“Lori, I’m coughing and cold,” my husband said, followed by our collective groans. We knew exactly what we were facing: Greg had COVID-19. We waited a month before allowing any friends into our home gym, and with the addition of a single visitor, we sunk the ship. His weightlifting partner called the day prior to report he was positive. However, while we knew Greg likely had the virus, we did not know a figurative “C” would be painted on our home.
Within 72 hours, Greg’s positive test was confirmed. I cannot thank Eli Lilly enough for stepping up during those first risky days of the pandemic in April to test essential workers. In the uneasy days that followed, we gingerly bounced between dry coughs and middle-of-the-night fever spikes, while carefully rotating the four humans (two adults, two children) in our house. Our cats obeyed zero of our (useless) strategies. I became irritable, achy, and slightly feverish a week later. I experienced what I call “Covid Light”, and Greg and I both recovered within 10 days. We’re not Olympians; we just got lucky.
The next phase of quarantine could best be described as: Watch the kids. No amount of conversation convinced our extended family that our daughters showed no symptoms, but I received a daily, “Is Greg OK? Please tell me the kids are OK,” to which I replied, “And my fever has remained low today, too, thank you for asking.” I would like to see some stats on Moms with Covid because I’m fairly certain those hospitalized still managed to get dinner on the table. “Just extubate me for 45 minutes; it’s ‘cheesy chicken’ night. It’s already thawed.”
I’d love to claim it was my expert sterile technique, but in the presymptomatic timeframe, we practically lived on top of each other. We cuddled on beds, reading books. We shared enough living room pillows and blankets to infect an army. I have middle school-aged daughters and three cats; someone or something is always touching me. While we were feverish, I did assign bathrooms and “spots on the couch,” but I had no illusions about the effectiveness of these decisions. After all, I could not sequester three cats to differing litter boxes, and quite frankly, they weren’t on my list of concerns. I can confirm no living thing lost their sense of smell. Also, I’m out of tuna.
As a retired Critical Care RN, I decided not to share our story on social media. With our very manageable symptoms, I felt like I was comparing a mild cough to vent patients. I also smelled chum in the U.S. waters. People were on edge, and our country was panicking. Waving the COVID-19 flag felt unwise.
I was correct.
At first, the inquiries felt helpful, offering dinners and grocery runs, but I was not prepared for the relentless questioning that followed. For those not yet on this side of recovery, let me summarize the survivor experience:
- Your friends and family will swear you away from errands, in perpetuity. They will provide the dates when you may enter society based on medically irrelevant symptom tracking. No two dates will match.
- Plan on burning down your house. As a bright spot, you’re off holiday hosting duties. Your Baby Boomer parents will declare your porch “too risky” the day you discover they’ve snuck off to Dale Hollow.
- Your community just became your personal physician. You will be asked about everything from the color of your toes to the frequency of your bowel movements. Most will refer you to the closest ER, no matter what you report.
- LoJack yourself, because you’ll need to report on every place you’ve been since Christmas.
- Your kids are now known as “vectors,” and have the mark of the devil. If they remain symptom-free as ours did, no one will believe you. The populace is looking to reinforce the stories they’re reading online, so an uneventful illness is of no use to them. Start answering in pig-Latin; no one is listening.
- If you healed quickly, you do not meet America’s “every patient” narrative, and therefore not behaving as if you are perpetually contagious. Prepare to be admonished. Hint: The mask doubles as a disguise.
- Those who state they would like to see you again after their vaccination may ask you to travel across state lines to donate plasma. If this is nonsensical, so are the donation criteria between states. Ohio wants my plasma now. Indiana does not.
Three weeks after my last fever, my sister announced I was “Cov-exhausted,” so I made a facial appointment. I received a legal document with the irrelevant questions listed above. There were no affirmations that I had been cleared by the health department, nor was I asked about symptom abatement dates. For an illness that spans two weeks to infinity, I’m not sure how the “diagnosis date” is helpful, so I scratched it out and wrote, “Date I was bitten by the vampire”.
My family does not find me funny, nor do they love my idea of making a “RECOVERED” shirt to wear in public. I am also considering a forehead tattoo that reads, “I did not catch it at the grocery store.” They fear I will be escorted out of town.
Sadly, I think they are right.