My parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle, and I formed a little safe pod over the last few months. In order to protect each other, especially my grandparents, we have been extremely careful and have sacrificed being around several friends and other family members. We’ve adhered to public precautions religiously. But one little opportune exposure was all it took. Thankfully, my grandparents, aunt, and uncle, weren’t around us much at the most important time during this year’s trials, but for my parents and I, we endured the thing that has shut the world down. This is our story of COVID-19.
I came home to spend the weekend with my parents on December 4. My father mentioned he had a little headache and slight tickle in his throat before bed. He went to sleep. That was it. The next day, he felt a little worse. He took his temperature and found that he had a small fever. He drove off to get a rapid test, which came back positive. Over the next few days, he would develop just about every common COVID symptom.
My mother and I went into hyperdrive while Dad was driving home. We put on masks and began sanitizing everywhere he had been. We hauled necessities he would need to the basement and prepared a place for him to isolate from us in case we hadn’t already contracted the virus ourselves. For good measure, we kept our distance from each other as well in case one of us had it and the other did not. Since both of us would need to quarantine, I decided to stay at Mom and Dad’s instead of returning to my house in case they needed me or I needed them. After all, I knew that despite our distancing that my mom and I had more than likely already contracted the virus from Dad.
We made sure to get everything my dad required: food, medicine, clothes, towels, and whatnot to him by masking up, opening the basement door, placing items on the top step, and shutting it. We sprayed Lysol on all returned items before we touched them. We were being extremely careful.
On Sunday, December 6, my mom developed a slight headache, but after going to bed, she awoke in the middle of the night, too weak to walk. She suffered throughout the night and called me the next morning as I was getting ready for a virtual work meeting. She developed a little strength over the next couple hours, but she knew she had the virus too. To make sure, she and I—while still remaining distant—went and got rapid tests. Hers was positive and mine was negative.
Mom went into isolation mode as well, and I repeated the sanitizing process throughout the house just as we had done with Dad.
It was a blur for me from there. Cooking meals and sanitizing dishes. Counting vitamins. Asking for temperatures. Checking in to see if my grandparents had developed symptoms. Trying to work remotely. Crying a little. Praying a lot.
On Wednesday, December 9, I awoke around 2:00AM shivering so badly I couldn’t lie still, but I felt like I was under an electric blanket because heat was radiating off me. My head was splitting. A slight allergy cough from the day before had become a deep, dry cough. But the worst part was the fatigue—fatigue like I had never had before. I felt helpless. Hopeless. Like my soul had been sucked out through my throat. I struggled so much to get the thermometer downstairs that I had to scoot down my bedroom steps and then basically crawl back up. I couldn’t go back to sleep because I felt so drained. So I lied in bed, freezing, yet sweating.
In the morning, I drove to a local pharmacy to get another test, just to make sure. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have driven, because I had a weak spell while driving and had to pull off on the side of the road. However, I made it to the drive-through center and received a rapid test that came back negative—false negative. I went on and took the regular test as well, which confirmed positive in three days.
I coughed my throat to shreds over the next few days—so raw that swallowing even water made me wince from pain. I had a telehealth appointment that led to steroids and an inhaler to control the wheezing. Mom got better quickly. Dad continued to struggle. But at least we were together and no longer “separate-together” like before when we were isolating.
Dad and I completely lost our abilities to taste and smell, and with them, our appetites. All three of us were extremely fatigued, and things like loading the washing machine with clothes or making coffee required all the energy we could muster.
What made us feel better was the outpouring of love we were feeling from afar. People kept telling us they were thinking of us or praying for us. We received countless offers for meals or groceries on our doorstep (a role that we’re thankful my aunt and uncle kept fulfilling dearly). We received care packages and surprise snacks, herbal teas and a huge entertainment goodie bag. Well wishes in our Christmas cards. Message after message. So many people reached out that we barely had the energy to respond. And if anything good came of this whole experience, we realized how many wonderful people are still out there.
We also received advice and recommendations from people we know who have also had COVID, and the thing that amazes me the most is that every person seems to vocalize a different experience. Perhaps that’s why COVID is so scary—it’s so unpredictable. Some people have a case that resembles a small sinus infection and it’s truly no big deal. Some people end up on a vent. My parents and I can attest to these odd experiences, personalized specially for each case. Of all our symptoms, the only ones that overlapped for all three of us were the extreme fatigue and headaches, but of the three of us, Mom had far worse headaches, Dad had the most symptoms overall, and I had the most concerning respiratory issues.
We also learned why this disease can be so deadly to those who have pre-existing conditions. We’re all relatively healthy adults, but COVID absolutely knocked us on our butts. For me personally, I have had several sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and two rounds of the flu in my life, but I have never felt like I did when I woke up with COVID. That feeling makes me fearful for those who are having far worse experiences than mine.
Despite a very terrible two weeks, my family is feeling much better. We are now out of quarantine just in time for Christmas. My dad and I still can’t taste fully, but our senses are progressing nicely. We’ve sanitized every inch of the house, having to take lots of rests. All our energy levels are still very low. We require many naps and Netflix breaks.
We would like to thank everyone who has checked in on us, sent us things, prayed, or offered encouragement. We also would like to caution you. I’ve already said that we’ve been taking precautions quite seriously this year, yet we still got it. You may have noticed that it took five days after being exposed to my dad for me to get sick or that I had two negative rapid tests before receiving a positive. This virus is deceitful. It’s relentless. I want to ask you to please be careful.
It perplexes me why some people still won’t wear masks in public. It derails me to think that some people don’t think this virus exists at all. Wearing a mask and distancing from people can prevent you from spreading COVID whether you know you have it or not, and even though you may get COVID and you may only have mild symptoms, the person to whom you pass it might not be as strong as you. I would hate to give this to anyone, but knowing that I caused someone who already had weak lungs or a weakened immune system or kidney problems to get this would have destroyed me. So please try to be considerate.
I have to believe that better days are coming. This has been an excruciating year, and I am just as tired as everyone else of the restrictions and the masks and the conflicts and the professional/economical/educational impacts. But I have to hope things will get better. You may or may not believe in the vaccines that are starting to make their appearance. But look at them with hope. Either you think the vaccine is safe and will take it, or you have to admit that more people getting the vaccine will lead to restrictions beginning to fade. Either way, brighter days are ahead. I hope you and your family stay safe and healthy until those days arrive.