My grandmother was a young woman during a time when people were still dying from the 1918 influenza pandemic and smallpox. In her later years, she wrote a brief statement in a little notebook mentioning that three of her sister’s children had died of smallpox. She gave no further details. I wish she had shared more.
Now that I’m a grandmother, living during the time of a pandemic, I wish to tell the story of my ‘dance with Covid’ so as to inform others and leave a record for curious future generations.
The Covid virus interacts with people differently. For some that get sick, the dance with Covid is a slow waltz. For others, Covid is an exhausting polka that leaves one gasping for air. An unpredictable and swift acting virus, it’s not to be taken lightly. Some people believe their strong immune systems will take care of them or think they will avoid the disease entirely. Others predict, “We are all going to get it.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, my 100 year old Aunt Mary came down with Covid and survived. My cousin Kent and his wife, both in their seventies, got Covid too. They weren’t so lucky.
For me, Covid came on fast and furious. My symptoms, subtle at first, escalated in only a matter of hours. First, I had chills, but no fever. Then I felt the need to clear my burning throat repeatedly. Believing my allergies were acting up, (pollen counts were high), I flushed my sinuses using my neti pot and gargled salt water. The discomfort remained and, in a few hours, a hacking cough, a dull headache and nausea set in. In the middle of the night, my joints began to ache. I broke out in a sweat. I took a rapid test at home the next day and the tell-tale Positive Covid line turned deep pink.
I called the health clinic. I scheduled a PCR test. The nurse said to go to the hospital if my temperature went to 103º F or if my nails turned blue. She said, “Rest. Take an expectorant. Stay hydrated.”
Though I had dreaded coming down with the virus for two years, by the time it finally happened I was too sick to panic. I slept and slept and slept some more. Awake for short periods, I drank and drank and drank some more. I wobbled, weak kneed, for necessary trips to the bathroom before shuffling back to bed. When I was awake, curled up under my covers, I stared out the window and just stared. I stared at tree branches. I stared at leaves. I stared at the sky. Unlike my usual talkative self, I was a zombie, devoid of emotions or opinions. In rare moments of clarity, I managed a silent mantra. “Not my time. Not my time. “
Two days later, I received a call that my PCR test was positive.
My bed became an island strewn with survival kit clutter: pulse oximeter, thermometer, a bottle of Tylenol, my laptop, my phone, a journal, a book, and a box of Kleenex. My husband Bill kept me supplied with both water and juice which he put on the the night stand. He set a waste paper basket right next to the bed so I could discard my soggy, crumpled tissues.
For me, reading the news was disturbing. I looked for something inspirational to read, but was too tired to read more than a few lines. After three days of sleeping off and on, my daytime activities increased to playing ‘Wordle’ and ‘Words with Friends’. I lost a few rounds with my ‘friends’ and blamed it on having poor letters. I continued to sip on water and apple juice, took Tylenol as needed for pain, kept up with an expectorant, and regularly checked my temperature and oxygen level.
For a brief period of time a tiny voice in my brain suggested I document my illness in my journal, but a louder voice said, “You’ve got to be kidding!” My vocabulary was limited to a few words anyway: don’t feel good…so tired…more water please. Eventually, as I got better, I was able to talk on the phone.
I didn’t lose my sense of taste entirely, but it was certainly skewed. Chicken noodle soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, both of which I love, tasted as if someone had spilled an open salt shaker on them. Bill discovered the perfect comfort food for me: thick peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made with soft and squishy white bread. I ate those for three days in a row.
I was discouraged when I didn’t bounce back after five days and temporarily lost interest and enthusiasm for things I normally love. Now, over two weeks later, energy returning, I'm feeling much better and bold with unsolicited advice and reminders.
Not much looks good or hopeful when you are sick so if Covid or any other illness should choose to dance with you, give yourself a break from bad news for a while. Stay connected with friends. Call. Text. Listen to soothing music and watch uplifting movies. Look at something beautiful. Be patient and recognize small signs of progress. Rest.
Don’t keep your illness a secret from those that care about you. It’s tempting to want to protect others from worry, but you shortchange yourself when you do this. We all need advocates, cheerleaders and helpers from time to time.
Bug the nurse. Bug the doctor. Ask questions. Don’t feel apologetic.
If you know someone that is sick, reach out in some way.
On the mend and full of gratitude. I’m grateful for those who offered assistance and for those who sent kind wishes. I’m grateful for those who helped me laugh or let me cry. I’m grateful I found the words to share my story.
I’ll never know for sure how I got Covid. It doesn’t matter. For whatever reason, the mighty virus insisted on dancing with me. Thankfully, fully boosted with vaccines, my oxygen levels never dropped and thanks to the morale boosts from others, my spirits lifted.
I’m grateful for this experience in a round-about way. My priorities are clearer. I don’t take things for granted. I plan to keep on dancing though I hope for a healthier partner next time.