Instead of having a summer of joy and happiness with my family after graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Southern California, I had the most anxious summer of my life. I am among the 4.92 million Americans who contracted COVID-19 as of Aug. 7.
The virus that some people claim is “just a flu,” most certainly did not feel like a flu.
I have to note that as an introvert, I enjoy being at home and my alone time. So when the "Safer-at-Home" orders came in March, I didn't really mind.
But, I was also anxious because my parents are frontline workers: my dad works at a state hospital and my mom is a nurse. They also have pre-existing conditions that could make contracting COVID-19 deadly.
On June 28, my dad tested positive for COVID-19 after displaying symptoms a few days after coming home from work. The same day, I and the rest of my family began displaying symptoms as well. We’d all been so careful, only leaving the house for groceries or food.
We always wore masks and had a rigorous system in place: anytime anyone came home from work, we tried to keep everyone safe by shedding as much of the outside world as possible. For example, my parents changed clothes in the garage and tossed their work clothes into the washer.
But it still wasn’t enough.
Under quarantine, we didn’t leave our rooms without either an N95 mask with an outer layer or at least two masks on. We stopped eating together and stayed as far away from each other within our house.
When we got sick, the fevers were debilitating; the aches and pains were almost immobilizing; and our upper respiratory system became strained. The loss of smell and taste makes you feel cut off from the world.
Day 0 – the onset of the symptoms – I had a slightly sore throat, a mild headache and a slight fever. Throughout the day my symptoms worsened, and I developed body aches.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m. with an incredible bout of chills and couldn't stop shaking. I was almost immobilized in my bed because of the ferocity of the muscle convulsions.
I popped at least four tablets of Tylenol per day for symptoms in the first week, though it was still difficult as the symptoms didn’t really let up. On Day 3, I was scared I was having a stroke: I had a headache and my blood pressure shot up.
Halfway through the week, I kept smelling a strong scent akin to a mixture of ammonia and vinegar in my nose. By the end of the week, I lost my sense of smell and taste. Typically, Day 5 is when symptoms are at their worst. I had an unrelenting dry, sore throat with a runny nose along with a headache and lightheadedness.
Throughout the second week, though my symptoms gradually decreased in impact, my sore throat, runny nose and headaches remained. Occasionally, I felt like I had shortness of breath. My family’s symptoms ran a similar gamut.
During this time, it irked me that I waited almost two weeks to receive my COVID test results.
By the time my results arrived – which indicated I was positive – I was already feeling better and almost at the end of my two-week quarantine, which makes testing almost useless.
But I digress.
Although I was feeling better, I was more concerned about the virus's effect on my family. Thankfully, my brother is back to work after following CDC guidelines. His symptoms were the mildest: a persistent sore throat with fevers and chills.
Though my dad recovered around mid-July, he didn’t return to work until late July.
Meanwhile, my mom and I are still dealing with some symptoms even as I have tested negative. I feel the need to cough often and my mom’s persistent cough remains — even though her fevers, chills and other symptoms declined.
Seemingly every day, she has a coughing fit that she can't seem to shake. This could be the norm for the next few weeks, as it takes anywhere between two to eight weeks for symptoms to fully disappear, even after she has returned to work.
Our mental health has also been affected. During our two-week quarantine, there were times when we were at odds with each other for something innocuous like who was taking out the trash and what we were going to eat.
A month later, whenever someone coughs or has similar symptoms, my family’s mind goes into overdrive. We start overthinking and assume it might be COVID-19, even if there’s no evidence of that.
Overall my main takeaways from contracting COVID-19 are one, don’t get the virus at all; and two, have a strong support system – it really helps.
COVID-19 left my family in a debilitated state for weeks. That doesn’t even include the potential effects it may have on our health in the future.
The financial ramifications of contracting COVID-19 is more destructive than it seems as my family had difficulty coping with not working. My brother lost almost a month's worth of wages, and my parents will lose at least that much.
Still, having a strong support system helped us persevere. Being quarantined at home for 14+ days is tough, especially with a virus as potentially potent as COVID-19. That’s why having friends and relatives checking up daily made the experience more bearable.
Please wear a mask. If not for yourself, then for other people. This virus is deadly; although my symptoms are considered “mild,” they can be much worse, and some aren’t as lucky as I.
Just look at the over 140,000 people that have died from COVID-19. That number will undoubtedly increase, but it can be slowed.
As long as we all do our part, we can prevent more people from experiencing the hell my family and I went through for nearly a month.