The four of us hadn’t traveled in the time leading up to the arrival of the coronavirus, and so I had no reason to think that our family would be the first family we knew to get COVID-19.
But the illness got personal in a hurry.
When we first heard about the coronavirus I was concerned for humanity. But when we were told that our kids would be learning from home for the rest of the semester, I was really looking forward to that. I was happy about the opportunity to spend more time with my family and finally have time to work on some home improvement projects and hobbies.
Rather confident that our family would dodge COVID-19, I decided to donate blood because I knew that would be helpful in case of a pandemic. I have to admit that I also like to donate blood because you’re supposed to replenish your body with food afterwards, and it gives me a chance to fall off the diet and eat chocolate pie, guilt-free.
Several days later, however, I was unbelievably lethargic — so tired that it took me numerous shots of espresso and several liters of Diet Dr Pepper to make it through a work day. I’ve donated blood many times without side-effects. Still, I figured it was likely that my exhaustion could be explained by the blood donation.
Pretty soon, our entire family was sleeping a lot. No other problems though, so we didn’t think it was the coronavirus. By this time, we were following the stay-at-home order and my kids were learning remotely. I ordered some fabric online and was looking forward to making a quilt.
But by the time it arrived, I was too tired to sit in front of a sewing machine.
My husband’s office was closed due to the stay-at-home order, but his boss texted him and told him that a man who works in his building had tested positive for COVID-19. My husband works on a different floor of the building but everyone enters through the same front doors and uses the same elevator — so transmission remained a possibility.
Then, my daughter said that she couldn’t smell anything — another telltale sign. At this point, we had no other symptoms except for exhaustion so we didn’t know anything conclusive. This was about the time that drive-up testing was just starting, so we decided to keep that in mind.
We had already canceled our son’s 10th birthday party, but on the day when it would have taken place, our family was feeling somewhat better and we had a great time playing games and being active in our house. Thirty minutes later, out of nowhere, my left lung became very painful when I breathed.
I knew it was pleurisy. I’ve had it in the past, but it had never come on this quickly before.
We took our temperatures – and the highest anyone had was mine at 99.5 degrees. So we told ourselves it was probably not the coronavirus.
And then I couldn’t smell or taste anything. My son and I got a very frequent and dry cough. My daughter got a very sore throat. My husband was still able to go running, but he could only run one mile instead of his usual five, and was now feeling winded when he did.
Each member of our family displayed somewhat different symptoms.
The sudden pleurisy was the first thing that really concerned me. This type of thing always happens at the beginning of a weekend, of course, so I didn’t want to pay the inflated rate for urgent care and decided to wait until Monday to call my doctor.
During this time, I really came to appreciate social media. I mentioned my symptoms on Facebook and several friends stressed the need for sleep. I had always known that REM sleep was important, but I learned online that light sleep helps your body fight infections and so I forced myself to take this seriously.
I slept whenever I could.
Suddenly, the symptoms seemed to be everywhere. Even our dog looked lethargic. But one night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, my resting heart rate measured 130 bpm.
That was the second thing that really concerned me.
When I finally got a chance to call my doctor, he said all the symptoms did sound like the coronavirus — but at that point, Colorado didn’t have many test kits. Based on our discussion, our family did not get tested. We slept and took appropriate cold medicine.
And slept some more.
Friends dropped off fresh-squeezed orange juice or homemade muffins on our doorstep, but we didn’t dare open the door to thank them. I just texted them as they walked back to their cars.
While I read online about how active people have been during this time, talking walks and bike rides, I was just sleeping and looking forward to having enough energy to do things like wash my hair or place an online order for grocery delivery. I slept 16 hours out of every 24.
Even in my dreams, I would bemoan how tired I was.
Finally, little by little, after weeks, some of our energy has returned. Finally, we are not sleeping more than we are awake.
I’m relieved — and grateful — that’s behind us.
Christina Guin Spencer is an engineer who lives in Parker.