After two years of learning to live with COVID – it happened.
Let me back up a bit.
Like a lot of families, my family was excited to spend Christmas together (following two years of canceled or modified holiday plans as a result of the pandemic).
This year after vaccinations and boosters were made available we all felt a little more comfortable getting together and celebrating the season – inside.
My husband and I had our last family gathering the day after Christmas, which was Sunday, Dec. 26. We spent the day as a part of a group that included five adults and two children.
While we were together my husband noticed that my 13-year old niece was coughing. (Later we all noted that we heard him politely request that she cover her mouth better when she coughed and sneezed.)
Of course we are all well aware of COVID and the transmissibility of the omicron variant. As noted, we had taken our precautions throughout the years and all of us were vaccinated and at different stages of requiring our booster shots.
By Monday morning it was clear that my husband was not feeling well.
He ended up calling in sick to work and we were taking it day-to-day.
By mid-week my brother reached out to me to see how everyone was feeling. I responded by letting him know that my husband was home sick and asked how everyone was doing at their house. The text messages lead to a phone call. During that phone call, my brother revealed that everyone was sick: himself, my nephew and my sister-in-law.
Once I heard this, I called my sister to see how she and her 13-year old coughing daughter were feeling. Well, needless to say they weren’t feeling well. The 13-year old was home sick from what was supposed to be the day back to school after winter break. My sister was home and feeling awful. And honestly, I wasn’t feeling great either, but I seemed to be better off than everyone else at the time.
While we were all in touch keeping track of how people were feeling we had talked about getting tested for COVID. We were all open to it, but were also approaching our symptoms as “see how we feel tomorrow and go from there.”
It just so happens that it was the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The kids were off from school, as parents there was some extra time off – so in a way we were able to isolate while we were experiencing symptoms and collectively decided to monitor things and make an informed decision about testing.
Every day that we woke up not feeling better, we all asked ourselves (and one another) was it COVID? Could it just be a seasonal cold or flu?
Following the New Year, some people were feeling a little better while others were not, so COVID tests were being scheduled and purchased.
Immediately results started to come back positive. Other tests took a few days to get the results (due to back log of tests being performed) but positive they were.
During this time, I was feeling symptomatic and we all described it to each other as a bad cold/flu kind of feeling. Headaches, body aches, fatigue, sore throat and coughing.
By Friday of last week, because my symptoms were progressing not subsiding I decided to look into testing. And frustration pursued. My first attempt was to contact the local clinic to schedule a test. Nothing was available until the following week. Then I decided to try to find another testing site near by. Whether it be another clinic or the recently re-opened Armory, no available appointments until the following week. That said, there appeared to be some availability at sites if I was willing to drive over 30 miles. While I was busy with phone calls and internet searches, my husband was contacting the local Wal-Mart and Walgreens to see if they had any at-home tests. Both places stated that they were sold out. To credit the customer service staff at both places, the individuals explained when they received there next load of tests and gave us a time frame to show up – in hopes that we would be lucky enough to purchase one before they sold out again.
By the afternoon, I had concluded my search and scheduled an appointment to get tested for the following week. The second part to decide was how to approach work. The last thing I wanted to do was risk exposing anyone, however during our time of not feeling well, but being unsure I had gone into the office and shared space with my co-workers.
Because I was aware of the status of family members, I took precautionary steps; I tried to work from home when possible and when I went into work I double masked and isolated myself in an office.
So far those steps seem to be working. My co-workers are safe from symptoms to date.
As much as I want to be patient and open-minded to the needs and demands that are overwhelming resources available to people, the experience was quite frustrating. From early on in the pandemic, my family followed all of the recommendations and took the necessary precautions to keep ourselves, and those around us safe. The first year we canceled all holidays and other gatherings. The second year we made all of our family gatherings outside. So, this year after vaccinations and boosters became available, we all felt a sense of relief from the worry of potential infection - only to return home with having gifted each other with COVID.
Granted, I am thankful that we all seemed to experience mild to annoying symptoms. As each day passes people are starting to feel better and we know the cause of not being able to get off the couch for a couple days.
If there is anything that comes from not feeling well, it is the day you wake up and realize you are starting to feel better. There is a renewed sense of energy towards life. And as we ride the most recent wave of COVID through the brutal cold of winter, I hope that all of you find ways to stay safe, well and warm.
Nealy Corcoran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.