I figured that I had escaped it, that it was behind me. After all, since the pandemic began I have been faithfully isolating, wearing masks in crowded places, and obtaining vaccinations and boosters whenever they became available. I already worked from home, so that wasn’t a problem. I haven’t recently gone to the science fiction conventions or gatherings of writers that for years I used to attend regularly. When my youngest son moved away to college I was even more isolated and still working from home. Finally, though, in the last half a year or so, I stepped out and attended a few meet-ups of people interested in international travel, just to get out and socialize for a change. It must have been at the latest of these, last Wednesday evening, at which the COVID virus caught up with me.
On Thursday everything seemed normal. On Friday I started the day feeling fine. I performed my forty-five minute calisthenics and yoga exercise routine in midmorning, and shortly afterwards I embarked on a three-mile walk up and down steep hills. Nothing unusual there. Except by the end of it I had the odd sensation that something was wrong. I prepared and ate lunch but it didn’t settle as well as it usually does. In the afternoon I felt feverish, and I had strong aches in the joints and muscles of my shoulders and neck. I put off taking a COVID test because I didn’t want to have COVID. Instead, I decided to take my temperature. My thermometer’s battery had run out so I had to rummage in kitchen drawers until I found a replacement. I had a fever, all right. So then I submitted to the inevitable. The line in the COVID test came out starkly, doubtlessly positive. I sent a message on Facebook to my immediate family, my five sons and my ex-wife, to let them know. I sat down to watch a movie but despite my turning the heat up in the room and putting on layers of clothing, it was hard to stay warm. And whenever I felt even a slight chill I would begin to shiver. It was hard to decide what to eat, and the food I finally prepared tasted strange so I ended up throwing most of it away. At least I slept well.
Saturday morning I woke up early feeling feverish, achy, and weak. Still, I had gone to bed early and got enough sleep and so I prepared some coffee and thought I’d try to get some work done. I had just taken on some article assignments and couldn’t cancel them. It took all the strength and resolve I had to sit upright in front of my computer and try to focus. I somehow managed to write one article and do a few other things. In the meantime, my family had rallied. Several of them called me in a group chat and asked how I was. One of my sons did some research and found a website run by the Washington State government offering access to Paxlovid, a COVID drug being offered to immune-compromised individuals. I qualified because of my age (almost 70). When I called the number, the person on the phone was sympathetic and efficient. Within half an hour a prescription had arrived at the closest pharmacy. One of my sons went to pick it up, along with a pulse oximeter to measure my blood oxygen level, which my family insisted I check several times a day. Nothing like having folks in your corner. Again I had little appetite for lunch or for dinner, and the feverish shivering continued whenever I felt the slightest bit cold.
Sunday the main symptoms were frequent sneezing, runny nose, and sore throat. (I must mention on the bright side that through all this my lungs stayed clear and strong; I was spared the congestion in the lungs that is a common symptom. I also never had a headache, which I have also read is common.) I badly wanted to take a walk but refrained because I couldn’t comfortably wear a mask with all the snot and I didn’t want to spray contamination all over the place. Anyway, I was still very tired and wouldn’t have got far.
Monday the sneezing and runny nose were almost gone but I had a painful sore throat. I tried to do my exercise routine but only managed about a quarter of it before I realized I wasn’t up to the task. I kept my work schedule, and I began to enjoy normal meals again.
Tuesday (today) the symptoms are almost all gone, except a lingering sore throat. I noticed, though, that I was a bit more spaced-out and apprehensive than usual. I wasn’t surprised about this after I read about the mental effects of the COVID virus.
In conclusion, I have to say that the COVID symptoms I have experienced (others have different and sometimes much more serious symptoms) were physically debilitating, painful, and uncomfortable, but nothing too difficult to overcome or at least endure. For me, the worst part of having COVID has been the feeling of increased isolation. I already spent most of my time alone, but now that I had COVID I realized that I couldn’t go out to seek companionship even if I wanted to because I would risk endangering others. It made me feel like I was in a prison of sorts. I occasional felt a sort of despair over whether I would ever again be able to socialize with friends and acquaintances. It made me feel very, very alone. I thought of the poor people who got COVID in the early stages of the pandemic who were left to die by themselves in hospital rooms, cut off from the solace of their families, even the nurses and doctors sometimes afraid to approach them. What a horror to be so alone, in pain, fighting to breathe, and acutely aware of your imminent demise! Maybe it’s good that I have finally got COVID. I hadn’t been sick in years. It put my mortality back into perspective. We’re all adapting to it, but it is still out there, prowling, on the hunt. And if it’s not COVID it will be something else. There’s always something. Remember: Our mortality rate as humans is one hundred percent. No exceptions. Sure makes me want to make good use of whatever time I have left.
Postscript: By Friday, a week after the first symptoms appeared, I did my entire exercise regimen and afterwards rejoiced in my returned strength. (Before I took this and other steps, on Thursday I talked on the phone with a registered nurse from the clinic where I receive primary medical care.) I now have no more symptoms at all. The only difference with my pre-COVID health is that I sleep longer and deeper these days; my system is doubtlessly attempting to recover from the sucker punch COVID threw at it.
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Thanks for this exhaustive (no pun intended) account of your symptoms and the progress of your sickness. It’s a handy reminder.
My household has been isolating since late Feb 2020, with only a few visitors to stay. Spouse is clinically vulnerable; I’ve just always been wary of illness and don’t need to chance becoming sick, even for a week. Long COVID of any severity would seriously impact our quality of life. We mask (FFP3) when we go out, which is “rarely”.
What irks is the duration: how much longer will we have to live like this, in order to stay safe? There’s no end in sight. Fury isn’t useful but it’s often the only response that comes.