It makes little sense who will be hit hard by COVID—this is the unsettling thing about the virus. In 2020, the first COVID infection skipped my lungs and I recovered quickly. 2 years later, in 2022, a second COVID strain hit my lungs hard and stopped me in my tracks—there was no option but several weeks of bed rest. I literally did not have the strength to walk more than a few steps around the house—my legs felt like spaghetti.
Selfies (make-up free—who has a lifestyle glam enough to wear makeup anymore?) taken a month before COVID (bottom) and while fighting COVID (top).
Since human’s beginnings we’ve shared stories to help each other survive. In the spirit of humanity’s ancestral story telling roots, here is my COVID story:
In late February, 2020, I caught the first wave of COVID, straight out of Wuhan, China to the West Coast of Canada. Thank god, I had no idea of what kept me bed ridden with body aches, chills, sneezing and sinuses running like a tap and a 39 degree fever for 4 days. I would have been terrified if I thought it was the “deadly CORONA virus.”
I remember being on the phone to my mom, telling her that I had no idea what I had but it was not like a cold nor the flu. On day 2 of the “weird virus” I lost all sense of taste and smell. I also remember telling my mom that if my fever didn’t break after day 4, I’d call the doctor. But by day five the fever broke, so I did not seek a doctor’s care. I have über sensitive (allergic) lungs so I waited in worry that the virus would spread to my lungs but it didn’t and I recovered fairly quickly. Two of my daughters seemed to catch the virus at that time but their symptoms were limited to excessive tiredness and one had an upset stomach. I remember thinking they seemed to stay in bed and sleep for two weeks!
I had no idea it was COVID at that time because no government was reporting its arrival on North American shores yet. I was a COVID North American canary—a graduate student and teaching assistant at UBC—a university with many foreign students who had returned from their Christmas break in China.
My sense of smell did not return for months—I remember being upset, thinking that I’d accidentally bought “scent-free” bath soap because I could not smell it at all (which I would never do as I love essential-oil scented soaps that smell of peppermint and eucalyptus). Though, after using the “scentless” soap for about 3 months, one morning in the bath, I noticed that the soap suddenly smelled like eucalyptus and peppermint!
I recall being exhausted for months after that—having limited concentration and able to only work for about 3 hours of my essay writing, teaching etc and then needing a short nap. I chalked it up to trauma: I’d survived my husband suddenly dying (in a freak, unexplained, extreme response that lowered his BP and slowed his heart and until it stopped) and then being resuscitated back to life on an overnight airline flight only months before. Shortly after that traumatic incident, I broke my wrist ice-skating—less than a month before I caught COVID.
It wasn’t until months later, when Covid was well entrenched in Canada, that I realized that I must of had the first wave of North West Coast (North American) COVID from China—one that predated the European COVID wave that swept through North America in the months to follow.
Fast forward to March, 2022: three Pfizer vaccines later and I thought I was good to go—Omicron is supposed to be mild, and the fact I’d already had COVID once, and was triple vaccinated, I was not too worried. Though, I hate being ill, and out of respect for my fellow humans, and other species susceptible to COVID, I wore a mask.
And then it hit my family. My daughter was bed ridden for ten days—COVID like symptoms of a head cold, extreme exhaustion, sore throat and lack of appetite. Two rapid tests said she did not have COVID but none of us were convinced. She self isolated in her bed room and slept the 10 days away. On day 10 she felt well enough to drive herself out to pick up an anniversary present for her boyfriend, only to return home early and head right to bed—feeling like she was too weak to be out and about just yet.
Suddenly, one evening, about 5 days after my daughter seemed 100%, I was so tired I wanted to head to bed by 7 PM. Instead, I grabbed a fluffy blanket and a heated pad and curled in a favourite chair to watch a little Netflix. The next day I worked for 2 hours and then felt so unbelievably tired that I lay down on my kitchen window bench and passed out asleep for 1/2 h—something I’ve never done!
The next day, I felt I was getting a cold so I worked all day on my university work but took it physically easy—no major sports, aside from a morning hike. I took a rapid test and it came back negative for COVID. Then, suddenly, the following day I developed a 39 degree fever, extreme weakness, and burning lungs. I took a rapid test once again and this time it came back positive. I had a flight booked later in the week and they refused to refund my money without a PRC test, so my husband booked one for me and then drove me to the clinic. I was so exhausted at the clinic that I remember I had to fight back the feeling of just weaping as I had my nose swabbed. Two days later the result arrived: COVID positive. And then bam—a blur of fever, lung congestion and weakness—12 days later and I was still too weak to be out of bed for more than 20 minutes at a time to fix myself a snack or a drink or have a bath. Walking around the house my legs felt like wobbly spaghetti—it’s as though I had to build up walking strength!
The second case of Omicron was worse than the first case of Wuhan—it went straight for my lungs.
I got on dexamethasone steroid to help my lungs heal and also take my regular steroid lung inhalers for my seasonally allergic lungs (I am so allergic to Timothy grass—hay—that spending just 15 minutes in an open barn, within in 12 hours, my lungs will fill with congestion). I am good at deep breathing techniques from decades of practicing meditation and yoga, so, along with taking a short-course of steroids, and daily mega vitamins, many times a day I did special breathing exercises to help clear my lungs. You don’t want it to get into your lungs—this is what separates my first case from my second—from a mild to a moderate case. But the virus doesn’t let you decide; it decides if and when it’s going to highjack your lungs.
I caught COVID on a Saturday—cold like symptoms, I thought It would be mild but then, within 24 hours it went for my lungs and I developed a high fever (39.1 C) for 4 days—Tylenol brought my temp down about a degree. With steroid treatment, I waited out the exhaustion, weakness, boggy-lungs, and off-stomach feeling. By day 13, I was still too exhausted to spend more than 20 minutes up and about without needing to head right back to bed to rest. Two weeks after my first symptomatic day and I was unable to concentrate or focus on any real tasks as I felt profoundly weak, ill, and exhausted. The twenty minutes I was up, my legs felt like they could collapse under me at any time.
Nearly 3 weeks gone— my primary focus was making sure I was able to continue to breathe. The experience of being awake for a few hours was still too much and I needed to nap several times a day. On day 17, I continued to feel as though I must clear my throat constantly or else eventually suffocate. Day 18, and still throat clearing, though able to do a short walk outside at a slow pace but still needed an afternoon rest and felt exhausted and weak by early evening and had to go to bed early. My cardio strength was no where near normal. Day 19 and I felt like the virus finally left my system. My lungs remained somewhat inflamed but the exhaustion/weakness/upset stomach feeling that had plagued me for two solid weeks and then to a lessening degree for 5 days after that—for a total of 19 days—was finally gone! I still cannot wrap my brain around the fact that I fought the Omicron virus for 19 days! The “brain fog” is pure exhaustion—the body and brain so inflamed from the virus in the “after COVID” days, that it takes everything I’ve got for my body to repair and rebuild from the damage the virus caused. However, despite a hazy 2 weeks of hell, I came out the other side fairly strong—I anticipate no lasting health effects; though, I will remain on asthma inhalers for some time as doctors tell me that my lungs may take up to 6 months to fully recover. Interestingly, with the Omicron COVID infection, my sense of taste or smell were slightly but not completely affected, and my sinuses were not involved (no runny or blocked nose) at all except that I had substantial teeth and jaw pain from sinus pressure.
The crazy thing is that my parents caught COVID at the very same time (both their first case and both triple vaccinated) and—thank the universe—they both only had mild cold like symptoms that only lasted a few days—no fever, nothing aside from a little extra tiredness and a sniffly nose.
Yes, my life has been very stressful since the late summer—two family members suffering months-long, life-threatening illnesses that left them bed ridden at times and required me to be on the front lines of their care, and advocating for their diagnosis, and treatment. Also, unexpectedly, my nephew required life-threatening, emergency surgery and hospital care just before Christmas. As a nurturer-caregiver, I was near (or past) my exhaustion limits. Perhaps this set me up for the COVID fall. However, I thought with my dedication to health, that if I caught the virus, I’d for sure only have a mild case—to give you an overview of my health (for those that don’t know me), I strive to keep super fit and am dedicated to holistic, outdoorsy, healthy living: meditation, fitness, and diet.
The reality is that it makes little sense who will be hit hard and which virus mutation will hit the hardest—this is the really unsettling thing about COVID. So far, this pandemic has caused a lot of mass denial and/or fear. The truth as I’ve experienced it is that COVID is unpredictable. All one can do is their best to keep healthy, wear a mask whenever needed— to be courteous to others who may be hit hard—and face the truth: COVID can be mild but it can also be deadly. One mild infection does not guarantee a second mild infection or life immunity.
Covid hit me harder than I imagined it would—grounding me to a bed. I suffered physically and mentally. The fear: what if my lungs take months to clear? I’ve had COVID twice and three vaccinations in between and the second time was worse than the first! I don’t ever want to get it again. After two infections of two very different strains, will I finally have enough immunity to never get even a moderate case again? Science tells us that Wuhan and Omicron COVID are nothing alike, so it is not uncommon to catch both.
This is my COVID story—the suffering, the loneliness, the fear, and the hope that it will make someone who has been hit with a challenging case of COVID feel less alone.
I urge all to be kind to strangers and that if you have light cold symptoms, or have been in contact with a COVID patient, wear a mask—you have no idea who will be hit hard with each and every strain.