Another one gone, another one gone, another day bites the dust. The days are starting to fly by again. The summer heat is in full force, and the cicadas are screaming their tiny lungs out. People are flocking down to Galveston again after the beach was previously closed for the 4th of July weekend.
I must make a confession. I’m guilty of going down there last Thursday. I thought I was a genius for picking such an odd time. Hoo boy, was I wrong. The seawall was inundated with folks. I mean, it looked like there was a gold rush on the shoreline. I proceeded to drive east in the hopes that I would find some little pocket for myself. I eventually found one, right by the now-defunct Woody’s Bar. Beach admission still cost $12 (I mean, can’t there be a COVID discount?), and I enjoyed my day in the water.
Staying inside has been...difficult as of late. The mind wanders and dreams of things that we could do when things were normal. Especially considering that my social media feeds are filled with my peers acting as if there isn’t a disease spreading right now. Perhaps better than most, I know what the consequences are for not being careful.
My family and I contracted COVID-19 the first week of June. Those who follow me on social media may have known that I caught it, but I’ve kept relatively quiet about it. My parents started showing symptoms first. Then I started feeling feverish. I had initially thought that I was getting strep throat, which seems to happen to me once a year. The surprising part was that I had no throat pain whatsoever. I suggested my parents get tested, but they didn’t want to experience the nasal swab test. I decided to play it safe and get tested for COVID first at CVS. My mother was exhibiting a cough, which I didn’t have (yet). My father seemed absolutely fine, except he was sweating through the sheets at night. My results came back in three days. Positive. I locked down a test for my parents the very next day.
The fear that set in was quick and fierce. My parents are both diabetic and over the age of 55. From what the news was telling them, they were square in the virus’ crosshairs. My father essentially sequestered me to a single room in the house. He figured that since I tested positive and that they hadn’t received their results yet, they might not have caught it. Another two days later, they received their positive results. We had recapped exactly what everyone had done in the last few days, and we eventually found out my father had been visiting tenants at his rental properties. Pops is terrible about his mask and still is today, regardless of how much badgering I’ve done about it. For context, it took until I was about ten to get him dad to strap on his seatbelt.
One of the first things I did when I tested positive was inform my siblings. The tremble of concern in their voices was palpable. The big scary monster had come for our family, just as it has for millions of others. I then informed my job, and they began testing my co-workers. Finally, I let the masthead here know about my situation. The outpouring of support I received from my BRB brethren was heartwarming. Many of the suggestions I received were extremely helpful and aided us in our recovery. Most of all, it gave me a deep sense of comfort knowing that I’ve got some of the best guys I know rooting for me. With all that said, we started the quarantine process not knowing what to expect.
About three to four days into quarantine, my mother and I began to decline. She started experiencing stronger fevers, incapacitating headaches, and a deep, more troubling cough. I started feeling extreme muscle ache, nausea, and more-extreme-than-usual diarrhea. All the while, my father was seemingly fine. Since he was in the best shape, he was given nurse duties. When I tell you that I’ve never seen my father so out of his element, I’m not kidding.
Around the one-week mark, the shortness of breath kicked in for me. Looking back, our experiences would classify as “mild” cases of COVID. Something we could work through at home. However, the next three to four days were some of the scariest days we’ve ever lived through.
Sitting up in bed left me absolutely winded. Mom could barely get to the restroom without wheezing. At one point, we had to rush her to the emergency room because she couldn't breathe laying down. They gave my mom an inhaler and sent her on her way; if it happened again, she could return for a hospital bed. I vividly remember laying in bed, struggling to breathe and trying to fall asleep. I thought, “What if I can’t breathe while I'm asleep? Will I wake up? Will I have the strength to call for help?”.
I’m not the most religious person in the world. However, there are some in my family that are passionate about their beliefs. As such, prayer was highly encouraged. In those dark days where things felt like they just kept getting worse, it was the first thing I could think of doing. I swallowed my pride and sent one out to whoever was listening. Now, I’m not at all trying to say that what happened next was because of what I did, but it was a part of my experience. The following day, I turned a corner. My breathing was slowly getting better, and the fevers receded. My mother was still in rough shape, but she could also breathe a little easier. Personally, I think our immune systems (thankfully) made the adjustment and figured out how to fight off the virus. However, part of me likes to think that there was some good energy out there that arrived to help us out.
About a week and a half after being in quarantine, I felt about 95% recovered. My mother was sitting closer to 75-80%. I was excited and grateful to see my family survive that whole ordeal. It would be a few more days until I was cleared by a doctor to return to work and weeks after that until I felt comfortable having my mask off. I thought it would stop there. Turns out, COVID doesn’t just affect you physically, but socially as well.
Returning to work was...strange. For a solid week, people would see me and walk in the opposite direction. I could feel the looks and stares like lasers on the back of my head. I was a leper. A few asked about my experience with the virus, which was fine, but one had the gall to ask if “it was just a cold” like he thought it was. I firmly yet politely told him that no, it wasn’t just a cold. I ran through what we had experienced, and he seemed apologetic. I initially wanted to tear into him about the seriousness of the virus, but then I realized that he just didn’t know anyone who had gone through it.
There’s so much being said about Coronavirus that it’s hard to keep up with what's true and false. Some say it’s only as bad as a cold. Others share horrifying experiences that would incite fear in anyone. That being said, I’m not here to tell anyone to wear a mask. I’m not here to push an agenda. I just wanted to share experience with COVID, so some will have a personal point of reference in what it’s like dealing with the virus, like my dear coworker.
For the last five months, the world has been trying to come to grips with what to do about this situation. Shut down or stay open? Masks or no masks? Sports or no sports at all?
At the end of the day, I wouldn’t wish our experience on anyone else. There are those that were less fortunate than my family, such as those who lost a loved one. A father, mother, son, daughter, husband, or wife. We are counting our lucky stars that we didn’t have to experience that. All I can say is that people should be careful. When I see the reports of the issues with the NBA bubble, the Astros having multiple personnel test positive, and the mouth shields that Oakley and the NFL are collaborating on, I can’t help but feel that maybe pushing so hard for sports isn’t worth it. Athletes are physical and genetic specimens, but I would hate to see one fall extremely ill because of the disease. Especially one of our beloved heroes.
There’s always next year, right?