Two and a half years into the pandemic, the no COVID club has started becoming exclusive. Articles have been written about these unicorns who somehow have avoided the virus, despite increasingly infectious variants and a general return to normalcy.
And, until two weeks ago, I was a member of that club, having somehow avoided the virus even after multiple trips across the globe. As the months and years passed, my risk tolerance increased, mainly due to my overall good health and not having someone immunocompromised in my household.
That being said, I was pretty careful this summer, since Husband and I had trips scattered throughout the summer that neither of us wanted to be sick for. I’ll never know for sure where I got COVID, but I’m 99.9% certain I got it in Chicago mid-August, which marked the end of our summer trips. That trip wasn’t the first time I’d let my guard down. Of course it wasn’t. I’ve been vaccinated, I’ve been boosted, and after the Omicron wave passed earlier this spring, I had started relaxing a bit. I figured that the trade for living with more normalcy was the inevitability of getting COVID, and I had started feeling resignation. That’s obviously not the ideal attitude to have, and it’s a privileged one, given my overall good health – but I’m human, and like all other humans, I got tired.
I might have picked up the virus at the Art Institute. I may have gotten it at the very crowded Aquarium. It may have come home with me after I met up with a friend at a diner. We had waited outside the restaurant for 45 minutes before being seated, and I’d taken a quick restroom break inside while we waited. When I came outside, I sat down next to Husband and joked, “If you don’t want COVID, then that’s not the restaurant you want to eat in. It’s very crowded.”
FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING
That Tuesday after coming back from Chicago, I went to a HIIT yoga class for the first time in months. It’s not a class I could comfortably wear a mask in, so I’d avoided it all summer. I felt happy to be back. Another woman in the class asked me where I’d been, and I told her I had been avoiding the class since I didn’t want to catch COVID before my trips. The instructor happily welcomed me back, and I told her I’d be back for good.
FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING FORESHADOWING
I was really tired that afternoon, and took a nap after nearly falling asleep in my chair. After working from home 2.5 years, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken a nap during the workday. I’m a pretty restless person and rarely nap – and if I do, it’s because I didn’t get much sleep the night before. I told myself I was still tired from Chicago and from working late on deadlines.
Then that night, I started feeling something in my throat. It wasn’t quite a sore throat – then it would have been easier to see what was happening. It just felt different. But just in case, I warned Husband that I might be getting a sore throat. Neither of us were too concerned yet – both of us have been hypochondriacs throughout the pandemic, dramatically announcing that we were getting sore throats or sniffles that ultimately turned into nothing. I told myself I was just reading into it and wasn’t actually sick.
When I woke up Wednesday morning, the weird feeling in my throat was still there. Again, it wasn’t sore – but it just felt different. I took a COVID test before yoga class. While waiting for my results, I researched how quickly the test turns positive, finding an article saying that if the test turns positive quickly, then chances are that you have a high viral load. After fifteen minutes, I was relieved to see the test was negative, and continued with my day.
But that afternoon, the warning signs were glaring. Besides the lingering fatigue, my legs started aching, but it wasn’t the typical post-workout soreness. It felt more like the aches I felt after running a half-marathon or marathon, which was not normal. I googled “muscle aches and COVID” and saw that muscle aches were indeed a sign of COVID. I closed the browser. I was reading into all my symptoms and it was psychosomatic. I wasn’t sick. I had tested negative that morning.
But it was impossible to ignore something was wrong by evening. I had chills and stayed under my hot shower for a long time. Wednesday night is pizza night and that evening, Husband and I brought home pies from a new restaurant. The personal-sized pizza I’d purchased was much smaller than anticipated. Even then, I didn’t have the appetite to finish it. I didn’t want dessert. I felt too tired to crochet. All I wanted to do was curl up with the dog under two blankets to let the chills and body aches wash over me. I really, really wish I had tested at this time, or that Husband put on a mask. As he lovingly told me later, I looked like I had been hit by a truck and something was clearly wrong.
About an hour into my nap, I woke up strongly craving Sprite. I never drink soda at night! “Do you know if we have any Sprite?” I asked Husband, which was code for, I never want to ask you to get me something because I’m perfectly capable of grabbing it myself, but I also do not have the physical strength to leave this couch. Please get me a Sprite. Luckily, after ten years, Husband knows me very well. “Let me check for you,” he said, getting up and coming back with a Sprite. I drank it and fell back into a feverish sleep.
The next morning, I didn’t bother testing for yoga class. I knew that even if I didn’t have COVID, I was battling some illness, and I didn’t want to get my class sick. I turned my alarm off and went back to sleep. I woke up at 7:30, feeling better than I had the night before, but not great. I almost didn’t take a test, thinking I should wait another day for symptoms to develop, but then remembered how sick I’d felt the night before.
I opened a COVID test kit and prepared it, watching it closely. The “T” line turned bright pink immediately. IMMEDIATELY. And even after all the warning signs and symptoms, I was still shocked to see it. It couldn’t be actually happening. The instructions said not to interpret the test after 15 minutes. Maybe I wasn’t actually positive! But then what? Like the pink line is just going to disappear? I remembered the article I’d just read the day before and realized I was probably carrying a high viral load. Wait, maybe I was misinterpreting the test! Maybe this was just the control line! Or maybe this was one of those invalid tests where the T line turns pink but not the control line.
Then I watched the control line turn pink.
“Well,” I said, staring at the test. “Shit.” I grabbed a mask and went upstairs to tell Husband. That’s just the news that you want to wake up your loved ones with. HEY! YOU KNOW THAT SUPER INFECTIOUS PANDEMIC VIRUS THAT WE’VE AVOIDED CATCHING? GUESS WHAT? I BROUGHT IT HOME AND HAVE BEEN SPEWING IT EVERYWHERE AND YOU’RE PROBABLY GOING TO GET SICK TOO. YAYYYYYYYYYYYYY.
We wore masks around the house for several days, but by Saturday, it was very clear Husband was coming down with symptoms and we gave up. I felt so bad for giving him COVID. Fortunately for both of us, our cases were “mild,” which means that we:
-Had fevers for two nights. I can’t remember the last time I had a fever.
-Severe fatigue. I slept for 12 hours last Sunday and took multiple naps, and I still felt exhausted.
-Congestion and sore throats.
The fatigue hit me heavily. Last Saturday, I did my normal chores around the house, feeling good about a return to normalcy – then slept for three hours afterward. For my sanity, I got out of the house everyday for a COVID stroll, wearing my KN95 mask for these outings. Last Sunday was definitely my worst day for fatigue – I was so tired that it was mainly a shuffle. Luckily, most people figured out that wearing a KN95 mask outdoors in the middle of August was bad news, and they gave me a wide berth.
Of course, COVID hit at the worst time at work – putting in overtime for reporting and deliverables when you’re exhausted and trying to recover from the virus is not ideal, but I’m fortunate that I was at least able to work (and from home!) Going into this virus, I thought that my immune system would be stronger – that maybe I’d get the asymptomatic version of the illness, and that I could turn it around quickly. It is wild to me that getting flu-like symptoms is the “mild” version of this illness, and that it took me eleven days (ELEVEN DAYS) to test negative! CDC, I’m side-eying these guidelines, because I still tested very positive VERY QUICKLY by day eight. I had to miss a salon appointment and the first day of Sinfonietta rehearsals because of COVID, but obviously it was the right thing to do – I feel pretty strongly that I was infectious past day 5 and I didn’t want to put others at risk of catching the virus.
In some ways, there’s a weird relief to have gone through this experience after avoiding it for 2.5 years, but it’s all thanks to the vaccine and boosters that I was able to accept my fate with resignation and not overwhelming fear and anxiety. The vaccine did its job, ensuring that my case and Husband’s were mild, keeping us out of the hospital. Stay safe, get vaccinated, get boosted.