COVID and Me

It finally happened.

I am vaccinated (Johnson & Johnson) and boosted. My wife tried to get me boosted again a month ago, but the pharmacy turned me away for my age and health. With my age and physical activity, I have never been concerned about having severe COVID symptoms. Unfortunately, after spending two weeks in Orlando, FL, I assumed it was just a matter of time.

I had gone for a run in some hot temperatures and was sweating like crazy. When I got inside, I felt terrible. I figured I had over-exerted myself during my run and would lay down. But I developed a headache and body soreness that felt different. After getting food and drinking water, I was improving. When I went to bed, though, I had fever dreams. I then noticed chills when I went to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Disney has eliminated all COVID protocols. Masks are not required anywhere in the park. Multiple times we were instructed to “fill in all available space.” My brother and his oldest son tested positive when they returned home from their flight, but they were out earlier and later than others. After our first week of park activity, we all had a negative test and no symptoms. I figured we were in the clear.

We returned to the parks on Tuesday, June 21. Spending an hour inside waiting to ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind for the third time was probably my downfall. I wasn’t wearing a mask. I was wearing it indoors earlier in the trip and on the plane, but after seeing less than 1% of the park wearing them, I figured it was pointless.

Whenever I get sick, the roof of my mouth gets inflamed. I felt this on Thursday. I assumed it was just from getting some pool water in my mouth. Friday, I was feeling fine and went from my morning run. However, it was over 90F degrees out and felt like 103F. I was sweating up a storm and felt exhausted. I figured this was standard Tom doing stupid things like running for too long when it’s hot out. I laid down for the rest of the day and got another three hours of sleep. After eating dinner and drinking water, I felt okay enough.

When I got to bed, I woke up every hour and started to notice chills and a dull headache that wouldn’t go away. I quickly realized that these were abnormal symptoms for me. When I got up in the morning, I felt reasonably good but knew I owed it to everyone else in the house to take a COVID test.

Sticking the swab in my nose made my eyes incredibly red, and I had a bad feeling. But, unfortunately, the T line showed up immediately and never disappeared.

I tested positive for COVID.

My first concern was to make sure my family members were also negative. I was relieved to find out that they were. I knew isolation would be five days. Although I enjoy time to myself, I did not enjoy being a leper. My kids would go on long-planned summer vacations in the upcoming weeks and did not want to be infected. I understood, but I also felt forgotten.

Being unemployed helped relieve stress, but we are a two-parent household, and my wife is used to having my help. She was now responsible solely for taking care of our kids and ensuring I had access to food. She was also nice enough to give me the primary suite in our house so I could be fully isolated. She was not ready to continue testing positive a week after my first test.

I did not understand how hard the virus hit me until I started returning to normal. I would tell myself that the body soreness wasn’t that bad and that I wasn’t breathing that shallow, but it wasn’t great. Having the vaccines and being in good health allowed me to avoid the true horrors of the virus, but it also didn’t pass through as quickly as I assumed I would. It reminded me that my lungs required surgery when I was born. My mom died following a biopsy on her pulmonary fibrosis. I’m nervous about what this virus has done to my body.

Isolation was hard because I felt worthless. I pride myself on helping my family; now, I am just dead weight. I assumed five days would be enough to pass the virus; I would test negative, wear a mask and help the family. Instead, I continued to test positive. The CDC says that you can leave isolation after five days, but it’s also clear that if you test positive on an at-home test, there is a chance that you’re still contagious. With my wife and son heading to Vermont, it wasn’t worth the risk; I remained in my room until they left.

Day 7 yielded another positive test. It wasn’t until Day 8 that I realized how sick I was previously. My head started to clear, and my energy levels rose above “lay in bed.” Unfortunately, I woke up that night coughing and a nose filled with snot, and I felt worse in the morning. I continued to read news articles about people who tested positive even after ten days. I didn’t understand how other people seemed to be going back to normal just a few days after they tested positive.

The elephant in the room, however, is my running streak. I couldn’t keep this streak with a COVID diagnosis, could I? should I?

I had to continue my streak. The first few days, it felt fine. I ran outside with a mask on, not near anyone else. But around days three or four, I struggled to maintain pace. I was trying to keep my heart rate low, but even at a 12-minute pace, I was getting up over 150. When I returned home, I got on the treadmill at 5.5 MPH, and after day five, I felt that the run was making me feel better. It gave me energy and helped me now feel like a complete waste of a human body. I plan to continue running at a low speed for at least another week.

I was stunned to still test positive on Day Ten. My symptoms are gone, but COVID was not the minor event I was expecting.

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