If you’re like many of my friends, you wonder if you have, or have had Covid. I know this because my friends keep calling me up and asking to talk about their perceived symptoms. “So, Mr. Roger Wolfson. What exactly happened to you?”
Yes. I was one of the early adopters of this particular disease in Los Angeles. And when I got it, I wasn’t sure I had it either. So, in the interests of informing all my friends at once and offering a public service to you and your friends and family, I want to offer as much helpful knowledge from experience as I can.
To start — I had bronchitis in November. It’s not unusual for me a contract bronchitis, I do it religiously, almost on a seasonal basis. It’s been that way since college. I’m very used to the symptoms that serve as warning signs. Sometimes I can use sleep as a weapon and ward it off. Other times, I just get hit and there’s nothing I can do about it. November was one of those times.
So when I started experiencing symptoms of something in my lungs in February, I just figured that I hadn’t really kick the bronchitis. But then some new symptoms showed up. Night sweats. That was a fun one. Then sniffling and mild coughing that could’ve been allergies, could have been bronchitis. The only reason I took those symptoms seriously was because Covid was making the news.
If I did have Covid, I could only think of three things that could have caused it. Prior to my symptoms, I had gone to a gym, to an arcade, and hung out with a friend of mine whose name I will leave out for the moment.
In all three situations, even though I had no symptoms yet, so few if any community contractions of the virus has been reported, I still took the usual precautions. Washing hands, dousing myself with Purell, and keeping my distance from people. Even with my friend, who who I didn’t know was a risk. He didn’t tell me until much much later that he’d had a fever and coughing spells a couple of weeks prior. There were no community incidents reported in LA – he couldn’t imagine he’d been the first. But anyway.
I didn’t keep a diary -but I’m pretty sure it was late February or early March when my first really disconcerting symptom appeared. Again, I don’t know what started it. At that point, I was already self-quarantined. The first symptom was exhaustion. I just felt sleepy. I would dose off just sitting on the couch talking on the phone.
The next symptom was a fever. I don’t usually run a fever. I don’t even remember the last time I had one. And, I don’t get them from bronchitis or allergies.
So, I went to see my doctor. He listened to my lungs, he gave me a flu test, he heard me describe my symptoms, and he declared – – not as an opinion, but as fact – – that I did not have Covid.
It was a bold stance for him to take. I remember at the time wondering why he didn’t just say that he couldn’t be sure but he didn’t think I had Covid. Instead, with no test to give me, even though not that much was known about the proper symptoms of Covid, he said I didn’t have it and he sent me back out into the world.
I went home with no prescription and a clean bill of health. I was so relieved.
But by the end of the day I was down for the count, and stayed that way for two weeks.
I stopped being able to taste and smell. I was constantly nauseated. When I say I had no energy that is an understatement. I live in a multi-level house. My biggest task was to make it from my bedroom on the top floor to my dogs on the first floor to let them out into the yard. That single task took me an entire day, because I had to stop on every level of my house and collapse. Catch my breath. Throw up. Pass out. I hit my head on the floor many times and wondered “how did the floor just rise up to smash into me?”
And then the coughing began. My cough wasn’t totally dry. I coughed off some stuff. But unlike the times I have coughed up stuff from bronchitis, I didn’t feel better after a coughing fit. I couldn’t really catch my breath. I wanted desperately to be tested. I reached out to my friends to warn them, even though I still didn’t know what I had. But when I called the emergency rooms that were near to my house, they all said that as long as I could breathe on my own and carry a conversation, if I came in, they would immediately send me home. They wouldn’t test me. Whatever tests they had were reserved for healthcare workers and people who couldn’t breathe.
I’m single, so I was stuck alone. I needed a prescription to even get Tylenol because there wasn’t any at my local CVS. (the friend of mine who picked it up for me left it outside on my stoop, and it took me an entire day to get to the front door to get it)
At its highest point my fever was 103°. But it went up and down almost every day. I would start feeling better, and then start feeling worse. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t even watch TV. I couldn’t eat (and keep it down) or drink – I lost about 10 pounds. All I could do was lie in my bed, try to meditate, try to be positive, and withstand the waves of nausea, coughing, exhaustion, and despair.
After two weeks, things started getting actually better. And, they continue to get better for about a week. And then I was fine. Humbled, but fine. Better than fine, actually. Thrilled to be alive. I have never appreciated my appetite so much in my life. I love, love, love being hungry again.
It wasn’t until I was symptom-free that I finally found a place that would give me a test. It was a finger prick test. Fifteen minutes later, the doctor came out and told me proudly that I was now immune. He said that I had no signs of an active virus and was probably not contagious, but that I did have the antibody that showed Covid had been ravaging my body.
The people in my life have responded differently to the disease. Most of them with love. Some of them with fear. And, more than one person in my life has seemed to blame me for getting sick. Which hurts deeply, and perhaps is one of the reasons why I’m not the least bit upset with my friend who might have given it to me. As we are learning now, far more of us have been exposed to and even potentially contracted Covid than we suspected.
I’m very envious of the people who had no symptoms.
The only lasting impact of Covid for me is that my lungs still are not at full capacity. My lung specialist insists that this does not mean that I have any active virus. It just means that my lungs were damaged. And they are recovering. I get a little better every day.
I hope that this is helpful to you. We are all in this together. I want you to be safe and happy and well. I hope that you haven’t lost family members, like I have. One of my friends lost both his parents within a four day stretch.
I would be remiss if I didn’t close this article with an admonition of the US Government’s management of Covid. We need more tests. People shouldn’t be calling each other and asking for opinions, they should have easy access to tests. (Other countries even show up at your door to test you, if you ask for it). We should have a huge supply of these tests. Today America has more Covid illnesses and deaths than any other nation. We have 1/3 of the entire world’s supply of Covid.
Instead we should have the world’s largest supply of tests.
Dear reader, I hope this article finds you well. And, possibly, keeps you that way.