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Finally got Covid -- my experience

Series: Pandemic-related posts

by Tom Johnson on Feb 13, 2023
categories: technical-writing

After 2.5 years of avoiding it, I finally got Covid, probably Omicron based on the symptoms. I usually don't write about personal illness, but I also figure that my blog would have a void if I never wrote about Covid during the entire pandemic.

I’m quadruple-vaxed, including the most recent bivalent vaccine. The Christmas before last (2021), our entire family (5+ people) had Covid, but I never got it then. I thought I was maybe immune to Covid, but in retrospect, I just benefitted from the protection of the vaccine. Omicron is more contagious, however, and vaccines don’t work as well against it. This time, three out of five family members got Omicron. My second-oldest daughter, Callie, first got sick. Callie (they/them) quarantined in their room for several days. But eventually, I too started feeling sick too. Then I tested positive. Later my wife tested positive. Two of my other kids never got it. (All of us have been similarly bivalent-vaxed.)

Omicron’s symptoms are weird. Callie lay in her bed for 5 days before feeling better all of a sudden. When they were better, they returned immediately back and school and started hanging out with their friends. One of their unvax’d friends, whom they were with during the start of their symptoms, never got sick.

For me, symptom onset ramped up slowly at the start and slowly at the end, too. I knew I was sick when I experienced shortness of breath in the middle of the night. It’s always startling when you suddenly find breathing more difficult. For the first few days, the symptoms were body aches, congested breathing, and nasal stuffiness. Then after a few days, I lost my energy to do anything and felt faint, dizzy-ish, and lifeless. During this time, I couldn’t even seem to distract myself with TV. I didn’t have energy or motivation to read, write, or do anything productive.

I holed up in our study for about 5 days. I’d read that most symptoms resolve in 5 days, though some take 10 or up to 2 weeks. I’m not immunocompromised and don’t have comorbidities, so I figured I’d shake it more quickly. Nope. But I finally found a TV show that I found interesting—New Amsterdam, a medical drama.

Staying quarantined in my study for 5 days was emotionally difficult. My wife functioned as a single parent, driving kids around, making meals, cleaning up, and more—all while becoming progressively sicker herself. I felt like a pariah because no one wanted to come near me or my little cave. I waited until people were gone to venture into the kitchen for food, or to get things I needed.

A few New Amsterdam episodes covered the time during the original wave of the pandemic in New York, and I remembered what OG Covid was like—people were on ventilators, dying by the truckloads. The earlier waves of the pandemic were truly horrifying. Somehow during this time, I hadn’t realized how serious it all was. For the first 1.5 years, I didn’t know anyone who had Covid. Thousands were dying each day, but the events seemed distant to me. Now it seems Covid is like the flu, and many people around me get it. Equated with the flu, I downplayed its severity. But after experiencing 5+ days of Covid, I felt terrible. Much better than being on a ventilator in the hospital, for sure, but the illness wasn’t merely a distant statistic.

Around the 6th day, the body aches slowly went away, along with the fever (I assume—I actually never measured my temperature). Sometimes at night I’d feel fine, almost back to normal, and would think I was turning the corner, only to wake up the next morning in the same flu-like slump, with congestion, weakness, sore throat, etc. Around day 7 a new symptom appeared: intermittent nausea. Food suddenly lost its appeal, and the nausea was so overwhelming that I could eat only bread and applesauce.

Occasionally, to escape the confines of my study, I’d walk around my block a couple of times. If I saw someone coming, I’d cross the street to avoid them with plenty of distance. One day, I got about halfway around the block and turned back, feeling too weak to even make it around. Other days, I started out feeling strong and thought I could make 5+ loops (each loop is 1/3 mile), only to find that after 2 loops I was entirely done.

I was dismayed to lose progress on my other goals. As far as standing while working (which I described in Sitting, standing, and walking), I abandoned this attempt entirely. I didn’t have the energy to stand on my balance board anymore, nor walk on my treadmill. I did continue working intermittently because what else could I do except watch more episodes of New Amsterdam? I mostly worked on some mind-numbing data compilation for an API consolidation project, inputting data in a spreadsheet. I would work off and on as my energy levels allowed. For example, I’d spend two hours working and then lay down on my tri-fold mattress on the floor and either nap or lay comatose watching New Amsterdam.

One night during my quarantine time, I felt so isolated from the family that I hit an emotional low. My emotional state was helped along by the TV show (people are constantly living or dying in the medical drama, of course). But I started thinking about how soon my kids would all be gone, and our house would be empty, and I wouldn’t be needed anymore. My oldest (already away at UCSB in California) is entering graduate school at the UW next year. My second oldest, a senior in high school, will either be going to the same college or another farther north. My third oldest will be an exchange student in Japan. This leaves just my youngest, who will basically be an only child. In isolation I lay on my mattress in the enclosed study, remembering their playful chatter from earlier in the evening. Next year, there would be no playful chatter. My wife and I would basically be alone. It hit me hard.

The intermittent nausea kept flaring up. I’d never experienced this before. I lost my appetite for coffee. I only wanted simple, bland foods. A buttered bagel was the most substantial food I could stomach. I wasn’t writing or reading, which made me feel depressed. Whenever too much time passes without writing, I feel my energy toward life diminish.

I thought more about the pandemic. A few details resolved into focus. At the start of the pandemic, I freaked out about the market and sold all my Amazon stock, only to watch Amazon’s stock price triple during the months to come. Then I got hired by Google and relocated from California to Washington, buying a house in the suburbs of Renton (during a period when mortgage rates were historically low). Google’s hiring spree was entirely due to the pandemic. After the pandemic, all the tech companies that had massively hired started laying people off. Fortunately, I wasn’t laid off in the recent announcements, but it seemed like complete random chance that I was not. I just happened to be working on the right projects.

Nine days into Omicron and still feeling intermittent nausea and weakness. I went to CVS (wearing a K95 mask) to look for more over-the-counter medication and saw the sore throat medication was mostly gone. It seemed clear that lots of people were experiencing Omicron, as a sore throat is a primary symptom. I’d already gone through an entire box of Cepacol (a throat-numbing medicine) and was buying more.

Day 10 and I started finally feeling better. I spent the day building a balance board in my garage, cutting the shape out of birchwood with a jigsaw, then sanding it, and coating it with polyurethane.

My wife started tested negative. She’d been officially sick only 3 days, and once she tested negative, she was back to her normal self and energy. I was still testing positive. Day 12 and still testing positive! I started to wonder if maybe Omicron had evolved or combined with something else.

Waking up, my lungs still felt congested and weak due to frequent coughing. Much of the nausea had subsided, but I still felt weak and sick. Still testing positive.

Day 13, still testing positive. Still coughing. However, I was mostly feeling back to my normal self. I started standing on my balance board again. I finished two big projects at work, which filled me with euphoric satisfaction. And I walked outside for a good hour without feeling tired.

Day 14, still testing positive. Still coughing. A bit of a sore throat.

Day 15, woke up coughing. But finally tested negative!

Finally testing negative
I was so happy to return to normal.

I thought that as soon as I tested negative, I’d be all better. But the sore throat stuck with me for another two weeks, sadly. I even went to a waterfall one day to see if the negative ions would boost my immune system and heal me (as I read about in “Walk with Ions” in 52 Ways to Walk)

I spent about a half hour watching the waterfall. Did it help? Not really. Oh well, it was still a beautiful place to visit.

Days 16-27: Unexplainable persistent sore throat. Some days it felt like swallowing knives. I wasn’t sure if it was post-Covid or if I caught something else right after Covid. Took a strep and mono tests but they came back negative. I went through about 5 bags of lozenges, a whole pack of Sudafed, Mucinex, and used a neti pot a lot.

Day 28: Sore throat finally subsided, mostly.

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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