I Tested Positive for COVID-19. This is My Story.

I woke up early on Friday, March 27 to the sound of my phone buzzing.  This was unexpected - I didn’t have “class” until noon, so I wasn’t expecting to be out of bed until much later.  It was a restricted number. Was it worth answering? I took a chance and accepted the call.

woman in a white shirt holding her cell phone in front of her Kaboompics .com | Pexels It was my doctor telling me I had tested positive for COVID-19.

 

You see, this wasn’t the end of the world for me.  In fact, I hadn’t felt sick for over a week. The week before, I had fought off what I thought was a head cold - stuffy nose, headache, mild fatigue. It came and left pretty quickly. I’m prone to pretty bad allergies this time of year, so I wasn’t even sure if my symptoms were the result of allergies or a virus I had picked up from a friend the week before. Whatever it was, it was so mild that I was sure it wasn’t corona. It couldn’t be, right?

 

But the following Sunday (the 22nd, if you’re paying attention), something peculiar happened.  I couldn’t smell anything - the garlic in my pasta, the shower gel I use, my favorite lotions. All gone. And, soon after, my sense of taste followed. It wasn’t due to a stuffy nose, either, because I was breathing freely at this point. Sickness had caused this to happen to me before, but never so suddenly, and never so severe.

 

It was at this point that I began to become concerned. I did some research, and the New York Times had posted 12 hours earlier that the loss of taste and smell could be a symptom of mild COVID-19. Though I felt healthy, I decided to go and get tested at my local emergency room as a precaution. My odd symptoms, combined with the fact that I might have come into contact with an infected person, were enough to convince the doctors to test me. I almost felt bad for going, as I didn’t feel sick at all, and I knew that the number of tests was limited. I was convinced I was being overcautious.

 

I wasn’t.

 

Going into the emergency room, I never considered the ramifications of a positive test result.  After hanging up from that phone call with the doctor, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people I needed to contact.  At this point, we weren’t yet 2 weeks into the quarantine, so I had to call or text everyone I had seen before we started social distancing - peers, friends, family, the school.  Everyone I loved, everyone I had seen over the past 2 weeks was at risk because of me. What if one of them got sick, or worse, what if their immunocompromised grandmother got sick? Despite knowing that it wasn’t my fault, that I couldn’t have prevented it, that I couldn’t blame myself for not knowing - I was overcome with guilt.

 

Perhaps the hardest part was all of the questions. People are terribly afraid of this virus (as they should be!). They want to know when I got it, where I got it, exactly what I felt and when I felt it.  Of course, they care about me and how I’m feeling. But everyone’s empathy is accompanied, overridden even, by the creeping question on their minds: could I have gotten it?  

 

I (and everyone else) am convinced that this virus is particularly awful for a host of reasons. It spreads so quickly, so stealthily, and it doesn’t attack everyone equally. It preys on the weak, the old, the sick. It’s not hard to see that a spirit of fearfulness does not care if you’re within a vulnerable group or not. The virus has prevented us from seeking the very things that would alleviate our fears: hiking trails, recitals, sporting events, school, work.  We cannot even physically seek each other in this time of crisis. I’m all for doing what we can and SHOULD do to flatten the curve, but maybe I’d be less upset if I could hug my friends, or go to a movie, or sit in a restaurant. Anything but sitting in front of my computer screen.

 

I certainly have felt alienated this past week knowing that my actions unknowingly could have put people at risk. But the fact of the matter is that everyone has felt alienated in the last few weeks. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “SCREW coronavirus!”.

 

It’s now been over a week since I got those results back, and I’ve learned a thing or two since then. My family and I have been very, very fortunate our symptoms have been so mild. Through all the fear, the pain, and the stigma, I’ve learned that people actually care. People have texted me out of the blue asking if I’m feeling okay. A friend of mine even left me coffee on my porch.  My test results have inspired me to take better care of myself, and I’m feeling much better physically, mentally, and emotionally. Perhaps most importantly, however, I’m learning to not take on guilt for something that wasn’t my fault and couldn’t have been known. All I can do is protect and love people to the best of my ability, and right now, the best way I can do that is by staying home and staying healthy.

woman wearing mask Polina Tankilevitch

As everyone has been saying, this too shall pass. Thankfully, it has for me, and I pray it will for the rest of the world, too.

For more information about the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, visit these helpful pages from the World Health Organization (WHO) or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).