I like to think of myself as high-minded and community-oriented. But let’s be honest, I’m not always.
I balked when the schools were shut, and it wasn’t about what other families were going to do with their kids. When it was first suggested that everyone stay at home, I went to dinner with my friends, and took my kid to a birthday party, made plans for play dates, and bemoaned staying in, even though I’ve been working from home since 2012.
I made snide comments about it being “just another cold,” and jokes about hoping I’d get it early — jokes whose punch lines are long forgotten.
And then my eyes got scratchy, I got really tired, and I had headaches at night. I convinced myself it was allergies.
The day schools closed, I really started to feel like crap. My head hurt, and I was even more tired, but restless. My body started to ache. I had gotten COVID-19 early.
Just like I’d hoped.
On Tuesday, I couldn’t get out of bed. And I coughed — but just once because I had stocked up on Umcka Cold Calm, as I do every winter. And just as the box promised, it soothed my nasal and bronchial irritations and congestion, and even prevented my throat from becoming sore. Or so it seemed.
Still, I was sick. Too tired to do anything, no energy to be around my family. So I took to my bed. I was cold, but flushed. I ached, and still had a headache. My lungs burned with each breath. And when I stood, I was woozy and out of breath—even going down the stairs.
Friends and family texted and asked about testing. They couldn’t believe that I had it. I still didn’t think it was a big deal. Besides, I didn’t know who to call. I don’t have a regular doctor, and calling a hospital seemed like a waste of resources.
We read about quarantining inside the house, but decided against it. It was probably too late anyway—the Best Husband Ever was already showing symptoms, too. We tried to buy wipes in an effort to do…something…I don’t know; but you all had already gotten them all anyway.
The following Monday, I was sure I was on the up-swing. I did some yoga, and took a shower, and prepared to get back to work. And then went back to bed completely spent. I finally got the fabled fever, and every fiber of my body hurt. Couldn’t move, couldn’t sleep, didn’t even want to watch TV. I’d lost my sense of smell, was still woozy and short of breath.
But soon, everything seemed to get better again. I even mustered all my energy one day to take my kid to the pocket park up the street — being sure to stay away from (the very few) other people and not touch the equipment. The parks were closed the next day.
Sorry about that.
After three full miserable weeks, I could shower, eat, work and even exercise. I saw stars and was really nauseous, but the endorphins were amazing. I still got winded going up the stairs, and getting off the couch, and doing anything, but everything I read said that was normal.
I started craving an inhaler, though. Just a little something to help me breath deeper. I was feeling kind of stupid, dull, forgetting things, and unable to hold thoughts. So finally, on Monday of week five, I called a doctor.
She confirmed that I did, in fact, have COVID-19, and she gave me a prescription for an albuterol inhaler. My chest still hurt, like someone was sitting on it, but I could breathe. I cleaned up the yard, and the house. I started cooking again, and Zoomed with my family for hours. It was a wonderful week.
And then I woke up coughing. Yes, it was a Monday. And I was exhausted again. The doctor diagnosed me with walking pneumonia. It was like being kicked when I was down. Once again, I was in bed, unable to think or work or do anything. This time, my ears and throat hurt, too.
I was warned that pneumonia is “tough.” I pray that it isn’t worse than the COVID, that I’ll get better. I’m not sure I will.
My husband’s COVID has relapsed and it’s as bad as mine was. We’re filled with anxiety: Is this what it looked like before people ended up in the hospital? Will we suddenly stop breathing? I don’t know, but I am terrified.
I was sure I would never feel good again. That I would never finish my work-in-progress. That I would end up in the hospital. That I could actually die. And what would my son do? What would my husband do? What if my husband dies?
I’m still afraid it could happen.
Those who are motivated to stay inside in order to protect our elders, the immune compromised, the doctors and nurses risking their own health are noble. We should all strive for such heart-felt community care.
But, for those of us who live in our own heads, who can’t see past our own unruly hair over our eyes, who don’t always trust those in charge, or who still think we’re invincible, let me say: Stay safe at home because this virus sucks.
You don’t have to continue social distancing for the noble cause. Do it because even though you are healthy, you might be the one that ends up in the news—young and healthy and dead. Do it because watching your loved ones get sick and not being able to do anything about it is terrifying.
Do it because there will be a vaccine eventually and this is one virus worth avoiding. Do it because being stuck in bed for six weeks (or more) is worse than just being stuck inside, worse than wearing a mask when you walk your dog. If you don’t stay in for others, do it for yourself.
Stay home because even if you get mild COVID, by the time you get over it, you’ll need another haircut anyway.
Cassi Clark Ward-Hunt is an author who lives in Denver.