After eight months of a paranoia, stringent precautions and multiple skin breakouts thanks to the chafing of masks, it is a rather strange thing to have a COVID positive test report in front of you.
It’s like you spend all these months running from something and when it finally catches up with you, there is some sense of relief.
I was told it was inevitable. I had come to visit my parents as a surprise for my mother – and much to my surprise, they all tested positive. In a house inhabited by three COVID patients, there were just too many germs. Masks and social distancing attempts were more farce than protective.
The first test, as you know, was negative.
In the meantime, on day 7 of exposure, my mother’s oxygen started to go up and down. We rushed her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with pneumonia. The next day, we were forced into a seemingly never-ending chase for something I had never heard of before : convalescent plasma.
The requirements were stringent – a COVID recovered patient with a positive COVID RT PCR report within 90 days, and negative one at least 14 days ago. Other than that there are a slew of requirements which you only find out when you show up with a donor. My first two donors didn’t even qualify to take the plasma test.
On Sunday evening after two and a half days of trying, with a lot of help from family and friends, we found a donor. It was a mercy that my symptoms held off till I was able to get the plasma.
I have been officially COVID positive for about 4 days now. I had fever on and off, and intense sinus congestion for the first three.
This morning I woke up without fever, without a runny nose, but with extreme exhaustion and the ability to take daytime naps. I lost my sense of smell for most things, day before yesterday, and I can’t taste any of the delicious stuff my father has cooked.
COVID feels different from a regular flu. I cannot explain that feeling to you, but it is akin to feeling like your body has taken a beating. The specific manifestations vary from person to person, but the one thing that seems constant, at least between the 3 of us, is the incredible weakness and this feeling that all your organs are being squeezed by invisible fingers.
It means that any time can be a horizontal (read: nap) time, and that I find it perfectly acceptable to live in my pjs. I can sleep most of the day, and when I don’t I feel like the two hours of zoom I’ve done are enough for a life time.
Something that I’ve observed while my parents and I have been sick, is that people don’t really know what to say to COVID patients. We have all got unsolicited medical advice from those who are neither doctors nor COVID survivors – and this is an experience universal to anyone whose had COVID that I’ve spoken to.
All different natural remedies, immunity boosters, drinking water, pranayama, yoga are all prescribed liberally by people with almost zero medical expertise.
It’s not that I don’t believe at all in natural healing, it’s that the people who are giving the advice are rarely actually qualified to share the information. And they often get offended if you don’t take the advice.
Other than that, requests for constant updates (how is everyone now?) are exhausting, and nobody feels they’ve really shown they care unless they hear information directly from the patient or someone with one degree of separation.
The people that are close keep it simple – and less taxing. But others ask for details, updates where none are really necessary, and information on symptoms which is exhausting to share over and over again.
They mean well of course, but they don’t really know what we’re going through, and how exhausting it is to keep updating people on everyone’s relative health.
I am given reassurances that I’ll be fine and that everything will be okay, although I have never expressed anxiety about these things. I was very calm about the reality of COVID in my family, even with having to rush my mother to the hospital. Somehow, through all the stress, I had this sense that everything would be okay.
At times like that I wonder who that reassurance is for, and why we can’t just upload our status on an app like:
“Day 5. Still have COVID. Still tired. Still want a nap. COVID still sucks.”
Giving health updates to so many different people is my least favourite part of COVID, because it strains and I start to feel like a robot, parroting the same information to person and after person.
What am I going to tell people? Yes, I tire coming up the stairs, eating (the other day I was outdone by a piece of toast), speaking on the phone and during other rather mundane things.
I cannot smell much, nor can I taste flavours in my food – everything has taken on a relatively pleasant salty or sweet warm or cool sensation devoid of much character. Culinary experiments are wasted on me.
It’s impossible to understand unless you’ve been through it. And even among those of us who have fallen sick with COVID, the experience is far from universal.
So if you know someone with COVID – do them a favour: don’t give them any medical advice, don’t tell them it will be fine (you really don’t know it will be), and don’t ask them or their direct family members for updates over and over again.
Expressing concern once over a message is enough, and if you truly want to help, then ask them to reach out for anything they need. They will reach out if they need something.
That is the best thing for them, if you really want to show you care.
Now that I’m experiencing the disease firsthand, I realise how important it is to let people grappling with it, have their space.
What’s happened for me, is that the way I think about the disease has changed.
Firstly, my fear is gone. Of course, I’ll still take basic precautions. I will not test fate. I know I can get reinfected, I know that immunity is not 100% and not forever. I know that there may be damage to my heart and lungs.
And it’s such a strange thing, but instead of fear and negativity, I find myself thankful. Thankful that my symptoms were mild, thankful that I could be there to help my parents, and thankful that I could help slow the spread. Thankful that I am almost half way through. Thankful that I made them test, and got myself tested.
The one other thing COVID will force me to do is be mindful in how I treat my body. I will have to be kind to it, in spite of extra pounds I may put on if I am not able to engage in vigorous exercise. It is forcing me to slow down, and to breathe.