Santa skipped coal this year and went directly to an infectious disease. 

Three days before Christmas I woke up with a scratchy throat, slight headache and a few body aches. I figured any number of things could have caused each. Maybe too much yelling at my favorite soccer club, too much holiday cheer the night before or even just getting old.

I have been both vaxxed and boosted. I wear my mask when I go out in public, even at the gym. I work from home and in any given week I generally see only a handful of people in person. My risk for getting ill had been mitigated.

Mario Nicolais

And yet, here we are. I got COVID for Christmas.

I will miss Christmas Eve Mass, Christmas morning with my family, celebrating my birthday on the 26th with loved ones, a trip to my favorite place in Colorado and New Year’s Eve revelry. All because a few spikey virus cells found their way past my carefully crafted defenses.

While I could wallow in self-pity, I am choosing to see the gifts getting sick emphasized for me. They are numerous and more valuable than anything wrapped up under our Christmas tree.

First, I have access to good medical coverage. That came in handy when I needed to be tested in the busiest time of year. I visited my former colleagues at COVIDCheck Colorado for a test, but the results were not likely to come in until after Christmas. I had no more luck finding an appointment at urgent care facilities offering rapid tests — each were booked through next week.

When I turned to at-home testing, I found out that Walgreens, Walmart and King Soopers have all sold out. One pharmacy tech told me I was the 100th person to call and ask that day. Apparently those tests must be the Furby of this giving season.

But when I called my own doctor, they scoured their system for an appointment. They found one and sent me right over. Usually the rapid tests take 15 minutes to read. My nurse walked back in after two minutes and told me mine had lit up like Clark Griswold’s Christmas display.

Hopefully that will be the extent of my interaction with medical staff. If my symptoms reverse course and became worse, though, I know I will receive excellent care.

Second, because I am fully vaccinated, my symptoms have not been severe. Two days in and most seem to have abated. As I wrote six months ago, vaccines “work” when they protect recipients from life-altering and life-threatening illness. Reducing the likelihood of contracting a virus is truly a secondary benefit. My situation is a perfect case in point.

Finally, I have a loving and supportive family. My lovely wife has been delivering hot tea, soup and compassion to the doorway of our study where I am cooped up. She has promised that Santa will do the same, though I question how given that the fireplace is in the study with me. He must wear a very good mask.

On Christmas morning I will sit comfortably by a fire and Facetime with my family sitting in the living room. I will not miss a moment of surprise, joy or laughter.

When they make our annual trek to Mount Princeton Hot Springs without me the following day, I will know that they are a safe distance away from me and the viral load sloughing off me. They will be safe and healthy and enjoying themselves (though maybe a little less!). I could not wish for anything more.

A day after the New Year is wrung in, I will be free to join the world again. When I do, it will be with all the wonderful gifts bestowed on me.

Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq

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