Some experiences in life are worth having. Or at least, they’re worth wishing for. I’m here to tell you that COVID-19 is NOT one such experience.
We’d originally planned to spend the November holidays in Philadelphia with my in-laws. Once coronavirus cases started spiking nationwide, we thought better of that idea and decided to hunker down at home instead. Just me, my spouse, the pets….and the virus. Yep, we spent our holidays playing host to the worst house guest one could ask for. We’re not sure where we picked it up but assume Pete acquired it somewhere “out in the community.” (I work from home and hardly leave these days whereas he works in construction and stops regularly at Wa-Wa or Royal Farms.)
Thankfully, neither of us were at death’s door, though Pete was on the porch for sure. He suffered nine days of fever and fourteen days of coughing fits stirred up by any amount of physical activity. On day fifteen, I took him to the ER because severe muscle aches, breathing issues, and the resulting anxiety had kept him from sleeping for two nights straight. There they gave him supplemental oxygen, remdesivir, and a host of other medications and supplements that helped get him over the hump of the illness. He was able to come home within two days. He’s still dealing with general fatigue and weakness and runs short of breath easily, but he’s out of the woods as far as serious complications go.
My symptoms were somewhat milder, though still not pleasant by any means. I had two days of mild fever followed by three nights of whole-body muscle cramps that drove me to tears each evening. Even today—three weeks past the onset of my symptoms and one week out of quarantine—too much up-and-down the stairs in our home leaves me winded.
The most peculiar thing to me is the near total loss of smell. I’ve always had a keen sense of smell, but now, it’s as if the world has been swept clean of all aromas. That has it’s good and bad points. On the plus side, I’m no longer assaulted by our dog’s horrid breath or the cat litter box (which means I keep forgetting to clean it…oops.) But that also means I can’t enjoy the smell of fresh brewed coffee or baking bread. I was, however, able to pick up pungent hints of the garlic bulb we roasted two days ago, but only because it overwhelmed the entire house. Or so my spouse said.
One of the most aggravating aspects of dealing with COVID—at least for this organized Virgo—has been the minor chaos it has instilled in our lives. Pete was completely bedridden for two weeks, which meant it was on me to keep the household running. Yet, I had energy and strength to only tackle the bare minimum: feeding pets, walking the dog three times a day, cooking meals and cleaning up afterward, and picking up meds at the pharmacy drive-thru, all while continuing to work my 9-to-5 job.
We’d also started a minor master bathroom remodel the last week of October, a project that has been dragging but one we’d planned to finish Thanksgiving weekend. Obviously, that didn’t happen. We still don’t have a working sink in there. I also have an unfinished dollhouse that’s been sitting on my dining room table for months now. I’d hoped to complete it over the November holiday break, but alas, I did not. It taunts me every time I walk by it.
All of this chaos has subsequently cascaded into my writing and editing projects. I find it difficult to settle into a good writing routine when my entire household has been upended. I’d planned to make November the month I finished edits to my middle grade book, but I managed to open the manuscript just once before illness hit, and since then, not at all. My young adult sci fi project still exists only in outline, and the epic fantasy series I wanted to revisit languishes on my hard drive.
I wrote about the 100% abstract effects the coronavirus pandemic had on my writing goals last month—one day before my husband started complaining of a fever and cough. My symptoms hit that following Tuesday. Ah, to go back to the day I’d written that post. How innocent and simple I’d been—what did I have to complain about, really? Not wanting to edit or write because I’d rather putz around playing Free Cell is one thing; not being able to edit or write because I fall into bed every night physically weak and mentally exhausted is another.
Still, we’ve been fortunate in our experiences with COVID-19. Two days in a hospital and a handful of unfinished projects is nothing compared to what others have suffered. The U.S. is poised to reach 300,000 deaths this week (or even by the end of the day…), and I can’t imagine the pain and anguish they and their families are going/have gone through.
That’s the real reason I’m writing this. If you’ve been thinking (as some in my extended family have) that it’s “just the flu” or something that’s been hyped up for political reasons, I can assure you it is not. Perhaps the majority of people who catch COVID are asymptomatic and experience no ill effects, but they can easily spread it to others who are not so lucky. Pete and I are both healthy and not in a high-risk group, yet it still cost Pete three full weeks of work and a visit to the ER. We’ve never had “just the flu” do that.
We’re also fortunate to have good health insurance through our jobs and the ability to weather a few weeks of unexpected and unpaid time off. I think often of the toll COVID-19 must have on those who work hourly wage jobs or in industries that have been shut down and who are likelier to have little to no insurance and little to no savings. The impacts must be devastating.
So this is a reminder and/or a plea: take the coronavirus seriously. Approach it as if it will cause you to miss three or more weeks of work and send you to the hospital, because it very likely could. Reduce your trips out. Wear your masks. Wash your hands. Be mindful as we wait for the vaccines to roll out to the general populace. I promise you that this global pandemic is a first-hand life experience you want to avoid if you can.