By Ellen Warren
(This story was updated for the February edition of the Riverwest Currents by Ms. Warren)
My bout of COVID-19 was officially recorded as beginning on Saturday, October 3, 2020. My mom was living her last hours at an Assisted Living home and I could finally visit her in person, just in time to hug and kiss her for a couple days. She died October 4, I’ll always wonder if it wasn’t her I received the illness from, although her death certificate gives Alzheimers/Dementia as the reason for her passing.
That’s all kind of beside the point, but that Saturday I had thrown up, which I blamed on the too much wine of consolation the preceding night (I rarely vomit and never the projectile that this was). But a few mornings later I rose from a night of headaches, sore throat, body aches, nausea, and chills and googled the symptoms of this CoronaVirus. There they were, plus a few more. I took myself to get tested.
For those of you who still don’t believe in this illness, I can assure you that I would not wish even my relatively mild case on anyone. I experienced a whole lot of nausea everyday for a couple weeks, diarrhea as a given (food in – food out), all-over body aching, dizziness, disabling fatigue, sore throat … but I got off lucky … no real respiratory issues.
Still, we’re in the end of January now, nearly February, and my sense of smell and taste have not completely returned. The nurse who handled my case suggested it might take up to three months. It’s been longer. I’ve now spoken to someone who is nine months in with no sense of taste or smell. I keep hoping.
This is surely one of the most bizarre illnesses ever. Things end. Then they start again. Or, as in the case of a firefighter acquaintance, the symptoms trickle away, reassert at times with fatigue remaining constant, and exactly six months later stop entirely.
I’ve joined a sort of support group on Facebook now to do research for this article and to see if some of what I’m experiencing is COVID-related. So, it turns out that the phantom cigarette smoke or other smells of burning, that do not in reality exist, is very common among us, even nine months on. Other people smell baby powder or burning plastic.
My hair has seemed to be falling out more than usual, but it didn’t occur to me that it might be COVID related until I saw that this is one of the most shared after-symptoms. Some people lose up to half their hair! Rashes are another result. Lots of lasting back, hip and leg pain. Shoulder pain is common, too. I was blaming my arthritic shoulders for the recurring pain, and, apparently, COVID can exacerbate arthritis, as well.
How one experiences the virus is so amazingly different that it would almost be humorous if so many people didn’t have horrifying and lasting symptoms, and so many people didn’t die. There are people near death who took no chances other than to answer the door, or pick up a grandchild. There are exhausted young couples, both infected, with feverish children and suffering infants. There are even some whose bodies will never completely recover, their systems being permanently damaged.
I, of course, am looking forward to this new year with a great deal of hope, including for the return of my favorite senses. It is most devastating that we still have the pandemic into the new year, but I pray it will be seeing its finale before too long. The vaccine is on its way, but don’t drop your guard yet. Please mask up, please social distance, protect yourself and others. The life you save may be your own… or it may be someone else’s.