I’ve been told that, were I to share my story, people might listen. But why me?
Sunday, March 23rd, I had a meh kind of morning. I was sweating a lot, and I felt a little dizzy. By 11 am, I had a fever of 102.1°F and could barely breathe.
I joke that one of my special skills is worrying. My imagination is phenomenal and I often feel like I can navigate a situation most easily if I consider all possibilities. Unfortunately, this leads to me trying to not only predict, but also control, and there are certain things that I can’t control.
The night before, I had sent an email to my friend explaining why I absolutely was not infected and how I worry too much. Still, I hadn’t had a temperature above 99°F in about 10 years.
5 hours later, I spoke to a doctor via virtual urgent care who said that I had bronchitis. While on hold waiting for this appointment, I learned that someone in my household had second-hand contact with a person who had a confirmed case. My muscles were so weak, I was shaking, and I slept about 12 hours.
My doctor prescribed steroids, both oral and inhaled, and told me that it didn’t matter whether I actually had COVID-19 because there is no agreed-upon treatment. Besides, the state was only testing people unable to breathe on their own. If that happened, she told me, call 911.
I had moments when I wondered what exactly that would feel like. At one point, I was standing at a drawer looking for something. The combination of standing and moving items in this drawer seemed to my lungs to be aerobic weight training. Was that it?
The following week was a blur of chills, my body responding to walking to the bathroom as if it were an ultra marathon, and nausea on par with food poisoning. I desperately wished that I could throw up because then maybe I would feel a little better and sleep. I had to end a teletherapy appointment early because conversational speech felt like screaming at the top of my lungs. My breathing sounded like someone blowing bubbles into milk with a straw. Regular exhales, while sitting on the couch, were full of audible pops.
I put together an end-of-life plan and wrote notes to my loved ones. I got very cranky with anyone other than essential workers gathering for any reason. My lungs were strong enough that I was able to yell at my dad when I learned that he was still going to work on Sunday, the 29th.
Monday, the 30th, I had finished my course of methylprednisolone and was afraid that my symptoms would get worse. I asked my doctor if I could get a test.
It was scheduled for Wednesday, April 1st. According to the writing on my windshield, I tested 247.
The testing site was outright apocalyptic, at the abandoned state fairground in Detroit. Hundreds of cars surrounded by signs telling us to KEEP OUR WINDOWS CLOSED and STAY IN OUR VEHICLES. The dreary weather didn’t help.
I was told I would have test results within the next 7 days. And I waited, occasionally feeling like maybe I was doing a little better. Then, as many of us do, I would overexert myself because I felt better and regress a little. One day I realized that I was outside, walking with my kid, and I was okay. Not great, but okay.
I still didn’t have test results, but I decided that I was in the process of recovering from the coronavirus, and I had hope.
As I was getting grumpy with some friends who were planning to meet socially, one of them told me that I should write a PSA because people would listen to me, a young and healthy person. There are plenty of people younger and healthier than I am experiencing far worse symptoms.
I’m not in the high-risk group, in terms of age; I’m 37. I wouldn’t really describe myself as young. I’m not all that healthy, either. I have autoimmune issues, including asthma. I was very afraid that my last moments would be with a tube down my throat, and I was far more afraid of the decline than death itself. I had heard stories about people who were brought to the hospital irritated that they couldn’t charge their phones only to be intubated within a matter of hours.
As a person with asthma, I was afraid of having permanently scarred lungs.
But my test was negative. The man who called me from the Detroit Department of Health told me, “Although your test result was negative, that doesn’t mean that you didn’t have it.” He went on to explain that I should continue to behave as if I were infected but that it may be possible for me to become infected in the future. He said that as many as 1 in 3 negatives were false negatives.
Testing has improved dramatically since then, by the way. I think I had it. I think I recovered.
But I’m not the one to tell you that you don’t want this. There are teenagers on ventilators. 20 somethings with no previous medical histories have died. Go read some blogs from the families of people whose cases progressed too quickly for them to write their own experiences.
And stay home.