My COVID symptoms
COVID-19 is not like a cold.
Sure, many of the symptoms are the same.
The commonly posted, but not exhaustive, low-risk list reads: fever, muscle or body aches, fatigue, sore throat, headache, runny nose, congestion, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.
On the high-risk list are shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and loss of taste or smell.
In the past week, I have experienced more than half of these symptoms – a smattering from both lists – and not all at the same time.
Mine began with a fever and chills, accompanied by a tightness in my back and chest. It was these symptoms that prompted me to drive myself to the Community Health Center parking lot in Fort Dodge, and like hundreds of others before me, receive the sinus-clearing test.
After about 30 minutes, the nurse who approached my vehicle confirmed my worst fear: I had tested positive for COVID-19.
As she perfunctorily handed me my results with a large “x” next to “positive” and my next steps outlined in more X’s, my mind was still back on her words: “You tested positive.”
The next few minutes were a blur of phone calls … first to my husband, then to my kids’ schools, work and other commitments about to be cleared from my calendar.
Even as I made these calls, I still didn’t piece together how that sheet of paper would upend my world.
The first “X” checked on the list turned out to be the hardest directive: “Stay home and self-isolate from other people for 10 days.”
I’m a mom with three kids and a husband who live in a small, one-level home.
For 10 days?
Usually when a mom is sick, she somehow manages to carry on regardless because her family needs her. Who has time to be sick?
This time, though, my family’s health depends on it. So from the second I walked through the door, self-isolation is what I did. It was the only thing I could do.
Making a beeline down the hallway, I quickly holed up in my bedroom, only to leave (with mask on) to use the bathroom.
Many people immediately reached out to me with kind words and well-wishes. But inevitably, the first question asked was: “What are your symptoms?”
I get the question. It is probably what I would ask.
Then those well-meaning souls would know what to watch for if it happened to them.
The first couple days, I answered honestly.
When I lost my sense of taste, my sister joked: “I hear you won’t be able to tell the difference between an onion and an apple when you have no taste. Care to try?”
Thanks, but no.
However, about mid-week through my self-isolation, and after hearing, “What are your symptoms?” for the umpteenth time, something clicked.
I felt angry. It took me another day and a couple sleepless nights to figure out why.
Then it dawned on me … the COVID symptoms that impacted me the most are not listed on some sheet from a doctor’s office, but they are just as real.
First is pain. Yes, physical pain, but also emotional and psychological.
The pain of knowing I exposed my family and coworkers to COVID-19.
The pain of knowing I caused my son to miss half of his junior high football season.
The pain of knowing my kids are now isolated from their friends and classmates and also missing homecoming week at school.
The pain of not being able to hug my three kids, help with homework, prepare their meals, or do any of the bazillion things moms are supposed to do.
Next is fear.
You’ve watched the news, or like me, perhaps tried to avoid it.
Will my symptoms stay mild, or will they take a sudden turn for the worse?
Will this leave my lungs permanently damaged?
Will my family get this dreaded disease too?
And finally, loneliness.
For me, this insatiable feeling hurt the most.
Words can’t describe how it feels to be so near one’s family, to hear them eating meals, laughing, playing and carrying on and yet be unable to join them.
The ache in my heart as I wave at my kids from the doorway of my room at the end of what now seems like a very … long … hall.
Nights are the worst.
To fall asleep alone and in pain, trying to keep my thoughts from dark places, is a very lonely place to be indeed.
It is also when my thoughts turn to others: those with COVID who are in a hospital fighting for their lives yet unable to have visitors, my 86-year-old mother who has been isolated in the nursing home since the first week of March, the health care workers who stay in hotels to protect their families, and so many more.
Their situations are far worse than mine.
With any luck, my days of self-isolation will eventually come to an end.
But for many, this is not the reality: my daughter’s kindergarten teacher, a co-worker’s grandmother, a friend’s Dad. For them, COVID-19 ended their lives prematurely.
This reality leaves me both sobered and grateful, but has also prompted my last COVID symptom: survivor’s guilt.
Why am I OK but they didn’t make it?
This is a question that anyone who contracts this disease (and many who don’t) must come to terms with and is one that won’t be answered this side of heaven.
In the meantime, I sit in my room with a few more days to go, and allow my thoughts to come full circle as I realize I have one more symptom.
Thankfulness for the family and friends who called, texted or sent pictures to cheer me up.
Thankfulness for the neighbor who brought a bag of cookies.
Thankfulness for the card just to let me know someone was praying.
Thankfulness for a husband who takes care of the kids and me without complaint.
Thankfulness for the friend who dropped off a meal that ended up feeding my family for three days.
Thankfulness for my kids, who (mostly) get along and made the transition to online school without a hiccup.
Thankfulness for understanding coworkers.
My list could go on.
Am I thankful for COVID?
Not sure I’m there yet, but one thing is certain, COVID’s many symptoms have taught me some valuable lessons.
And if you are experiencing any of the same symptoms I’ve had, I want you to know:
You’re not alone.
You WILL get through this.
And when you do, take your 90 days of newfound COVID immunity, and go help alleviate someone else’s symptoms.
Editor’s note: Deanna Meyer is a news desk editor for The Messenger and sister to Estherville News managing editor David Swartz.