My wife and I have always taken Covid-19 and its variants seriously. All through last year, we wore masks, practiced social distancing, and observed all the recommended CDC protocols. This year, when vaccines became available, we took the first available appointments to receive two injections. We continued to wear our masks and to avoid indoor gatherings. Even though we felt protected by our vaccinations, we remained vigilant. Covid was still hovering nearby, but it was an abstract phenomenon. We were safe.
Over the last few weeks, we watched as the virus surged anew. We continued to wear our masks and to practice social distancing. We were willing to get booster shots as soon as they became available. In short, we wanted to do everything we could to make sure we were safe and to ensure the safety of others. We were still abstractly safe, or so we thought.
But a week ago, our world changed. We were notified that someone in our “pod” had tested positive for Covid. We were encouraged to get a test. The next day we made arrangements to be tested at a clinic in Easton. We breathed a sigh of relief when the immediate results came back negative, but according to protocols, our samples were sent to LabCorp for more sensitive testing. Two days later, those results came back to us: for me, the results indicated the virus was not detected. For my wife, it was.
She had some symptoms: a headache, watery eyes, a dry cough, nasal stuffiness, and a prickly throat, all of which she attributed to seasonal allergies. I felt fine. But that soon began to change. The following day, I too began to experience the same symptoms. Within twenty-four hours, my wife rallied while I went downhill fast. I took to my bed with a racking cough, fever and chills, aches and pains. We knew I needed to be retested. Within another twenty-four hours, the report came back, but I already knew the results. Positive. I had Covid. What was once an abstraction had quickly become painfully real.
The next three days were awful. I was useless. We quarantined at home. My wife took my temperature, administered Advil and Tylenol according to her chart, and made sure I stayed well hydrated. I slept for hours on end, waking only to read for a few minutes before going back to sleep. I lost my senses of smell and taste. It was a dismal time for both of us: she worried about me while I remained mired in an illness that seemingly had struck out of nowhere. Neither she nor I understood how this had happened. We had been so careful.
We took some small comfort in the knowledge that our vaccinations were preventing us from experiencing Covid’s most virulent rage. I felt like a had a mild case of the flu, but I never came close to feeling I needed to be hospitalized. I would ride this out on a wave of good home care, plenty of fluids, and hours of rest.
On the morning of the third day after the onset of my symptoms, I awoke feeling I had rounded the curve. I had a modicum of energy. Even though I still had no sense of smell or taste, I was hungry. I could begin to resume my fair of the household chores—at least those my wife was willing to give me. When I was able to unload the dishwasher, I felt I had conquered Mount Everest.
Each day since has shown marked improvement. I’m almost back to my former self. If the science of disease is true, maybe now my wife and I are triple protected from a future case of Covid because of the antibodies produced by our immune systems. But that’s a footnote to this story. What remains most true is that we will remain vigilant because Covid is no longer an abstraction; it is a real and powerful enemy and we all must do our part to finally slay the beast.
One final thought: Broadway plays, large sporting events, crowded museums; everything is reopening to great fanfare. But are we really ready for large crowds in close quarters? Like everyone else, I’m all for a return to our pre-pandemic “normal,” but my recent experience is a cautionary tale. We’re into our fourth Covid surge. Last week, 10,000 more people died from Covid, the highest toll in the last 6 months. I believe we need to pump the brakes on America’s great reopening; there will be time enough to enjoy life when it’s truly safe to be together.
Praise to all the caregivers who helped my wife and me. Thanks to all of you who wished us well. Special thanks and much love to my wonderful private-duty nurse. I’m eternally grateful you were there for me when I needed you most. I’m positive about that!
I’m very happy to report that I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com