The alarm wakes me up. I get dressed and drive to the drug store. It takes around ten minutes to get my booster and leave. I visit our old church. I’m one of a very few who wear a mask the whole time. I don’t hug anyone or shake any hands. A few hours later, the fever I expected set in, but worse than the first two shots. I spend all night in and out of the shower. My skin hurts. My muscles ache. I struggle through a sleepless night on the bathroom floor.
School is closed with all the snow, so I don’t have to take the time off work. I feel fine by noon, albeit a bit tired. After dinner I feel an itch in my throat. I clear it, trying not to cough. I head to bed early.
I wake up feel sore again. My chest feels heavy. I’m exhausted and I can’t stop coughing. I text my boss and they say they’ll see me after I get tested. The longer I’m awake, the worse I feel. I drive to the clinic, one I haven’t been to, and get right in. I sit in the exam room watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as I realize that my head is pounding. My sinuses ache and I can’t stop coughing. They swab me and send me home. I check the labs online obsessively. Around 5pm, I pull the page up again and see the result highlighted in red: SARS COV 19 POSITIVE. I set up a floor bed in the living room. I read about how lying prone can help with breathing. I try it and it does. I send texts to my boss and an email to the COVID coordinator.
My body doesn’t ache, but my chest hurts. I dry cough constantly and can’t walk more than a few feet without feeling totally winded. I spend most of my time laying on my stomach, focusing on breathing. I am exhausted but can’t sleep. Getting up to move to the bathroom or bedroom makes me dizzy. I feel weak. I’m not hungry but I’m drinking as much as possible and taking Vitamin C and D. For the first few nights, I took my rescue inhaler and hovered over pots of boiling water, inhaling steam in hopes that it would open my lungs up a bit. I saw my provider over telehealth, and she prescribed new albuterol for the nebulizer. The treatments make me feel weaker and dizzy. After some treatments, I make myself walk up and down the hall to balance out the CO2 levels. My primary told me all about the IV infusion. I had to get it in the first ten days, and it would make me feel almost entirely normal again. I more than qualified as being at-risk and I was more than willing to get it. She was excited and told me to stay near the phone until I heard from the hospital for scheduling. A day passed before she called back. She was distraught. My request was sent back.
I told her I needed to go. I was crying before I hung up. I got in the shower, sobbing. I couldn’t breathe. I hit the wall again and again. I banged me head, over and over. I yelled. I cried more. I talked myself down. Just breathe. Don’t think about it. Just breathe and focus on the water. I had calmed enough, sitting on the floor of the shower, when my boy got home. He came in and asked if they had called yet. I gave short answers at first but, when he asked why, I started to stutter. The words caught in my throat. I forced them out. Apparently, there’s too many unvaccinated in our county. They have to save the treatments for them, so I can’t have it. The words were bitter and began to sob again. He didn’t say anything. His hand reached in and held mine awkwardly. I started to hyperventilate, but I couldn’t get a full breath. He got my inhaler, and I sucked the medicine deep into my lungs.
I had posted about having COVID on Facebook. Most people sent well wishes and prayers. Some sympathized. I had specified that we didn’t need anything and that my boy was feeling good. I was worried, knowing it had been over 90 days since he’d had it. I didn’t say anything about why I wasn’t able to get the treatment. My sister texted to ask why. I told her. Her reply was short. She was unvaccinated. Her whole family had gotten it at some point, except the youngest. I hadn’t thought twice about spending time with them around Christmas, but my niece came down with it just a week or two before I tested positive. Then again, neither my boy nor his family are vaccinated either. His parents got it around the same time as my niece. Every time one of their anti-vax political rants began to play in my head, I did my best to shut it down. I didn’t want to be so angry. I snapped when Jane responded to the why I couldn’t get the IV treatment with a Fox news article about “how it’s probably because I’m white”.
It’s still a dry cough but my primary is worried it’s turning into pneumonia. She prescribes antibiotics and more steroids. I’m not allowed back at work, even though my quarantine is technically up. My COVID time is all used up, so I start taking sick days. I am directed to get up and move more, as much as possible and safe. She worried I’ll get a blood clot. I get worried after my lips start turning blue late one night and start taking my oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter borrowed from my in-laws. It’s harder to breathe at night and when I talk too much. My lips and fingers feel pinprick numb, but it’s probably from the Prednisone. I have a day where I seem to have a stomach bug in the midst of all. I spend all morning on the bathroom floor. Later, my stomach is off because of the antibiotics, but I’ve also noticed that fried foods and chocolate don’t taste good at all anymore. The pets love me being home but it’s sunny outside and I’m stir crazy. The steroids have messed up what little sleep schedule I had. I’m napping when I shouldn’t and not sleeping at night. I’m happy my boy is healthy. I put another post on Facebook to update people, doing my best to answer questions and offset frustrating advice before either can be given. Hot showers and laying on my stomach help. I can’t take Vicks. The oils can trigger my seizures. I still get a text telling me I can go to an out of state doctor to get an illegal-here treatment that they saw on Fox news.
Day 13 and the medication has kicked in. It’s so nice to be able to breathe again. I’m not coughing as much. I get to leave the house and get dinner out. Someone comments on my post saying that, when they had it, they had a crazy thought that they’d be better off dead. They say it’s just so terrible and depressing. They say it took five months to feel right again. I feel sick to my stomach.
Day 20. My chest x-ray was clear, but after I try to go back to work, the coughing is worse again. I’m supposed to start another round of antibiotics and an increased dose of steroids. My body feels almost foreign to me at this point. It’s so weak. I decide to forego the extra medication and wean myself off. After a day or two, the worst of the withdrawal is passed, and I start getting better. It takes weeks to feel “normal” again, to feel some semblance of strength.