In early March 2020, I moved to New York City. It was “perfect” timing. Within 2 weeks, I found myself at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this pandemic has been indescribably boring to live through, the scenes in Brooklyn still haunt me. The hospitals, overwhelmed. The giant refrigerated trucks stationed at the back of medical buildings, for the bodies. The sky was quiet because most flights were cancelled. Instead, we heard a constant, low wail of ambulance sirens, rushing all through the day and night.
I was living with my boyfriend, and sure enough, I got a fever. At the time, there was no way to know if I had the virus. Testing was not available, and I didn’t have health insurance (sorry Mum and Dad!) Throughout being sick, I was mostly in denial. I didn’t want to think about what might happen to me if my symptoms worsened and I had to be put on a ventilator.
I planned to keep applying to jobs, but as my fever onset, I quickly realized that I was on the virus’s timeline now. I gave myself up to it, and let it run its course. This was its effect on me:
- Days 1-2: My entire body ached. I huddled in bed with all the blankets I could find wrapped around me. I didn’t have the energy to shower or walk downstairs to get myself a glass of water. I used a digital thermometer to track my temperature. 99.1 degrees. 99.9 degrees. My fever was high. It hovered for a day or two, then luckily it started to come down. The freezing and sweating attacks subsided. My boyfriend got a fever too, almost exactly a day after I did. The fever was the most debilitating phase.
- Days 3-7: I got a terrible migraine. I couldn’t look at light. I couldn’t read a screen. All I could do was nap or listen to podcasts with a black cover over my eyes. At this point, my boyfriend was the one with the fever, and I found the strength to bring him water, soup and some chopped apple. He never got a migraine, but mine lasted for 4 days straight. My brain was working fine, but I could barely see anything. I attempted to apply for a job, typing with my eyes closed, and quickly gave up.
- Days 8-15: I naively thought it was over. That day, I began to get shortness of breath. Imagine taking a single deep breath, and only being able to breathe in about 70% of the oxygen you typically could. It hurt to breathe deeply. This phase of the virus scared me the most, because for many days it didn’t seem to be getting better. At any moment I was worried it would take a turn for the worse. I sat around the house and rested a lot. Luckily, overtime my lung capacity improved.
While I was sick, monitoring my breathing and my temperature helped me feel more in control. The last place I wanted to be in a pandemic was around all the sick people in a hospital, so I gave myself extra time and mental space to let my body recover. Another day of rest, I figured, would help me rejuvenate faster, rather than pushing myself and drawing out the illness. Without a full recovery, I also would put other people at risk of infection if I ever wanted to leave the house again.
Two months after my recovery, I went to CityMD to get an antibodies test. My results came back positive. I had had the virus, but my case was never counted. It made me think of how many people’s cases aren’t captured in official statistics. I also never figured out how I contracted it. Apparently, there were cases at my boyfriend’s WeWork. I had been co-working in an open space, so I may well have got it there. Then again, I had also been on the subway with 1,000 other commuters that same afternoon, so there’s no way to know.
For a young, healthy person, the coronavirus was not pleasant, but it was manageable. Having had it, I can easily see how someone with worse health could quickly have been in a very dangerous situation. So, my “hot take” or controversial opinion, is that young, healthy people should expose themselves to the virus, and get the ordeal over with safely quarantined at home, so that we can help form herd immunity and protect more vulnerable people. We, the young, healthy people, can’t just sit around and wait for the vaccine. We can afford to sacrifice ourselves, recover, and get on with our lives and help others. And when the vaccine does become available, we should be the last ones to get it. It should go to older people and people with pre-existing conditions first.