I made it into 2022 without contracting COVID. I got my booster shot the first week of January. The second week, I woke up with a sore throat. By the end of that week, I had tested positive for COVID-19. So, my new year has been going super well.
Every Sunday I have dinner with my parents. It was the afternoon of one of those Sundays and I was enjoying a coffee with my parents while waiting for my sister to arrive. An hour after she did, she said, “My throat kind of hurts…” Then begins her panic. And mine. And my parents’.
“Why did you come visit us when you had a sore throat?” my mom exclaimed.
“I thought it would go away!” my sister defended.
I left after dinner feeling worried yet hopeful it was just a common cold. Over the next few days my sister developed more symptoms, albeit mild ones. On Wednesday, one week after receiving my third vaccine, I woke up with a sore throat and a racing heart.
That same day, my sister got her hands on a Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). On FaceTime I could see the two red lines appear almost immediately. I knew I would test positive too. I silently thanked God I was worried enough not to see anyone since Sunday, including my boyfriend whose parents are high-risk.
I was surprisingly calm after my sister tested positive. I called my parents, then my boyfriend, and texted my roommate. I shut myself in my room and waited the three to five days before taking a RAT myself.
My first test actually came back negative. Right away I assumed it was either a false negative or I hadn’t waited long enough before testing. I was proven right when my test came back positive on Friday.
I share a small apartment with a roommate and I knew I wouldn’t be able to properly isolate myself at home. So after talking with my mom and weighing all my options, we decided I should lock myself up in my old bedroom at my parents’. They agreed to leave food at my closed door and talk to me through the walls.
My parents, having had their booster shot two weeks before my sister’s infectious visit, had no symptoms and had tested negative. Thank you, science.
By then I had a sore throat, runny nose, and a dry cough. Nothing I couldn’t handle yet.
I hung up with my sister, telling her I was going to ask my parents for a box of tissues. 30 seconds later I stood in my doorway with a mask on, calling down to my parents.
“Can one of you bring me a… uh…” What’s the word? “… paper… uh, you know, nose paper?” I was met with confused silence.
“Do you mean Kleenex?”
It was a funny encounter; however, the brain fog did not go away. I had books to read but couldn’t focus enough to comprehend them. I had work to do but constantly lost my train of thought. Conversations were hard to keep. (Even now as I write this my vocabulary feels diminished.)
Saturday was also when I developed “COVID tongue.” My mouth felt like I had eaten a bag of salt and vinegar chips in one sitting and uncarefully drank a cup of scorching hot tea. Red dots covered the tip of my tongue and uncomfortable bumps appeared towards the back. My gums and the roof of my mouth were red and swollen. I bled when I brushed my teeth. A lot.
My nose was still runny; I was blowing it every five minutes so that my nose became red and raw. I was coughing and wheezing; my inhalers barely helped. When I stood up or moved too quickly, my head would spin and I felt nauseous and light-headed.
I spent a lot of time in bed with Netflix and Tik Tok.
On top of the COVID symptoms, I felt guilty for asking my parents to bring me food every few hours. They jokingly called me “princess” and themselves “servants” or “room service.” I laughed, but inside I was crying. I didn’t want to be an inconvenience or a burden. But I didn’t want to get them sick and I also didn’t want to starve, so I kept asking.
After a week of coughing, sleeping, crying, blowing my nose, and video calls, my mouth finally felt better and my coughing decreased. My nose stopped dripping but became very stuffy. Some of the fog in my brain started to lift. My voice didn’t sound as rough.
I was still isolating and being brought food – “Dinner for inmate 3625,” my dad joked – but I could start to see the light (dim glimmer?) at the end of the tunnel and we decided I could finally leave my room with a mask on the next day.
I kept thinking about all the what ifs. What if I was immunocompromised? What if I had more severe asthma? What if I hadn’t been vaccinated? What turned out to be a bad cold with unusual symptoms could have been so much worse. I could have been in the hospital, taking a bed away from someone who needed it more.
I continued wearing a mask around my parents for the next five days. I ate in a separate room. I avoided hugging my family. It was almost more lonely than staying in my room for a week. I could see them but I couldn’t touch them. I could talk to them but they couldn’t see me smile.