No matter where in the world you go these days, you’re likely to hear about Covid-19 and what the locals feel is going on there. Texas is no different — we have a wide variety of views on this, just like most things. I’ve been harsh in my criticism of the government here and at the federal level for what seems to me to be an almost complete abdication of the duty these governments exist to meet, but I’ve worked hard to avoid talking about my personal life or the experience I’ve had over the past few weeks.
Today, I aim to right the record, so to speak. The point is to share a bit of the privilege I find myself surrounded in. What’s it like to be sick and wonder whether it’s Covid-19 or something else? Why was my tone toward the government so angry? What’s about to happen, for me and for the country as a whole?
It’s my hope that, by telling the story of my illness, I can help others understand what to expect and possibly even advance the goals of improving awareness of the dire need the nation’s healthcare professionals find themselves in, while providing a bit of perspective on what it is that makes Covid-19 so deadly.
A Lack of Testing
I began to experience some symptoms about three days after being coughed on by someone who was certain that they did not have Covid-19 for no particular reason except that it seemed ridiculous. The pandemic was global, this person reasoned, and not an Austin-local phenomenon yet. I still took extra precautions to wash my hands and avoid touching my face, but I believe I was exposed anyway.
Lesson #1: if someone coughs around you, you could get sick. Your best bet is to go away from people who are coughing.
I felt I might be alright when a few days went by without any symptoms presenting. I was in contact with medical experts and everyone agreed there wasn’t much I could do, as we didn’t even know whether or not I’d been exposed. I continued attending classes but discontinued Uber and all other social activities, and it’s a good thing I did, as I developed symptoms days later which may mean I would have been spreading the virus had I gone out.
Lesson #2: Social distancing is important. We don’t want to spread this disease, and we don’t always know who has it.
When I finished my last class of the semester on Thursday, I still felt fine, but the very next day I noticed that I felt very sluggish. I slept hours and hours, watched TV, and kept myself inside. This grew into a pattern the next day, and by the time I felt achy and feverish on Sunday, I’d already been locked up at home for 48 hours, hopefully minimizing any spread of the virus on my part.
I had noticed that I’d been less active, and took my usual steps to try to get outside and go for a walk with the dog (who was desperate to escape the confines of the house!), but while I was walking, my mother called and I spoke with her for twenty minutes or so. That part was typical, but what was less typical was the way I became short of breath during the short walk as I climbed hills and so on.
That night, I noticed that my lungs ached. I’ve smoked cigarettes (bad habit, I know, I’ve had success in quitting recently with nicotine pouches) for years, and most of my health focus has been derived from a perceived need to make up for this terrible habit. Additionally, I suffered pneumonia and recurring bronchitis as a child and a teenager. This felt substantially different. It was as if my lungs were on fire, just a bit, around the edges.
I lay down, went to sleep, around 8pm Sunday and was awake by about 2:00 in the morning because it hurt, and because I had a fever. I grew increasingly anxious, and took up the decision set in place by my family the week before: I’d move into the vacant house my parents owned in Lubbock so that they could help provide supplies without me needing to break quarantine.
I went ahead and loaded up the car and drove the 400 miles to Lubbock by around noon on Monday and proceeded to sleep for about 18 hours once I got here. I continued to feel feverish and ill on Tuesday, but didn’t have much of a cough. Wednesday, my lungs began to feel better and my cough disappeared. My fever finally broke (it was never very severe, but even a 101* fever is a substantial enough deviation from the norm that you definitely notice it).
Thursday and the interceding time, I’ve spent wearing mask and gloves any time I’m around anyone, staying six feet apart, and reading up about the possibility of convalescent serum. I am hopeful that I will be able to be tested for antibodies in the coming weeks, and if positive, I fully intend to donate the max so that healthcare workers and other at-risk people can benefit from my experience.
Lesson #3: leave nothing on the table. If you have a similar experience, get tested for antibodies to confirm immunity if you do have it. Then, donate blood to help out those on the front lines when that becomes available in your area.
Fear and Loathing in Isolation
The wildest part of the emotional ride for me was the simple lack of information. I looked around for a place to get tested, but everywhere they had the tests it was CDC guidelines only. Which meant that, since I didn’t have a fever anymore, they wouldn’t be testing me. One of my nieces has walking pneumonia right now but they’re not willing to test her for Covid-19 either.
It’s somehow still quite sketchy with the testing and many of us who, in Germany or South Korea would know for sure if we were capable of transmitting the virus and thus have the ability to plan accordingly, are forced to take precautions which may or may not be unnecessary.
This state of affairs is as temporary as it is unfortunate, however, and I urge everyone who reads this piece to err on the side of caution. Transmitting this disease is morally reprehensible and, if you find out you gave it to someone who later died of it, or even if you could have given it to them, you’ll feel guilty and that will be its own set of issues for you to deal with down the line. It’s far better, even pre-symptom, to simply exercise caution and practice social distancing.
The Little Things
I’ve been focusing on cooking good food, gardening, and writing as I’ve healed up.
Beat the Covid-19 tp shortage.. with a bidet!
I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors — and even gotten a bit of a sunburn! — practicing self-care and mindfulness while exercising and cleaning up around this little rent house.
Raised bed progress :)
I plan to stay in Lubbock to care for my family, god forbid they should fall ill, and even play with my nieces after a few weeks when I’m certain I’m no longer transmitting the virus. None of this is ideal, but all of it is the reality of the situation.
It’s finished… which plants will survive my ineptitude?
The moral duty incumbent upon each of us at this time is to make the most of what we’ve got and remain mindful of the possibly far-reaching consequences of our actions.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
This situation is grim, and it will only get darker before it abates. The hope I feel presently is in antibody testing and administration, in faster and wider testing, and in herd immunity which is no doubt beginning to build already.
Our government has gravely under-reacted to the situation, and it is absolutely critical that we remember their inadequate performance when we head to the polls next November. That said, it’s on us now to perform and to survive and to help one another. Do your homework, exercise caution, and rest easy, knowing that you’ve done all you could have.
I wish the situation were better, but it isn’t, and I have to live with that just as everyone does. The best we can do is set ourselves up to perform better next time there is a situation like this. Good luck to you, thanks for the read, and we’ll do better next time.