After months of wearing a mask, social distancing, and ‘sheltering-in-place’, in June I got COVID-19.
I wanted to share part of my experience, as there may be folks currently or eventually going through this.
Getting COVID seems to be something that carry's a stigma, not unlike your kids getting lice at school ("You must be the dirty kid").
Anyone in the community can be affected and by sharing this I hope to destigmatize the issue and encourage people to be smart and take precautions. The stigma isn't helpful, and it only encourages people not to disclose, which can endanger the community.
First question: How’d you get it? I got it from my wife, and she doesn’t know how she got it. No one in our ‘social bubble’ had symptoms, or has since tested positive. We weren’t particularly adventurous -- mostly grocery stores and gas stations, and we live in a California county that has a rather strict ‘shelter-in-place’ order. Once we developed symptoms, we went into quarantine which basically meant no more gas station & grocery store runs.
Second question: How was it? While it was harsh for me, it was still considered a “mild case,” for which I am very grateful. 2 days of aches and pains, a headache, coughing, and weakness. No fever. For the next week, I was exhausted and laid on my couch working on my laptop all week. And finally, 3 weeks of not being able to smell. A blessing in some ways, with a toddler in diapers.
Third question: What was the process like to get tested? We live in the Bay Area in Alameda County, California and at the time you needed a doctor referral or a fever of over 100.4 to qualify for a test. Two doctors declined to provide a referral telling my wife her symptoms did not match COVID-19, and 3 facilities would not test her because she did not have a high fever. She was declined five times!
Feeling frustrated she called up a family member who was a general practitioner who helped her get tested. She drove over an hour, and the test was administered in her car, while the doctor wore a hazmat suit and probed her brain with a long cotton swab.
Positive COVID-19 Tests
Nine days later, she received the news that she was positive. Nine days! At this point we were past the CDC guidelines for quarantine and isolation. We immediately let those in our ‘social bubble’ know, even though we hadn’t seen them since we developed symptoms, that we had tested positive.
We had a wide range of responses from friends, family, and community. But the heaviest emotions shared with us were guilt, shame, and judgement. Some expressed love and concern. Others were more hurtful to our family. Rarely were we met with empathy.
We then scheduled tests for the rest of our family and I watched as cotton swabs tickled the brains of all 4 of my crying children. We then waited 10 more days and discovered that my wife, me, and three of our four kids were all positive. My wife and I had symptoms, and my kids had none. There was no indication that any of my children had it!
Three weeks later, my wife would receive our first contact tracing call from our county, and four weeks later, I would receive mine. Both tracers expressed disappointment that they were so far behind on their calls, but did a terrific job of taking extensive notes, and probing to fully understand the details of our experience and to ensure that we had alerted those that might have been impacted.
COVID-19 Antibody Tests
Four weeks later, I scheduled an appointment to get an antibody test. When I arrived to get the test, I expressed that I had tested positive for COVID-19, and shared my timeline of symptoms. After the technician drew my blood, and left the room, a doctor knocked on the door dressed in a hazmat suit. He poked his head around the corner and asked probing questions about my timeline, and when my last symptoms had been. He told me his team was concerned I might still be contagious, and they let me know that I was the first positive COVID-19 person to visit their office. They were freaked out. When my wife came for her appointment later that afternoon, the doctors were similarly concerned, but interestingly, they treated her with much more hostility than they had me.
Now that I'm antibody positive, I can donate convalescent plasma! While this has been quite the ride, I'm excited that I can help and offer support to others who might not be as lucky.
I understand that our cases were mild, and for that I am grateful. I also understand that this is a real threat. #MaskUp.