescence diary. I will have to go for a CT scan of my lungs near the end of May to check how much my lungs have improved, and I will report on that and all relative information on my convalescence.

Thanks for reading this and I hope my diary has been informative. If there’s one important thing I found in battling this virus, it’s the importance of checking your saturation — ‘silent hypoxia’ is a real killer and virtually undetectable without proper equipment — so if you are at all worried, buy yourself a pulse-oximeter to check your oxygen saturation and go to the doctor if you notice unusual fluctuations.

Love you all, thank you for your support.

Feel free to comment on this diary, I love to hear from you. And if you wish to support me in any way, read my novels!

My Corona Diary

FYI, all measurements are Dutch/European. My normal body temperature is 36.5 Celsius. Normal glucose levels are between 5-8 mmol/l. Normal blood pressure for me ought to be 129/85, but I usually have 135/90.

(March 18th) Just to keep people posted, there’s a fairly big indication that I’ve contracted Corona or COVID-19 — shortness of breath, fever — so I’ll be housebound for the next week or so. I have no respiratory diseases or a weak heart, so I’ll probably be all right. I called the hospital and I have to call them back if I intend to leave the house or if I might go into respiratory failure (and need a respirator/ventilator), so for now I’m just going to chill out at home and hope it won’t get too bad.

(March 19th)I slept fitfully until 04.15, lay awake for a while, took my temperature 38.2, took paracetomol, vitamin c and magnesium citrate and took a shower. Mercifully I don’t have either headaches or coughs, but before I had towelled myself off I was soaked in sweat again from fever.But I’m up, walking around shakily but pretty lucid. Going to make myself some yoghurt with apple and muesli for breakfast and see if I can eat it. My stomach is unruly, but while I did feel nauseated, I didn’t throw up.I’d like to thank everyone for their sympathies, prayers and well-wishes.I’lll keep you posted how my day is going.

(March 19th) I had no energy whatsoever and spent the day mainly behind the laptop chatting or watching movies on Netflix. Even though I wasn’t hungry, I ate an oven dish and Indian vegetable soup. I took vitamin D3 and C and B12, and magnesium citrate. In the evening my shortness of breath became more acute and I felt that I was panting even when sitting still. I forced myself to take deeper breath even though it hurt. I came pretty close to calling the corona clinic and update them about the effort needed just to keep breathing. My throat felt like it had swollen until my air passage felt like I was breathing through a straw. I’ve always felt compassion for asthma/COPD patients, but for the first time in my life I felt what it was like to struggle for breath. I’m not easily scared, but I was nervous about getting to sleep and meditated to remain calm inside. I finally fell asleep around 01.30 hours.

(March 20th) I woke up around 04.15 with my head in a pool of slimy sweat and went to the bathroom to pee and take my temperature, which had risen to 38.4C. I had a hard time swallowing a Saridon paracetamol and went back to bed, sleeping on the other side of the bed. I woke briefly at seven, gasping for breath, dranks some water and fell asleep again. I woke from the phone around 10.15 when a friend called me who had been worried when she spoke to me yesterday night. I felt a lot better, more air and it felt like the fever had passed. My temperature was 37.4C (still high, but not a fever anymore), stripped the bed to wash the sweat-soaked sheets and took a shower. And now I’m having breakfast, feeling better than yesterday. More energy to do my laundry, but I will be taking it easy and reserve my energy to battle the corona (which I’m pretty sure is what I have, even without the coughing and splitting headaches). Will keep you posted on developments. Since 15.00 hours my air started to get constricted again, so I’ve taken some precautions — I called the clinic and they have marked me ‘Corona Positive’. If my breathing becomes as bad as last night, I will be taken to the hospital for oxygen/respirator/ventilator. So I pre-packed a bag with my medication and favourite travel typewriter (you never know) and made sure my ICE knows what’s going on.

(March 21st) Situation has worsened – I can only take shallow breaths without coughing. No fever anymore, but pain everywhere. I filled out the Corona Check with an update, may have to go to the hospital with respiratory failure, but still hanging in there. Can barely talk without coughing. Any effort = coughing. After talking to the clinic, they decided to send an ambulance. At my home, they found my saturation was 96%, but my blood pressure was 190/100 and my bloodsugar was 25 (normal is 7). So they took me to the clinic for bloodtests and a lung photo.

My lungs were clear, heart did well, but they thought I was diabetic, even when the bloodsugar dropped to 16.7. I had this before, where intense pain spiked my glucose levels, but I didn’t exhibit other diabetic symptoms (they tried to tell me I was enormously thirsty because I asked for water, but I didn’t have my water bottle and with my kidney stone problems I have to drink 3-4 liters of water per day, so I just flush my system, but I’m not abnormally thirsty). It took a while, but they ended up bringing me a carafe.

Anyway, they gave me Metformine for lowering the glucose in my blood and sent me home. No corona test, since they reserve the few they have for people who are admitted into their ICU.

(March 22nd) I was still gasping for air, had some chestpain and headaches and was feeling like shit, so I called the clinic, who sent over a GP to test me at home. Same values as yesterday, but my saturation remained 96 when I was walking around and gasping for air, so my body does get enough oxygen. They told me to just take it easy and sit out the virus I might have. If my condition worsens, I have to call them again.Meanwhile, this evening I’m getting used to the shortness of breath and just move around slowly, so I don’t aggravate my condition.

(March 23rd) I slept reasonably well. My breathing seems to have improved slightly. I’ve contacted my own physician on how to deal with the diabetes. Perhaps I can get something to self-test. I’m carefully optimistic about having passed the worst part.

My GP just called. Since I’m not on insulin, I cannot get a self-tester for glucose in my blood, but they will send me a lab form so I can have my blood tested when I’m out of quarantaine.

(March 24th) Slept well, had dreams about aikido and my motorcycle getting stolen from an underground garage where the aikido seminar was held. I have more air now, but it feels more like the common cold now – coughing and sniffling. I have to get myself some camomile to steam.

(March 25th)My health goes up and down. Today is one of the better days. Still panting whenever I exert myself (like climbing stairs!), but I try to exercise by doing tai-chi in the living room. I put a Hermes Baby typewriter back together after ‘fixing’ the frame as much as I can. Neighbours have a group app now so I can ask for groceries and whoever goes to the supermarket can get them for me. I’m touched by the solidarity.

(March 26th) Bad day today. Sweat a lot during the night. Shorter of breath, pain is everywhere, I don’t want to move at all. Every exertion brings a bout of coughing. Twice I had to run (shamble) to the toilet to spit out a gob of slime coughed up from my lungs. Wasted day, really. Someone sent me a link to a list of free movies (mostly Oldies), so I watched Fritz Lang’s MEine Stadt sucht einen Mōrder, glad for a relatively slow movie where I didn’t have to concentrate too much.

(March 27th) I worry about my glucose, taking Metformine without knowing my current levels made me anxious, so I had a conversation with my GP (Huisarts) about taking measurements. There are home testing kits, but they are for diabetics who inject insulin. She did understand my anxiety, so she send a message to the apothecary to deliver a home testing kit, which I got in the late afternoon.

Following instructions I tested myself and my glucose was 15.6 (normal level 5-7). Makes me less anxious about popping Metformine pills.

(March 28th) I woke up feeling quite well, measured my glucose sober (15.2) and had a pretty good day writing three pages for DRONE on my late mother-in-law’s Olivetti DL typewriter my father-in-law gifted to me. And some poetry on the Royal FP.

Watched His Girl Friday, listened to Nine Inch Nails and watched their ‘snuff movie’ Broken on archive dot org. Have to keep myself busy.

(March 29th) Woke up feverish around eight-thirty and took my temp, which was 37.9C (38=fever). My glucose was 14.2 (!), so the Metformine is working, I guess. I took medication and went back to bed. Woke up around ten-thirty with a damp pillow, turned it over and slept until 12.30. I feel a bit better now, but still short of breath.

I feel resentful towards the people in denial. Saw a clip from some Trump rally where stupid people told reporters that it was just a hoax from the liberals/democrats. Unbelievable.

I also got another test result from my hospital visit March 21st, that states that I have ‘pleura’ fluid build up in my left lung. And back then they told me my lungs were clean…

(March 30th) Woke up this morning around eight-thirty with 37.8C. Glucose was down to 12.2. I took Metformine, but figured that today I’m going to let the fever run its course. Woke up again at eleven with 37.9C. In preparation for possible hospitalization, I removed my beard, since oxygen masks tend not to fit over facial hair. It’ll grow back when I’m healthy again.My kidneys feel like they’re trampled and my throat feels bruised from coughing. Lost all my appetite.

GP told me that it’s about 90% sure that I have Corona, but not bad enough to be hospitalized – as long as I don’t develop pneumonia or need a ventilator, I’m better off at home.

(March 31st) My temperature went down to 37.2C and my glucose levels are now at 11.9. I feel battered and bruised like going a few rounds in a cement mixer, but apart from that I do feel somewhat better. More appetite, at least. Not a bad day altogether, did some tai-chi and sword training in the living room, cleaned up the windowsill so I could sit in the sunshine on the street side and hoovered the living room floor. Usually that takes me thirty minutes, but now I had to divide that over the day in order not to exert myself, but it’s better than nothing.

(April 1st) Woke up with cold sweat, but my temperature was down to 37.2 and my glucose was down to 9.9 (normal level is 5-8). Went back to bed and slept until 12.30. Time to do my laundry… I had to turn over my futon, which became a major chore, complicated by bursts of coughing. Was pretty much spent after that. Got some more meals from a girlfriend who volunteers at a kitchen. My neighbour cycled all the way to the other side of town to get the food. I’m so touched by all the support I receive while I battle this virus.

(April 2nd) My sugar was 10.2 this morning, but the rest of my illness goes up and down as well, so I’m not worried. I’m taking it one day at a time, trying to relax as much as possible and making the best of it, sitting in my ground floor window to catch some sun.

And then I take a downturn and cough my lungs out with the slightest exertion (like walking to the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea). This is one messed up virus. It went so bad that I put a warm coat on over my clothes, feeling exhausted from the coughing. I took my temp and it was 37.9 again, fever. I took paracetamol and tried to go to sleep, but woke from nightmare time and time again.

(April 3rd) My temp was down to 37.3 and my glucose to 10.4. I feel like crap because I barely slept. Let’s see what this day is going to bring.

Another wasted day. I wrote one page of my draft, but too low on energy of doing anything else.

My GP explained to me today that Corona is an endurance race. This rollercoaster will keep going up and down for a while, just make sure the last part goes up, not down.

(April 4th) Had a good night’s rest and it feels like I have more air this morning. Temp went down to 37.1. Glucose is up to 12.4, but (according to my GP) I shouldn’t worry too much about that. Also, I read an article that claimed that Metformin — the medication I’m currently taking for my elevated glucose levels — tends to decrease the severity of the corona complaints, so that’s good news.

(April 5th) Woke several times from fever dreams with ideas for poetry. Weighed myself today and my body weight has dropped to 99.9kg. Which is the first time it got under 100kg for twenty years or so. Glucose is at 10.4, so not too bad. If I’m able to exercise more I will put more effort into it and see if I can get my ‘fighting weight’ of 90kg back.

Today I sat in the sun on the windowsill for a while, but it was almost too warm — it’s such a shame I cannot go for a motorcycle ride through the countryside, but I couldn’t risk it even if I wasn’t suffocating half the time.

(April 6th) Another feverish night. I took my measurements — 37.5C, 10.4mmol/l, 99.5kg — and went downstairs for breakfast. Today I’m coughing far more than yesterday, and I’m sweating with the slightest of exertions.

Most of my day is spent indoors — writing, making sure I eat regularly and take my meds, vaping cannabis six times a day, and trying to save as much energy as possible for my body to fight this virus. Still, I feel like a slacker, sitting in the window sipping tea and doing nothing.

Still, I feel like I shouldn’t feel guilty for doing nothing. I am doing something, I’m aiming to get well again. Within a few weeks, those who are helping me now might need me to help them.

I’ve been watching Stephen King’s The Stand — at least we’re not wading through corpses and trying to survive in a battle between good and evil. Not yet. So, now I’ll slowly head upstairs to bed, see if I can get some sleep.

(April 7th) I slept well, with some weird dreams, and woke around nine, feeling like I breathing a little easier. Measurements before breakfast: temperature 36.8C, glucose 9.6mmol/l, weight 99.9kg. So that seems to be going well. I noticed quite a few dust balls running around the upper floor of my apartment, so I hope to be able to carry the hoover upstairs to clean the floors. Oh, the excitement of self-isolating chores.

Today I spoke with my GP (huisarts) and the GGD (Health Service) about testing for COVID-19. In the general interest, I’d like to share my findings:
According to the GGD, there are two tests.
One, the test everyone talks about, is testing whether someone has COVID-19. This should be done during the crisis, which (for me) was at March 21st, when I was in severe respiratory distress. This test would now be useless, as I’m probably too far recuperated to have the active virus.
Two, the test to determine whether someone had COVID-19. This test checks for corona anti-bodies in the blood, which would indicate that the body has fought with the virus (and won). This test is not yet available, as it’s not reliable yet.
However, due to my list of symptoms and the severity of my complaints, the GGD also considers me a COVID-19 patient, but one who is on the mend.

(April 8th) 36.8C again, 99.9kg and glucose up a notch at 10.1. Didn’t sleep that well, but it feels like I have a little more air than yesterday.
A friend came by from Speeltuin De Waag, the playground where I volunteer and hold Type-Ins for children, to bring me a Get Well card with the Corona Monster and three hand-crafted chocolate bonbons from Puccini Chocolatiers.

I’m so glad to have some many excellent people around me to support me in my time of need. Thank you, Alf, Saskia, Iris, and Adil.

This afternoon, I decided to pick up my sword again for some battojutsu practice. Out of shape and out of breath, my execution of kusanagi no ken was sloppy, but I hope my sensei will forgive me for that. You can find the video on my instagram account.

(April 9th) 37.1C, 99.9kg, 10.7mmol/l. The corona rollercoaster keeps going up and down. Today I’m going down — coughing, headache, exhausted and limited air supply — so I have to time my exertions to avoid tiring out completely. Maybe if I don’t overexert myself today, I will have more energy tomorrow.
Around 18.00 hours I didn’t feel well. Suddenly, as I was coughing in my chair, my mouth filled with vomit and I had to hurry to the toilet, where I vomited up some more. My temperature was elevated to 37.7C and I felt bone-tired, so I went to bed.
I woke at 22.00 hours feel feverish and took my temperature again, which was spiking at 38,6C. I took two paracetamol and went to bed, from where I called the emergency physician service (huisartsenpost). They were worried about my gasping, so they sent a physician. As my oxygen saturation was too low at 92%, she called an ambulance and I was once again transported to OLVG hospital. I was put on oxygen and they took blood and swabs and connected me to a machine to keep a check on me.

(April 10th) They kept me up all night, running tests. At five in the morning they announced that I would have to stay until my saturation normalized, so I was taken to the Corona ward. Since I was now officially hospitalised, they took the dreaded nose swab to test me for COVID-19,
Luckily, I have to vape cannabis. Since cannabis vapour might contain the virus in droplets that would penetrate normal masks, they gave me a private room, so I don’t have to share a ward with other sick people. At six in the morning I went to sleep.
I was woken at 8.30 for breakfast and meds. I called my ex to tell her about the situation (I had talked to her before she went to sleep, but she didn’t know then that I had to stay) and arranged for videoconferencing with the kids later today. The doctor updated me and told me that they expected the corona test results around 13.00 hours. Not that there is much doubt about that, but maybe I get a certificate…

My saturation is going up, so maybe I don’t have to stay in the hospital too long. I like having a private room – makes me feel like a celebrity – but the dry circulating air is giving me vision problems that I have to solve with artificial tears. Still, I can dim all the lights and leaving only the bathroom light on.

And the view is pretty good from the seventh floor.

Interestingly, my tests came back negative. As the lung doctor told me, that could also mean my Corona was too far in remission for a positive test, so the negative could be a “false negative”. So, they still suspect that I have Corona and will make a CT scan tomorrow, the standard practice to eliminate me from having active COVID-19.
If I don’t have Corona, we’ll have to figure out what caused the respiratory distress…

(April 11th) A new day in OLVG B7 Corona Ward. My bed felt clammy upon waking, so I asked for new bedsheets and towels to shower. Glucose was 12.1mmol/l, saturation 93% (with 1 liter oxygen), temperature 36.2, and blood pressure 139/94. I’ve asked to speak with an eye doctor today as my right eye is developing blurriness and halos around light sources, which is a sign of elevated eye pressure. Yesterday evening they couldn’t do much more than give me artificial tears against dehydration, but the air in this room is just too dry.

I’m in good spirits though and hope the CT scan will give more clues about what is wrong with my respiration. At least I have a pretty nice view from the seventh floor. The high tower to the right is the Rembrandt Tower, where I used to work.

I was taken to Radiology for a CT Scan with contrast fluids that could be pumped straight into my “Vampire Self Servise Tap”.

After the scan, I was brought back to my room again. As the afternoon progressed, my vision regressed so much that couldn’t read anything anymore, not even the large print “low vision” screen of my Kindle e-reader.. I became increasingly anxious and demanded contact with an eye doctor. This didn’t sit well with the nursing staff and lung doctor, who thought I was being unreasonable and disrespectful for “telling them what to do”. I told them that anybody in my position becomes impatient when doctors and nursing staff unfamiliar with my predicament didn’t assign the same urgency to my condition as my eye doctor would. And I added that their OLVG Urology professor ruined my left eye by prescribing the wrong bladder relaxant, so my mistrust of medical doctors and personnel is not unfounded. And I apologised for being demanding, but I was not a difficult patient, assisting the nursing staff as much as possible by grouping requests together with meals, taking measurements like glucose with my own equipment and using their monitor to check my saturation myself so they wouldn’t have to don protective gear to enter my room. Also, I showed that I increased efficiency by not pressing the red button that would make them rush to my room, but by calling the nurses’ station on my mobile to confer with them, That cooled down the lung doctor, who understood my anxiety. She told me the results of the CT scan, which showed traces of the Corona virus. The reason the COVID-19 test was negative was because the virus was on its way out. For this reason (and the potential side effects on my kidneys and eye), they wouldn’t start with Hydroxychloroquine, but she was confident I would recuperate under my own power. As long as I got my saturation to stay above 92% in rest.
Since I couldn’t do much with my blurry vision, I conferred with the nursing staff about taking out the oxygen assist and measuring my saturation while sitting in the chair by the window, At 17.15 I took the tube from my nose and connected the monitor. Sitting still without the oxygen, my saturation was 92-93%, but when I vaped my cannabis at 17.30 hours, my saturation increased to 96%!
It was already 17.40 hours by the time I got called by an eye doctor. He assured me that the lasered hole in the cornea of my right eye would make sure my Intra-Ocular Pressure couldn’t increase to dangerous levels. As he had my file on hand, I told him to check what happened with the first hole they drilled, which ‘disappeared’ a month later. Ever since then, my eye was checked every three months by my own eye doctor, who had instructed me to ring the alarm any time my vision became blurry and halos would appear around light sources.
He concurred and I told him that I understood that they may not be able to check my eye pressure right away, but he could prescribe Pilocarpine eye drops that would lower eye pressure. If that wouldn’t decrease the blurriness, we could see if my eye pressure could be checked tomorrow. I also asked for the more viscous Vidisic artificial tears gel that would do a better job of moistening my eyes in my dry room. He told me I’d get started on the Pilocarpine right away and he’d make sure I’d get the gel also.
I felt a bit better after talking to him, but when I spoke to the nursing staff, they told me the pharmacy had already closed, so they were searching the ‘polikliniek oogheelkunde’ to find Pilocarpine, This had been what I’d been afraid of, and why I had been asking for Pilocarpine since breakfast. They finally found a couple of vials at the polikliniek, so I got started on the Pilocarpine. I hope not too late, as the outer corner of my right eye has become inflamed, probably from my eyes drying out too much already from the incredibly dry air in my room…

(April 12th) I slept from midnight till three in the morning when the nurse came for my check-up. My oxygen was at 92%, my temperature was 36.1 and my blood pressure 132/85, so that was all good. I dripped more Pilocarpine in my eye and tried to get to sleep again, but the bed felt clammy and uncomfortable, so it took me at least until 04.30 hours to fall asleep again and I slept fitfully until 06.45 hours. My vision is still blurry, but if I concentrate I can write this diary. I will ask to visit with the eye doctor today because of the inflammation in my right eye.

The lung doctor just visited and told me I can go home this afternoon. I have to remain in quarantaine at home until all my Corona complaints are gone. He also took a picture of my eye to send to the eye doctor, who will call me before I go home. They’ll make sure I have the increased dosage Metformine 850mg pills and Pilocarpine vials to last until my GP/Huisarts takes over. Although my stay here was as comfortable as they could make it, I’m very glad to go home again.
At 13.00 hours I went downstairs to have my eye checked. The inflammation had gone down, as had the high IOP, and according to the eye doctor the irritation and blurred vision was mostly due to dehydration of the cornea. So I have to use the Vidisic Carbogel artificial tears to keep my eye moist and the blurriness should pass.
I was brought home by ambulance, as I told them I didn’t want to put a taxi driver at risk. I’m overjoyed at being home again and being able to look forward to a future when my breath returns and I can exercise again. At least now I know that exertion lowers my saturation and I just have to take a rest and allow the saturation to come back up again – spread my chores throughout the day and not do too much without taking long breaks in-between.

(April 13th) I had a good night’s rest, my glucose was 11.0, temperature was 37.1, and my weight 99.2kg, so I didn’t gain any weight from my hospital stay. My frequent use of the Vidisic gel is working, the blurry spots in my vision are shrinking. And it feels like I’m getting more air. The thing is not to get overly confident – I just donned my face mask and walked to the gate to get my mail, and I noticed my unsteady gait like a bowlegged sailor – no doubt my condition and stamina has taken quite a blow and I’ll have to train diligently to regain my physical prowess. Still, it could easily be worse and it looks like the damage isn’t permanent.

Hypothesis – Breathing, meditation and Corona.
Something a doctor at the hospital said got me thinking about how mental attitude and training in certain skills could decrease the severity of dealing with the symptoms of the Corona virus. What worked for me does not mean it will work for others, but trying to do what I did certainly won’t exacerbate the situation.
One of the doctors who saw the CT Scan of my lungs made on March 12th came into my room and noticed that I was playing around with the saturation monitor and how I wasn’t using the extra oxygen anymore. He told me that he was amazed that I had been able to battle the virus unassisted for weeks before I needed hospitalization, and how I was only put on 2 liters of oxygen for one day and 1 liter the next.
Judging by the presence of the virus still in my lungs, he mentioned how I must’ve had severe dyspnea and how exhausting that had to have been. However, he had checked my March 21st anamnese that showed pretty high saturation, 96%, while with the acute dyspnea I had back then, I should’ve had dangerously low oxygen levels that would require supplementary oxygen to not pass our or slip into a coma. Instead, according to the notes, I presented a calm but alert demeanour without any of the grogginess I should’ve had from the dyspnea, hypertension and extremely high glucose content in my blood. And the virus raging through my lungs, invisible to the x-ray they made.
However, since I had been experimenting with the saturation monitor, I showed him how my saturation would drop when I was physically active from 92-93% to 85%. I could see him looking askance at the oxygen tube I had hung from the rail over my bed, but he watched the monitor as I sat back down and started my breathing exercises, showing the saturation would immediately return to 93%. He surmised that my breathing exercises must’ve helped me get through the weeks as my lungs had more and more trouble to supply oxygen to my blood, causing me to be hospitalized and needing supplementary oxygen when I became exhausted.
That was not the case. If you read back about my situation on Thursday, the sequence played out differently: I felt reasonably okay during the day, than around 17.30 hours I ate three sandwiches with cheese and tomato. About two hours later I had stomach cramps, threw up in my mouth, rushed to the toilet to vomit for a while until I was exhausted and crawled upstairs to my bed and went to sleep. Around 22.00 hours I woke with a fever, took two paracetamol and decided to report this negative development to the huisartsenpost. A GP called me back, was worried about my breathing, sent someone to check on me and she was worried about my 92% saturation and decided to call me an ambulance.
So I wasn’t exhausted from fighting the dyspnea, but from vomiting, which tired me so much I went to bed and my body became feverish again. At that point though, judging by the presence of the virus in my lungs, I had all but won my battle against the virus. The vomiting in combination with the dyspnea was just too taxing for my weakened system, but if I hadn’t had to vomit, I doubt if I had been so exhausted that I would’ve called the huisartsenpost and probably wouldn’t have been hospitalized as a result.
With that in mind, the hospital did give me a reprieve from the battle with their supplementary oxygen, but even without that I would have stabilized and beaten the virus without assistance. On the other hand, without their CT Scan, I wouldn’t have known for sure whether I had contracted Corona, and without their saturation monitor, I wouldn’t have been able to measure the results from my breathing exercises and meditation to calm myself and increase my oxygen levels after exertion.
For those interested in trying my breathing method for themselves: I breathe in as deeply as possible through my nose and breath out through pursed lips, like blowing out a candle. And I keep ‘blowing out the candle’ until it feels like all of the air from my lungs has been used up. And then I breath in through my nose again to fill my lungs back up.
My hypothesis: while inhaling is important, the more important part of this breathing exercise is in the exhaling. Most people only breathe using the upper part of their lungs. As they only use about half their lungs, I surmise that the rest of the lung is filled with ‘old’ air that is much lower in oxygen content and that upper register breathing doesn’t use your lung capacity efficiently. By exhaling with pursed lips until you run out of air, you exhale both the breath you inhaled plus part of the deoxygenated air lower down in your lungs. And so your next breath, rich in oxygen, can penetrate deeper into your lungs, and help the lungs oxygenate your blood. As I’ve been using this breathing technique for several decades of martial arts training to recuperate from the exertion, I can often effortlessly perform martial arts kata that exhaust younger, less experienced martial artists.
And I assume how that deep breathing technique helped me to stay calm when I was in severe dyspnea and keep my blood highly oxygenated.
So, if you want to try it out, exhale through pursed lips, squeezing out as much air as possible, and breath in through your nose until your lungs are ‘full’, and repeat. Let me know in the comments if you feel like you have more air.

(April 14th) Slept quite well. Took my stats this morning, temperature normal at 36.8C, glucose pretty low at 9.8, and my weight has gone down to 98.5kg. I called the pharmacy to check if they can fill my prescription for the higher dose Metformine, and gave my stats to the assistant of my GP. Hope this day will bring improvement in my dyspnea.

Since my recuperation might take another two weeks, I need to buy medical equipment (not covered by my health insurance) to measure the saturation and my blood pressure. Figure that’s going to cost me at least another 60 euro, on top of the 60 euro I had to pay for the glucose meter. It may not seem a lot of money, but since I’m on Welfare it’s a big bite out of my budget…

I received a copy of the letter sent by the hospital to my GP, that lists my CO-RADS designation as CO-RADS 4, which means that as far as the hospital is concerned, I’m COVID-19 Positive based on my CT Scan.

(April 15th) Slept well. Took my stats this morning, temperature normal at 36.9C, glucose as low as yesterday at 9.8, and my weight has gone down to 98.2 kg.
I’m grateful to my (former) father-in-law, Erik, who has come to my financial aid by gifting me a sphygmomanometer, so I can keep track of my hypertension. It’s due to arrive tomorrow. I’m not someone who usually craves to know exact numbers, but in these trying times, I’m monitoring myself much more closely.
I had some fun reading my hospital discharge papers, which mention: Physical examination: Not sick. Sits in lotus position. Speaks in complete sentences. (Lichamelijk onderzoek Niet ziek. Zit in lotus-houding. Spreekt volzinnen). I wasn’t sitting in lotus, but just with crossed legs, and I wasn’t gasping after each word I spoke, but my neighbour Simone said that it sounded like I was sitting there like some buddha dispensing wisdom. And she added that I pretty much always spoke in complete sentences, so if I didn’t, that would be a reason for worrying.
I thought I was doing better today — had some long phone calls with a friend in need of counselling, and in person with a friend who brought me my groceries — but when evening came, I was getting chills and pains in my joints reminiscent of arthritic pain. I put on a pair of lined Helly Hansen pants over my yogapants for extra warmth and took two paracetamol. It’s unnerving how my state goes up and down and how easily I get exhausted still. When will this be over?


Love you all, thank you for your support!

Feel free to comment on this diary, I love to hear from you. And if you wish to support me in any way, read my novels!

Typecast: 1969 Olivetti Valentine

Street writing at Nieuwmarkt Amsterdam on my 1938 Seidel & Naumann Erika S, with the Olivetti Valentine in its case next to my bench.
Overview of the Olivetti Valentine as I’m wrting the typecast below.
This machine was Made in Italy. That seems quite obvious for an Italian brand, but from my research it seems that only the first few Valentines were made in Italy. Most of them are from either Spain or Mexico.
The earlier models had the small orange bolt to keep the black metal spools tight against the machine. Later models have a wider orange bolt, covering most of the spool.
The very odd serial number, 3000-08.
Edited to add, see the close up below, the hyphen is acutally a 4
The keyboard, with the missing key top for the margin release. The empty slots to the left and the right are for the tabulator set/clear and the orange tab button, both absent on my machine.
The iconic case with the black rubber cross tabs, still fully intact.

Edited to add:

I wondered about the missing tabulator settings and key, but I found this link about a first edition Valentine, also Made in Italy and also missing the tabulator set/clear and key.

And the mystery about the serial number is solved — Stephen Green from the Facebook Olivetti Valentine group suggested that the hyphen might actually be a 4, so I cleaned it up some more and took another picture and, yes, the number is 3000408. Since the first Valentine was the 3000001, this is one of the first Valentines.

Typecast: Street Writing in Amsterdam

Writing @ Amsterdam Oosterpark
My ultra-comfy Helinox camp chair, with the Street Writer canvas bag and the Gaston Lagaffe piggybank.
The 1955 Groma Kolibri @ Vapiano
The 1955 Olivetti Lettera 22 @ Oosterpark.
Writing examples with stickers and the Gaston Lagaffe piggy bank.
My favourite on the road machine, my 1964 Swissa Junior.

WRITING: How to begin and end a chapter – my process of structuring a book.

I often get question on how I write, how I know what I put in or take out, how I know when to end a chapter and begin a new one… This blog post explains how I turn the messy first draft of a book into a manuscript that is structurally sound.

With my first book, that  I wrote in Word, I wrote long scenes that would become chapters. I had three different plot lines – the assassin (A), her client (B), and the investigators, (C). Back then, I was convinced that the right thing was to make the first chapter about the main character, and alternate the main characters chapters with the antagonist chapters. So chapter 1 was about A, chapter 2 about B, chapter 3 about A again, chapter four about C, chapter five about A again. That way, fifty percent of the chapters  were about A, twenty-five percent about B and twenty-five percent about C.
With my second book, (where the antagonists are planning a hostile takeover of the legitimate business of my assassin main character), I wanted to write a prologue where the firm’s bookkeeper was pressured to arrange a meeting between the MC and the antagonists, but instead of a prologue (which many readers seem to skip), I made the prologue my first chapter, and my MC appeared in the second chapter. I did the same thing with the fourth book, where something seemingly unrelated happened at the other side of the world, and in the second chapter our MC appears and …
Another thing I started doing from the second book on was that I stopped writing a linear story. I had bought writing software called Scrivener, and I could write scenes and switch them around by dragging them to different positions in the ‘binder’. Freed from the restriction of one long file that would be cumbersome to switch scenes around, I enjoyed the freedom of writing key scenes and then figure out what would happen in between and write those scenes. The scenes would differ in length, but I wasn’t concerned about that, especially in the drafting phase – where I used to edit while I wrote, I stopped doing that and wrote scene after scene, just putting an @ between scenes. Later I’d cut the whole text into scenes and give them a temporary spot in the binder. Scrivener allow me to make ‘folders’ which would become the chapter, and I could put in what scenes I wanted, measure whether the chapter wouldn’t become too bloated.
Now I would make a chapter about a certain location and/time, put the scenes in, switch them around in the order I liked best, and create another chapter folder with other scenes. I got positive reviews about the second and third book (the fourth is due out on December 1st), so apparently I was doing something right.
I say, apparently, because, despite being praised for my meticulous detail, verisimilitude and tight plots, I’m a total ‘panther’ – while I have a general idea of the direction the story will take, I don’t outline anything. I write scenes that throw up obstacles for my characters and have snowballs that seem of no importance become avalanches of action that mess up the lives of both the characters and the people around them. That keeps the stories from becoming formulaic and keeps the story fresh to me, so that I won’t become bored – bored writers write terrible books.
Generally, at this point, my books have chapters that may contain 1-5 scenes, all in the same location or time. Most scenes just begin and end, so that after I string 2-3 together and decide that they belong together and make them into a chapter, I will have chapters that begin in the middle of action, and end ‘somewhere’.
I turn drafts into e-drafts that I can read on my e-reader, where I can highlight with my finger and add notes with the built-in keyboard, but I cannot change the text itself.
In the pre-digital age, a writer would take a manuscript and a red pencil and write the editing notes on the pages. I do the same thing, except that an e-reader will make lists of all the notes I made that make editing easier. When I read the e-draft, I often find glaring mistakes, scenes/paragraphs that should be in a different place et cetera. When I’m satisfied with the order the story is told in and the chapters and scenes are more or less fixed, then I will check whether the chapter doesn’t begin too abruptly (put in a few sentences to ‘set the scene’) and ends in a way that readers cannot wait to turn to the next chapter.
When I think I cannot improve the manuscript anymore, my trusted beta readers will read the book and give me their feedback. Meanwhile I often work on another project. When the feedback arrives, I read it through and often change scenes and do some re-writing of scenes to improve the flow, but structurally very little changes.
And then I have a book that is ready for public consumption.
If you think other people can benefit from the information in this article, don’t hesitate to share this article using the social media buttons below…

PREVIEW: First chapter of GHOSTING

The beta version of GHOSTING, the fourth novel in the Amsterdam Assassin Series, is ready. The novel can be pre-ordered for delivery December 1st (just click the cover below the sample). Below, you can find the first chapter – I welcome feedback, so don’t hesitate to comment on this post:


Running flat-out gained Daniel Catadupa some distance on his pursuers as he ran down the dusty Negril forest road towards the coast. Just his rotten luck the car had broken down along West End Road. Still, Cain’s dive shop was not far. He might be able to make it on foot if only he could take a short break. The only living soul between West End and the coast was Mama Benga—an old witch living in a ramshackle old shed where she let her goats roam free. He burst from the forest at breakneck speed and ran around the house.
No place to hide, except…
Daniel dropped on the hard-packed dirt. Without glancing backward, he flattened himself on his belly and crawled feet first under the cracked wooden porch. Pushing refuse out of his way with his feet, he crawled backward into the darkness, the smell of rotting vegetation trying to invade his nose.
While he tried to get his breathing under control, the running footsteps came closer, slip-sliding around the corner, and the three men came to a skidding stop. Daniel stopped crawling. He was still under the porch, not in the deep darkness under the house proper. Hopefully none of them figured out where he was.
“Rass!” the leader exclaimed. “Bone, go deah, Reggie, go deah.”
The men sped off in different directions, but the leader stayed where he was. Lying motionless under the porch, Daniel looked at the mud-splattered tip of the gleaming ebony cane next to the gnarled feet, the soles thick with callouses from decades of walking barefoot.
He shivered.
Barefoot Duke didn’t carry the cane to support himself, he could run as fast as men half his age. No, that black cane was a symbol of his authority, and most people feared Duke’s cane more than the machetes of his henchmen. With Sista Someday’s right hand man after him, Daniel knew he’d fucked up royally.
Overhead the wooden boards creaked and an old voice spoke, “Duke, is that you?”
“It is I, womahn. Go back inna dem house.”
“Who you be looking for?” The old woman coughed, hawked up phlegm and spat on the floor. “And what him done now?”
“No business of you, womahn. Go inna tha house now.”
Wetness moistened his cheek and Daniel glanced up at a glistening string of phlegm leaking through the warped floorboards. He gagged, but remained motionless.
The gnarled feet came closer and the cane rapped the floorboards. “You deaf, womahn? Inna tha house. Now.”
“You no catch him, Duke.” He could hear the sarcasm in her voice. “Him run like the devil be chasing.”
“You see him then,” Duke said. “Which way him run?”
“You think I help you catch dem poor boy?” The old woman spat again, the gob of phlegm hitting the dirt between Duke’s bare feet. “You play at mystic mahn all you wants, I know you when you was a raggamuffin boy scrounching for scraps.”
“Betta shut dem big mouth, old womahn.”
“You betta respect elders, raggamuffin boy. You think you scary with your scowl?”
Duke’s feet moved closer and the floorboards sagged as he stepped onto the porch. “I respect elders, not scummy old scabs with potty mouths.”
“I no invite you on my porch, ragamu—” A sharp crack was followed by a heavy thump right overhead and Duke whispered, “Told you, old womahn.”
Daniel turned on his back, staring up through a crack in the floorboards. He could see the wrinkled greyish skin of Mama Benga’s arm. Above it floated the scowling face of Duke. His pinprick eyes seemed to look straight at Daniel and his face was contorted in rage. Mama Benga moaned and Daniel watched in mute horror as Duke lifted his cane over his head and whacked the old woman’s body, over and over again.
Blood seeped through the floorboards and splattered his face and something broke inside him. Like a frightened animal, Daniel scrambled away to the back of the house, no longer caring about being silent.
As he crawled out from under the house, Duke came running around the corner, screaming his name in fury. Without thinking, Daniel scooped up a handful of mud and threw it at the older man. The mud hit Duke right in the face and open mouth. Seizing the moment, Daniel charged, his bodycheck slamming Duke against the ramshackle shed. As the man fell, Daniel spun away, but not quick enough. Duke’s ebony cane whacked him in his side and Daniel felt something snap in his side. Fear gave him an adrenalin rush and he leaped into the bushes, blindly crashing through the foliage.
“CATADUPAAAAA!” Duke bellowed in rage. “You a DEAD mahn!”
From the frying pan into the fire, Daniel thought as he ran through the forest, branches sweeping into his face and tugging his dreads. Duke and his henchmen ran behind him in hot pursuit, close enough to hear them cussing as they used their machetes to clear their way. He was still ahead, but they seemed to be closing in. Pain stitched his left side, where Duke’s cane had whacked him.
Suddenly he was clear of the forest, but the situation had not improved. His blind panic had led him straight to the cliffs. He sprinted along the edge of the cliffs, not looking at the ocean slamming into the rocks below.
No shelter.
Something whistled past him, followed by the crack of a gunshot.
Fresh adrenalin flooded his body and he ran like the wind, ignoring the pain in his side. Running like the devil was chasing him, as Mama Benga put it. She was an old woman and Duke beat her to death for insulting him. Daniel had no doubt that his fate would be worse if they caught up with him.
Something tugged at his clothes and sliced the skin of his hip, but he couldn’t stop. Another gunshot came from his left. Instinctively he swerved to the right, not realising his mistake until he ran out of land.
At the edge of the cliff, Daniel whirled around.
Fifty yards away, Duke strode towards him, his trademark scowl visible as he bridged the distance on his long legs. Like eager puppies, his henchmen flanked Duke, but a few steps in front of him. As if he wanted to prolong the moment, Duke’s stride seemed to slow to a leisurely stroll. Panic froze Daniel until Reggie pointed a gun at him. Duke whistled sharply and the henchman lowered his arm, his grin a white flash in his dark face, but the spell was broken.
Daniel looked behind him. The ocean crashed into man-sized rocks that looked like pebbles from this height. He took a few steps towards his pursuers, then turned and sprinted to the edge.
Duke yelled and gunshots cracked as Daniel closed his eyes and dived, his arms whipping forward.
For a moment, his body seemed suspended in flight, and he heard the voice of his old physics teacher. ‘The problem is not that humans cannot fly, but that they cannot land’.
Gravity reappeared and Daniel plunged down, his clothes flapping in the wind that tore the tears from his closed eyes.
Jah, be merciful.
Dark death embraced him in her cold arms and squeezed the breath from his body.


WRITING: I Want To Write A Novel, But Where Do I Start?

Having a passion for something, but no skills yet and several hindrances to acquire those skills makes for quite a challenge.

The easiest answer would be ‘find something else’, and there would be truth in it. Writing a novel (or even a short story) is an appealing ambition – I read somewhere that eighty percent of all adult Americans seriously entertain the notion of writing a novel, which is also why there’s a whole industry that facilitates burgeoning writers with creative writing courses and workshops and seminars, and enough books on the art & craft to fill several bookcases.

The reason writing a novel is so popular is because it’s an attainable goal (most arts require more than a pen and a piece of paper) and it carries prestige as good writers are revered, their works read both during and after their lifetime.

So what you have to decide for yourself is – do you really want to write a novel, or do you want to show people a shiny cover with your name on it and bask in the adulation? Because the first is hard, and the second is a pipe dream.

I’ve written five novels (published four) and four novellas, just as frame of reference to my answer – if you don’t want to let go of your dream, this is my advice:

Lower the pressure of writing a novel by not writing a novel.

What you will be writing instead, will be a Draft. A Rough Draft. An unreadable shitload of words, not intended to be read by anyone but yourself. That last part is extremely important! Nobody must read that Draft, because it’s not intended for public consumption yet.

The Draft is the Baby, the Novel is the Adult.

People don’t make adults, they make babies that shit and cry and demand food and attention and will keep you up at night. Have you heard writers referring to their novel as a baby? Yes? They’re not actual writers yet, because the draft is the baby, the novel should be an adult, capable of standing on its own legs and fending for itself. If their novel is still their baby, then they haven’t finished yet and they have published prematurely.

The Horror, the Horror…

Before a novel can stand on its own legs, it needs to be born first, which is a messy process. Thus, the Draft is a baby – a stinking smelly mess that will hijack all your attention and cause you to lay awake at night, worrying if it will ever be able to be independent. This is not the kind of baby that you show your family and friends – starting the Draft is not an accomplishment. So shut up about ‘writing your first novel’ and never ever talk about the plot and the characters and the theme. Screw all that. Talking about your creative work kills the spark. Just write and write. Is it garbage? Don’t second-guess yourself, you won’t be able to judge it now, you’re much too close. Nobody throws out their baby, no matter how much it smells. Just keep on writing. Don’t edit. You can’t edit a baby, it has to become an adolescent first.

The Need.

Visit any writing forum and you’ll see the many many questions, that boil down to one single question ‘Is This Any Good?’. It’s the fear of failure, the angst of wasting time, and the need for validation. We have been programmed to desire approval – from parents, from teachers. You won’t get approval for the Draft. Don’t ask for it. Just write it all down.

The Rules.

How long is a chapter supposed to be?’, ‘How do I write a dynamite first chapter?’, ‘Should I use present tense or past tense?’, ‘Is writing in First Person easier than Third Person?’, ‘When do I Show, when do I Tell?’
If you visit writing forums, you’ll hear a lot of talk about rules, but those rules are not for drafts. Those rules are to clinically dissect a finished manuscript prior to publication. Do you have that? No, you haven’t. You have a smelly mess that isn’t nowhere near finished, so forget about all those rules. Because in the end there is only one rule – Engage The Reader. And your baby won’t need to engage the reader yet. It’s a draft, intended only for your eyes.

The Work

Anyone with a knife and a dead pig can butcher a pig, but that doesn’t make you a butcher. And it sure as hell doesn’t make you a veterinarian.
So you wrote an essay at school and the teacher gave you an A. Does that make a writer? No, but it’s a start. If you can read this, you can probably write. You can string words together, maybe in some pleasing way, but five hundred pages of words is not a book. A book is when the words disappear and your imagination shows you the film in your head. That’s the hardest part, and the most neglected part – writers want to write pretty words or show off their ostentatious vocabulary, but what you want to do is tell a story. Tell a story in such a way that the reader forgets about the book or the e-reader and is transported to another world – fictional, but just as ‘real’ as this one. And that requires not only a large vocabulary, but also a decisive mind to apply just the right word. And if you get that right, you won’t need the validation anymore, because there is no better feeling that getting a sentence just right, a paragraph that leaps off the page, and a chapter that you don’t want to end.

But before you get there, you have to put in the work. There’s a common ‘rule’ floating around that to become a professional at something requires putting in something like 10,000 hours. I never measured that, but I do know that I’d been writing for twenty years before Reprobate was published. And I’d been working on Reprobate and all its predecessors for most of that time. Learning the craft, honing my skills. Draft upon draft upon draft. For Reprobate, it was something like forty (!) drafts. Literally every paragraph was rewritten at least once. Edited and polished. That’s the education.

Don’t Do The Crime If You Can’t Do The Time.

My second novel, Peccadillo, was half finished when Reprobate came out. I finished Peccadillo in three months, spending a total of fifteen months on writing it. I wrote the novella Locked Room in three weeks. Microchip Murder took me less than two. And the novella that gets the highest praise, Fundamental Error, was written in eight days. Rogue, the third novel took less than 12 months. And Ghosting, the novel I’m working on now, clocks in at about eight months, despite my battles with kidney stones and glaucoma.

Every time you write, you will get better at telling the story. Writing this answer took me about an hour, with no rewrites or polishing necessary. And that’s because I’ve done the time.

So do the time. Stop fretting about whether you have something to say or who will read it. Write that draft first, the rest comes later. Let me know when you finished a draft, and then we’ll talk about how you can become a writer…

In Pocket now on GoodReads and Amazon.

In PocketIn Pocket by Martyn V. Halm

As the author, of course I cannot rate or review my own work. What I can do is give you, the potential reader, some background information about In Pocket.

About twenty years ago, when I was working on what was to become Reprobate: A Katla Novel, I had a half-finished story on a busker who lived in a delivery van and pretended to be blind in order to rake in more money. As such, Wolfgang was the only one who saw a murder by assassin Katla Sieltjes, who promptly started hunting him down to shut him up.

The story didn’t work and I wrote a new story with Katla as the protagonist, who breaks her rule of never leaving a witness alive when blind busker Bram Merleyn enters her crime scene. Readers of the Amsterdam Assassin Series know what happened after that, so I’m not going to rehash that story.

In the meantime, Wolfgang was still living in his van with his pet rat Gabriel, but he changed from busker to pickpocket, and acquired a heroin addiction (being one of my characters can be very taxing).

I often write on several projects at the same time, and I kept adding to the story of Wolfgang the pickpocket until it reached critical mass, all the pieces fell together, and In Pocket almost wrote itself.

In Pocket is a stand-alone novel, but it has some connections with the Amsterdam Assassin Series beyond the same locations – if you read carefully, you will find cameos from characters that also appear in the series.

I make free e-book review copies available to readers who want to review In Pocket on GoodReads and retailer sites. To get your hands on a free review copy, send an email to with ‘review copy In Pocket’ in the subject line.

View all my reviews

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers

ARC In Pocket, now available for reviewers.

Are you a book reviewer and interested in an ARC of In Pocket? Send an email with ‘ARC reviewer In Pocket’, and maybe you can get In Pocket a month early (publication date August 1st).

Picking the wrong pocket might prove fatal…

Nomadic pickpocket Wolfgang gets blackmailed into teaching his craft to the mysterious Lilith, a young woman with no aptitude whatsoever to become a pickpocket. Wolf figures the easiest way is to go with the flow and instruct Lilith in the art of emptying other people’s pockets, but even he could never foresee the dreadful consequences…

IN POCKET is a standalone novel by Martyn V. Halm, the author of the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Follow Wolf as he gets entangled in a possibly fatal web of violence and deceit, where nobody is who they seem to be and everyone has a hidden agenda.

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers

Just as a reminder – I will experiment with pre-orders for In Pocket, so the ebook will be available at pre-order for the low, low price of 99c (for those who like the ebook without strings attached), but only until the publication date, when the book will become the (still cheap) price of 2.99.

So follow my blog and get a two dollar discount when you pre-order In Pocket before August 1st!

‘In Pocket’ won a new cover

While my stand-alone noir novel In Pocket went through the beta-testing, I submitted the cover I had to the 2015 E-Book Cover Makeover Contest, and I won a spanking new cover.



New cover, courtesy of Farah Evers Design:

In Pocket cover by Farah Evers

You can find information on the contest here. The pitch for In Pocket:

Picking the wrong pocket might prove fatal…

Nomadic pickpocket Wolfgang gets blackmailed into teaching his craft to the mysterious Lilith, a young woman with no aptitude whatsoever to become a pickpocket. Wolf figures the easiest way is to go with the flow and instruct Lilith in the art of emptying other people’s pockets, but even he could never foresee the dreadful consequences…

IN POCKET is a standalone novel by Martyn V. Halm, the author of the Amsterdam Assassin Series. Follow Wolf as he gets entangled in a possibly fatal web of violence and deceit, where nobody is who they seem to be and everyone has a hidden agenda.

I hope to publish In Pocket before the end of this month.