When I woke up with pressure in my sinuses and a sore throat the morning of July 27, I was convinced it was a sinus infection. After all, my husband and I were vaccinated back in April with both doses of Pfizer.
I didn’t have a fever, I didn’t have a cough, and I could still smell and taste everything.
I was tired and dragging — but, hey, the common cold still exists, right? So I did what I would normally do: Stayed home, had my husband bring me the ingredients for chicken soup, overdid the Vitamin C and water, and tried desperately to take a long, quick walk outdoors in an attempt to burn out the illness.
On Wednesday, I felt a little worse. But then Thursday came.
I woke up to my head feeling like the Hindenburg — inflated and on fire. The pressure in my sinuses could be felt from my eyeballs to my eardrums, and it continued up over my head into what I can only describe as similar to a migraine.
“That’s it, time to bring out the big guns,” I thought. I made an appointment online with the CVS Minute Clinic, with a plan to request some antibiotics. Clearly, this sinus infection wasn’t going to leave quietly.
If you had asked me that morning if I thought I would test positive for COVID-19 within the hour, I would’ve replied with a confident “no.”
That may be one important lesson to take away from this: Concerning one’s health these days, be confident of nothing.
At the Minute Clinic, a nurse practitioner checked my vitals, listened to my lungs and then asked if I’d allow her to test me for COVID-19 just to rule it out.
I agreed, and she swabbed me herself. She said results usually took about 10 minutes to come back if they were negative.
While she was looking into my throat and ears, the results of the rapid test “dinged” in the little machine.
I don’t think two minutes had elapsed, and her immediate response was “uh-oh.”
I looked at the little screen on the rapid test machine and the words “COVID-19 POSITIVE” were showing.
I won’t repeat the string of expletives that came out of my mouth, but all I could think about was this: In the weekend prior to my symptoms starting, I had come into close contact with almost everyone I love and care about.
My parents, my in-laws, both of my brothers, my brothers and sisters-in-law, and almost all of my nieces and nephews had been in my home (or I in theirs) just that past weekend, only hours before I began to feel ill.
I was in tears, and I was scared. Whose life had I put at risk? Would someone I love have to endure worse than me because of my being near them?
The nurse practitioner told me to go home and take it easy. She assured me that since I had been vaccinated, my bout with the virus would probably be short and mild.
She didn’t prescribe any medication, but told me that extra vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, rest and water would help. She said lying down constantly was a bad idea as it could lead to fluid build-up in the lungs, which would lead to pneumonia; if I could get up and walk around, I should. Also, there were the obvious reminders to isolate and try to get fresh air.
Before I even left the parking lot to head home, I was on the phone with my family members to make them aware they had all been exposed to COVID-19.
Then I headed home to isolate.
That very evening, my senses of smell and taste were gone. I picked up a bottle of rubbing alcohol, held it to my nose and smelled nothing.
My husband grilled a ribeye steak for dinner, and though the texture was there, the flavor was not.
It was surreal, unnerving, and I found it funny from a place of dark humor — which I firmly believe we must all hold on to when things go wrong.
By Friday, weakness and headaches had fully set in. I was now coughing (dry, not deep in my chest), but I was also having to take very long, deep, labored breaths.
I would feel like I was out of breath after taking a quick shower or walking from one room to another, and I’d have to sit down as my heart rate would spike and I would feel like I had been running. As someone who has been accustomed to nearly an hour of cardio daily for the past decade or more, this was probably the most frustrating part.
This was the only day where I spiked a mild fever. By this point, I was taking Sudafed and Tylenol at the suggestion of my doctor. The Sudafed lessened the congestion, while the Tylenol lowered my fever.
On Saturday, I woke up feeling a little bit better as far as headaches and sinus pain were concerned — and yet, the weakness was worse. I would get up to pour myself a glass of water and have to sit back down on the kitchen floor.
It made me extremely angry. Overall, I felt better, but my body was not cooperating.
For the next five days, I had lingering mild congestion, which I referred to as “my sinuses healing” as I could hear crackling in my nasal passages and ear canals. I had to moderate my activity as I would get dizzy spells, brain fog and tiredness with a rapid heartbeat whenever I walked more than a few yards or so. My senses of smell and taste are gradually returning.
I hope my story helps someone. More than that, I hope that you will all take good care of yourselves. Exercise daily, drink water, use sunscreen, hug your families and faithful doggos a little tighter, and use caution even if you are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released updated guidance after new data showed the delta variant of COVID-19 appears to be more infectious, leading it to spread easier, even when individuals have been vaccinated.
If you are not vaccinated, please speak to your doctor (not a YouTube video, please) and discuss the pros and cons of the vaccine.
During these past two weeks, I have spoken with one epidemiologist and one trauma nurse, and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my experience with COVID-19 was a mild one due largely to the fact that I was vaccinated.
I cannot choose for you, but if I could, I’d vaccinate the population of the entire planet against this virus before it can mutate again and cause more damage.
Rebekah Maher is a resident of Charlotte, N.C., and wrote this for The Charlotte Observer.Internet Explorer Channel Network