On a Sunday evening in late October, my boyfriend Tom began feeling achy. On Tuesday, he went to a clinic and got rapid tested for COVID-19, which was negative. He went about his usual routine, working in his office and in court as an attorney. The next Sunday afternoon, he was still not feeling well and returned for another rapid test and found out that he had the dreaded virus. Yes, he had been regularly wearing a mask in public, but about five days before his symptoms began, he had visited the emergency room with a family member, so I can’t help but wonder if that might have been a source of exposure.
Thus, I began my quarantine, holed up in one of three bedrooms in his basement. I thought my immune system was stalwart. I was stuck inside all week but felt fine. The next weekend, Tom’s cough was intense, and, at times, he seemed confused. On Saturday night, he video chatted with his son – with no memory of it. On Sunday, I tried to convince him to let me take him to the emergency room, but he said he wanted to wait until the next day to see a physician. Finally, after some texting with his adult children and his sister, a retired physician, I convinced him.
By mid-day, I had developed a scratchy throat and a blistering headache, and my temperature had risen slightly to 99. I took two ibuprofen, which helped subdue the severity of the headache, but it still lingered in a dull fashion. That evening, I dropped Tom off at the hospital to discover that he had COVID pneumonia, and he was sent him home to take antibiotics procured from an earlier clinic visit and to monitor oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter I had obtained online.
On Monday morning around 4 a.m., I woke from having vivid dreams and felt as if I had stuck my hands in a furnace. I managed to go back to sleep but woke up around 6 a.m. and checked my temperature, which was 101. I took two ibuprofen and an antihistamine. I was achy and coughing some. My throat felt raw, almost swollen. I moved upstairs to the recliner to send an e-mail to my assistant principal and maybe get a little more sleep, keeping my laptop nearby in case my students needed me after 8 a.m. Later that morning, I tested negative on a rapid test at a local clinic, but the nurse said based on exposure and symptoms, I had COVID-19. I felt extremely tired that afternoon, probably partly due to lack of sleep. I slept for three or four hours that afternoon with random aches (my right foot, under my left arm) before retiring to bed.
Late on Tuesday, I went to bed around 1 and slept until 8 today with no problem. I had taken ibuprofen and melatonin before bed, and I did not wake up with a fever. I felt a little achy in my back. However, I felt so much better than the previous morning. Tom’s ginger-colored cat, Miss Sippi, came in right around the time I woke up and stayed with me for about an hour and a half until I got up to take a shower just after 9:30. I napped from around 1:30 until 3:30, at which time my fever began rising to about 99.5, and my headache returned. It was Election Day, so we watched returns from around 6:30 until 3:00 a.m. Sippi came and slept at my feet until I awoke.
On Wednesday, I woke up around 8 feeling much better. As far as I knew, I had no – or very little – fever that day. I cooked a breakfast casserole for Tom and me, and we ate around 1:30 p.m. My brother Greg was in town, and after a doctor visit with Mom in Tupelo, he brought me back some chicken pot pies, frozen quiche, a jug of tea, and chicken salad, which I had requested. Then I began feeling ill around 5:30 p.m. It was mainly malaise and a dull headache, with some edginess from being isolated so long.
Thursday was the turning point. I stopped journaling about my virus experience because I felt so sick. My fever rose in the afternoon, and all day Friday I felt bad with a powerful headache after waking up with a 101-degree fever. In the morning, I drove to the McNairy County Health Department, got drive-thru tested, and came home. That evening, I completely lost my senses of taste and smell. I also began suffering from pervasive allergy-like symptoms with nasal congestion, sneezing, and watery eyes.
On Friday night I tried to eat some cheese sticks from a local pizzeria but could eat only about two. Friday night while sleeping I recall having chest pain, which scared me. On Saturday, I woke around 11 a.m. to discover that a representative of the health department in Selmer had called to tell me I was positive for the virus. Miss Sippi must have known that I was not well, as she stayed on the bed with me until the middle of the day, unusual for a cat who is usually restless in the morning. I stayed in bed until about 3 or 4 and ate very little that day.
On Sunday, I woke up thinking my fever had broken, but it remained at 100. I took ibuprofen, which brought it down to 99, but then it went back up to 100.5. In the meantime, I managed to eat a chicken pot pie, which tasted only of salt and drank some tea. I felt as if I were having heart palpitations, but at least my oxygen saturation remained in the high 90s. In the afternoon, I felt better and even sat outside on the porch for a while.
Monday morning, the ninth day, was the very worst. I woke with a 102-degree fever and a headache that felt like someone had pummeled me with a Louisville Slugger. I texted Tom to ask him if he could bring down some oatmeal before I took ibuprofen. He brought it downstairs, and I managed to get down about three bites before I took my medication. I told him I was dying. Finally, I was able to sleep off some of the fever.
Afterward, I slowly began recovering. By Wednesday, my temperature remained at 99.5 most of the day, and by Thursday, it was 98 all day. By Friday, I went to the high school where I teach – and where I had missed three weeks of work – to pick up some materials and visit with my colleagues at lunch, although I wasn’t hungry and didn’t eat.
It has now taken just over a month for me to recover my energy from the virus, eliminate my upper respiratory issues, and just to start getting back my senses of taste and smell. I call my experience “the flu times two,” as I suffered from flu-like symptoms, including fever ranging from 100 to 102, for almost ten consecutive days, twice the duration of the normal flu.
As for breathing issues, my malady was, fortunately, situated more in my windpipe and bronchial tubes than my lungs. However, I still suffer from bouts of wheezy coughing, exacerbated by residual childhood asthma, although it’s getting better, remedied by the use of an inhaler. I am now having some minor joint issues, including pain and redness in a knuckle and stiffness and soreness in my right shoulder joint, which some attribute to the after-effects of the virus.
When the vaccine is available, I will get it. I don’t want to relive my experience – or perhaps one even worse. I now better understand why some people die. Ultimately, the behavior of COVID-19 is mysterious, and no one knows exactly how it will impact him or her until it has been contracted. It is a serious and potentially deadly virus, so please take precautions, and don’t minimize it. It wasn’t pleasant at all, but I am happy to have survived relatively unscathed.