My experience with the coronavirus
photo by Lauren Eshelby
After testing positive for COVID-19 on November 4, my next two weeks consisted of throwing on a mask whenever someone brought me food or I had to use the bathroom, switching betweens different shows and movies, taking Tylenol to kill my fever at first then to help with my aches, and monitoring my blood oxygen levels with my pulse oximeter.
Positive. The one word I feared ever having to hear for months. In the entire span of the COVID-19 pandemic, I had gone just about 9 months without having any close contact with the virus. In fact, the week before I heard those words I was driving with my sister and distinctly remember telling her I wouldn’t know what to do if I had to stay isolated in my house for 14 days. Well just my luck that a week later I would be driving by myself to go get tested for the virus.
It all started with an overwhelming amount of tiredness. I came home after sleeping over at a friend’s house on November 2nd. I just passed it off on the fact that I had gotten roughly 3 solid hours of sleep and pushed through it with caffeine. Well, one Redbull and one trip to Dunkin Donuts later I decided to take a nap. I slept on and off for about 4 hours before my mom forced me out of bed, claiming I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep later if I kept napping. As I tried to get out of bed it hit me like a door was slammed in my face. Despite being a regular napper, I had never woken up feeling that groggy. The rest of the evening I kept telling myself I’d only begin to suspect that I had COVID if I woke up the next morning feeling even worse, I really did not want to believe that I had caught it.
The morning of November 4th I woke up with chills and body aches. I knew I was sick, and I knew based on my symptoms it was most definitely COVID. As if my body thought I needed any more signs or confirmation that I had contracted the virus, sitting up to get out of bed left me winded. I shamefully presented myself in my mother’s room, telling her that I had a fever and that I believed I had the virus. I was immediately sent to my bedroom until it was time to drive myself to my COVID test. At that point my parents were still pretty faithful it was just a different bug, but I knew that unfortunately wasn’t the case. I got a rapid test, a regular test, and tested for strep. Swab after swab after swab. Now I was just left to drive home and wait for a call.
As I got home and went to walk back into my house, my parents were waiting for me at the door. They had intercepted the call before me, and my rapid test had come back positive. Up to my bedroom, I went. That was the start of what would be my 12 day isolation. I finished up classes for the day and then started making all the phone calls to those I had seen over the past week or so, warning everyone that I tested positive and trying to figure out how I had caught it.
photo by Lauren Eshelby
For 12 days the most change of scenery I had was when I looked out my window. I looked outside and saw all the kids I nanny playing outside in their yard when it was 70 degrees in November, I looked outside when it was freezing rain a couple days later, I saw my neighbors come and go. My window was the closest I got to the real word during my isolation period.
The first three days looked pretty similar. I’d sleep in late, received a food delivery from my parents, cough, watch tv, go back to sleep, and the pattern repeated itself. As someone who typically has lots of natural energy and can run on very little sleep, the 12+ hours a day I was now getting still left me tired. I’d have to lay down after using the bathroom, changing my clothes, basically getting out of bed and doing any small amount of moving. My main symptoms at that point were just extreme fatigue, body aches, and a cough/sore throat. By then 3 other friends who I had seen over the weekend had tested positive as well, so it was almost reassuring to know I had other people going through it with me.
Starting day four my cough had mostly cleared up and my voice was back. I continued to experience strong fatigue and had no energy. At this point I spent my days facetiming my other sick friends, napping, watching tv, and painting my nails. It was day 4 that I realized while painting my nails I hadn’t smelled any strong nail polish fumes, as one typically does. From that realization, I went around my room attempting to smell everything. I smelled my candles: nothing. I smelled my food: nothing. I smelled my nail polish remover: again, nothing. So the moment I was happy I had lost my cough, another huge COVID symptom hit me right in the face.
On day five I lost my sense of taste. Losing your ability to taste is one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. The texture of your food is there, it’s very clearly your food or drink, but it has absolutely no taste. This was most definitely one of my worst symptoms, especially since you have no idea how fast you’ll get it back. In some cases, thankfully like mine, it came back within the week; but, there are other cases where it takes months for it to return. While I did use the time to try different things I wouldn’t normally eat, such as Taco Bell hot sauce packets by themselves or straight up black coffee, it was not a fun thing to lose. I’d be hungry but quickly lose my appetite once I started eating, everything was just bland and yuck.
For the next few days, day six through day nine, I seemed to be heading in a positive direction for the most part. I was no longer congested, started consistently being fever free, and my taste was starting to return. I’d say I had more energy but there were still times I’d take a shower and have to lay down after, or start cleaning my room and be out of breath. While waking up and attending all of my classes, I’d find myself exhausted by the end of the school day and taking 3-4 hour naps. So while it was nearing the end of my isolation and quarantine, I still didn’t feel normal.
photo by Lauren Eshelby
As the days went by and I still was experiencing shortness of breath, my parents brought up a pulse oximeter so I could regularly check. I’d check it when laying down and after moving around, just to make sure it was in a normal and healthy range. On November 16, the day my extended isolation ended, these were the numbers on my pulse oximeter. They were healthy and allowed confirmation that I was getting better and could start returning to regular life.
10 days after showing symptoms is when you’re allowed to get out of isolation. While you still have to quarantine for 14 days, you’re allowed to join back with the rest of the members in your household. I stayed in isolation for an additional 2 days so my blood oxygen levels could continue to get monitored as I was still experiencing quite a lot of shortness of breath the days before. Leaving my bedroom for the first time on day 12 was the weirdest feeling. My legs shook when I walked down the stairs, talking to my family members face to face felt surreal, even just walking outside and feeling fresh air for the first time in weeks felt crazy.
I got to leave quarantine and rejoin the real world 2 days after leaving isolation. I tried to take everything slow, my body had just spent the past two weeks fighting off one of the most difficult viruses it has encountered. My first event post quarantine was heading to the Starbucks drive thru and getting gas for my car. Hopping in my car and starting to drive again was a heavy adjustment, it felt as if I hadn’t driven in months. While I was feeling much better, I was and still am what feels like quite a long ways till I’m back to normal. There’s a lot of the commonly listed long term effects of covid that I’m still experiencing - loss of smell, my energy still isn’t back to before corona levels, I still get out of breath easily causing strong heart racing, and just disorientation or “brain fog” when trying to discover my new normal. Unfortunately, since the long term effects of COVID are still so unknown and uncertain, I really don’t know how long I’ll be experiencing these things or the permanent toll it’ll have on my body. And while I wouldn’t call my COVID case awful, that was the most difficult virus I’ve had and it’s difficult as it continues to take a toll on my daily life. As I continue to get better and try to get back to my pre-COVID normal, all I can do is stress the importance and realness of the virus to those around me.