We will all eventually have a Covid story to tell. They will all be different. Mine started out as a sore throat. Here’s how the next five days went.
Day 1: It started as a tickle in my throat. I was dining outside at a restaurant with friends when I started feeling a little run down. There was a slight breeze and it was a little chilly for a June evening so I chalked it up to the weather and maybe just a cold. Hours later, I woke up with a raw and scratchy sore throat. I tossed and turned for hours unable to go back to sleep. And so it begins.
Day 2: I woke up exhausted and dragged myself around the rest of the day with tired eyes and a dull headache. My sore throat got worse but I chalked it up to seasonal allergies and lack of sleep, so I took some Tylenol and sucked on cough drops. Ironically I had my annual physical exam later that day and told the NP that I had a scratchy throat but declined a Covid test.
In retrospect, I was obviously in denial. I’d made it for over two years since Covid came on the scene without contracting the virus. I’d had the two Pfizer vaccines and a booster. I’d gone on several trips, on several planes, attended large gatherings and had never tested positive. And I tested a lot. With my mother living in a senior lifestyle apartment, I was required to test weekly to visit her. I figured, I’d dodged that bullet. Besides, the virus had evolved to a much milder strain and it was inevitable that we’d all get a mild case of it it eventually. I resolved to get a good nights sleep and assured myself I’d feel fine the next day.
Day 3: I woke once again to an extremely sore throat, dry mouth, stuffy nose and slight headache. Also with a level of fatigue that was unlike anything I’ve felt before. I was literally too tired to get out of bed or take a drink of water. Something felt off. This was not a typical cold or allergy reaction. My next thought was “where did I stash the free at-home Covid tests I got from the government?” Then I dragged myself out of bed and retrieved the box of tests from the linen closet.
Memories of biology lab: Calling upon my inner scientist, I performed the Covid nasal swab test, making sure I spent adequate time in each nostril and careful not to contaminate the specimen. After placing exactly four drops in the test reservoir, I set the timer on my iPhone for 20 minutes and made myself a cup of coffee. Although the instructions said not to read results before 20 minutes passed, the dreaded double lines appeared in just five. And they were solid. I must have had an overachieving viral load. Just to be sure, I waited the entire 20 minutes before accepting the inevitable and notifying family, friends and others I’d been in contact with. No one seemed too concerned or even surprised. After all, the virus was rampant in our community. Nothing to see here.
Email to Health Care Provider: “I saw you for my annual physical yesterday and declined a Covid test for my sore throat. I took a home test which was positive. Should I do anything besides take over the counter medication?”
Email from Health Care Provider: “You can take nasal spray, mucinex, and Tylenol. Your age also qualifies you for monoclonal antibodies. Let me know if you are interested.”
Email to Health Care Provider: “Yes please.” Age has its benefits and I didn’t like the direction this virus was taking. I’d take whatever was offered to feel better.
I’m here for the infusion: I was scheduled for an IV infusion later that day. I was told to arrive at the clinic no earlier than five minutes before my appointment time and that I would be met by someone in a yellow hazmat suit. As instructed, I arrived mere minutes minutes before my appointment, wearing a mask I dug out of the center console of my car. I’m sure it was bacteria laden but I figured it couldn’t make me any sicker at this point. I walked into the lobby and when the guy at the information counter asked if I’d been around anyone with Covid, I sheepishly replied, “I have Covid and I’m here for the infusion”. “Second door on the right” he replied without missing a beat. Not his first rodeo either.
Infusion Inclusion: I was buzzed into a large room with semi private seating areas complete with shower curtain like enclosures for privacy, and small TVs on swivels so you could watch fuzzy afternoon shows while you were monitored for adverse reactions. The monoclonal antibody infusion itself was relatively painless (as far as IVs go) and lasted only a minute or so. The post infusion monitoring lasted an hour. I left feeling hopeful that the treatment would lesson and shorten my symptoms.
Day 4: 5:00am. I woke up with a pounding headache and bone crushing fatigue. Not taking any chances, I dragged myself to the bathroom and swallowed a prescription migraine pill and a swig of DayQuil. I slept another five hours and then began to emerge from the fog. The rest of the day was mostly spent on the couch with a few light housekeeping tasks thrown in. As the day went on my cough got worse and painful at times. I was getting a bit scared and worried that I might be one of those “otherwise healthy people” who ended up with a bad case and long term symptoms. I wondered how bad I’d be feeling if I hadn’t had the infusion. I emailed my health care provider once again and told her of my concerns. The reply: “Your symptoms are pretty typical of Covid progression. If you have difficulty breathing, please go to the ED.” Somewhat reassured, I hunkered down and took another swig of DayQuil.
Day 5: After a solid nights sleep, I woke up feeling noticeably better. My throat didn’t feel like it was on fire and that my head wasn’t pounding. I looked at my phone and it was 5:30am. My dogs were “asking” to go outside. I should add that since being diagnosed with “the Covid”, my husband was wisely sleeping in the guest room – but was also thoughtfully getting up early to let the dogs out. On this day, I was so grateful to feel better that I didn’t mind “dog duty” and texted him: “dogs are fed.” I cautiously made my way through the day, feeling a bit more energy by the hour but still not fully recovered. And so it continues. As I write this I am still recovering but I do feel the worst is behind me.
Sharing is caring: A few days after I tested positive for Covid, out of boredom and curiosity, I decided to share my experience on Facebook. I found that for every one person who felt like death warmed over, there was another who barely sneezed. For every one who said “thankfully I had the vaccine, so my symptoms were mild,” there was another who said, “I have natural immunity which is so much better.” For every friend who said “hope you get well soon”, there was a “you’ll be fine, my sister/friend/husband/co-worker tested positive and didn’t feel a thing.” It was nice to know I wasn’t alone in this and it sure is interesting to hear other’s experiences.
The takeaway: The reaction to the Covid pandemic is truly a study in human behavior. I’ve often said that in the years to come there will be thousands of articles written, countless documentaries filmed and volumes of research and opinion pieces covering what was done right, wrong or somewhere in the gray area with respect to Covid. I can say from my own experience, both as an observer of the pandemic, and as a healthy middle aged woman who had a “not so mild case” of a milder strain, that Covid seems to be a fickle shape shifter with everyone getting a “custom experience.” And, I am grateful for medicine and science and yet another reminder to never take my health for granted.