It all started on a Saturday with some unusual fatigue and a bit of a stuffy nose. A mild sore throat was present on Sunday, but overall, I felt fine. Was it allergies or a summer cold, perhaps? As I had not knowingly been exposed to COVID, I had little reason to believe it was anything out of the ordinary.
At the time, news of the Delta Variant was making headlines, so I quarantined and decided to get tested. On Monday, I sought out a testing location. Little did I know, by the time my appointment rolled around the next afternoon, I would hardly be in a condition to drive the necessary 15 miles to the pharmacy.
Yet, I didn’t want to risk exposing anyone else near me. Further, my misguided belief that I had my annual summer cold had faded. What I was experiencing was different. Very different. Although early on, I could not have told you why.
Around 24 hours after my test, I was notified that I was positive for COVID. By then, I had no doubt.
In what seemed like no time, I was deep in the depths of the viral attack on my body. And it was not pretty. I had not heard very much about the excruciating pain – which I felt through body and bone. Nor was I prepared for the pain in my lungs. My chest felt like it was on fire and heavy with a weight I could not explain. Over-the-counter pain relievers scarcely dulled the edges of the pain or the fever. I am here to tell you - COVID is no joke. I could go on and on, but my COVID experience is not the sole point of my story.
The main point is quarantining. If you have an inkling that you may have a cold, it is critical to quarantine and get tested, even if the symptoms are very mild. The virus is most contagious in the first few days of symptoms, which often feel like allergies, a sinus upset or infection, or a mild cold. Or, you may simply feel bad in a non-specific way or feel unusually tired. Do not let the fact that you were not around someone with COVID fool you.
After 10+ days of quarantine, I returned to the office where I was doing consulting work. I learned that someone in the office did, in fact, have COVID. This person (we will call her Ann) had very minor symptoms - virtually none and continued to work because she was fearful that she would lose her wages for the time off of work. Ann did not disclose that she had COVID until the employer required a test and learned the employee knew she had COVID.
Around the time I fell ill, another person in the office started experiencing a loss of taste and smell (we will call her Bee). We learned we had had both been exposed a few days before the onset of our symptoms.
This story may not sound too terrible, and you are probably wondering what exactly is the point. While all three of us experienced COVID very differently, we did survive. Sadly, someone else did not. Unbeknownst to Bee, she carried the virus to her mother’s home and inadvertently exposed her. Bee’s mother, barely 60, lost her life to the virus.
There is no way to go back in time and tell Ann to quarantine or that she should have called and talked to her employer, who would have most certainly paid her during that time. There is no way to go back and un-contract COVID. With compromised immunity, I consider myself beyond blessed to be standing on this side of it, despite dealing with long COVID after effects. But even more importantly is the fact that there is no way to bring back Bee’s mother to her and her family.
It is simple. Quarantine at the first onset of a cold and get tested immediately. Nothing - not masks, not social distancing, not sanitizing - not even the vaccine, is more effective at protecting others if you have been exposed or are may have contracted COVID.