Starting from the Bottom - Part II
My Pandemic Story Continues
Has running been a sanity-saver for you in these unprecedented times? If it has, count yourself lucky. I have been watching from the sidelines for months now. Many of the weeks passed by in quarantine I have wondered if things would have been easier if I could have been running this whole time. If you’ve read part one of this story, you know I was already dealing with an injury as the world entered into lockdown. Soon, though, I would be grappling with something even more insidious - suspected COVID-19.
Will we ever be sure where we caught it? Probably not, though I have my suspicions. Let me give you the pandemic play-by-play.
Saturday, March 14 - Alex and I attended the last pre-COVID event of our lives - my friend’s wedding in Orange County. Things were relatively normal, but we were hyper-sensitive to hugging anyone. At this point, masks were not recommended for daily wear because supposedly you would touch your face too much adjusting your mask. Remember those days? I also had to wear flats to the wedding and was likely continuing to damage my foot, dancing away the night, celebrating love as best we could.
Tuesday, March 17 - We went to the grocery store early in the morning; 7am. There was already a line forming as they opened the door. We wanted to see if we could get some frozen/non-perishable food because it was becoming clear that panic buying had set in. Nobody was sure how long we might be in our homes if the government issued a stay at home order. We didn’t hoard or buy crazy amounts; just enough to get us through a couple of weeks if necessary. I’ll never forget how apocalyptic it was and how surprised I was that the Oreos were still fully stocked.
We suspect that grocery store was our ground zero, due to the timing and sheer number of people there in the long checkout lines.
Thursday, March 19 - Governor Gavin Newson declares a statewide shelter in place order. Buckle up; I hope you like your living room, Californians.
Sunday, March 22 - I had been in a zoom board meeting for a volunteer organization all day; I could feel the glands at the back of my throat swelling and that “I’m getting sick” feeling creeping in. Sometimes I can fight it off, but I was already at a deficit due to the lack of running from my injured foot situation.
Tuesday, March 24 - I had a video chat with some friends after work. That evening, the chest tightness started. I’ve never felt anything like it before; like little gremlins had crawled into my lungs and were tugging on hundreds of strings attached to my sternum. The tightness radiated from the center of me. It made me tired. It makes me tired now just thinking about it. I would wear this weariness in my chest and shoulders for weeks.
I will admit; I have talked to people who said “maybe I had COVID-19” and I rolled my eyes in disbelief. I know that the odds are I had something other than COVID-19. But I also know I’ve never felt like that before and I hope to never feel that way again. To put my own experience in proper context: I did not get tested (my fever wasn’t high enough, though I wish I had said otherwise and just gone to get the test). Also, I never went to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms. I was able to fully recuperate at home.
It was still about 2-3 weeks of feeling really crummy and scared. The chest tightness was the worst in the first week; it’s very unsettling to actually feel the virus invading your lungs like that and there is nothing you can do. Tylenol was my best friend; it helped with the fever when it started to sneak up and helped minimize pain.
The strangest part was how the symptoms came in waves, just like you read about. There were a couple of days in the first week that I had to sit out of work and just lay in bed; I was so exhausted and overcome with brain fog. Then, over the course of 7 days I got progressively better. At day 7 I took a turn and, BAM, another day of total exhaustion and fog - I had to stay in bed again.
I eventually had your typical dry cough and slight fever, but also experienced crackling, painful ears, and a sore throat. I never really felt like I had trouble breathing just walking around the apartment - but when I tried to exercise in the 3rd week after getting sick, oof! I’ve never felt so winded just doing 10 crunches.
I had made it out of the woods it seemed, but what I didn’t know yet was that the illness would have surprising and long-lasting effects that I am still battling to this day.