My eyes were burning but not terribly. My nose was dripping but just a little. There was tickle in my throat, although it didn’t make me laugh. I said to my wife, “It’s only a cold.” She said, “Nobody gets a cold anymore.”
The next day, I swabbed my nose, five swirls in each nostril. Then I placed the swab in a small vile filled with a clear chemical mixture and swirled some more. Next, I removed the swab and replaced it with a thin strip of paper. Ten minutes later, a blue stripe and a red stripe appeared on the paper. Thank God I wasn’t pregnant, but I was infected with COVID-19.
As the days followed, my symptoms worsened. My cold became more flu-like, my temperature rose, my nasal passages ceased to function and my energy waned. I was endlessly tired, occasionally sleeping for hours in the middle of the day.
From beginning to end, I carried the virus for seven days. On day eight, as most symptoms vanished, I tested negative. I wasn’t 100 percent better, but I would be soon.
After five vaccinations, I was optimistic I would avoid infection. Yet I also knew that if I became infected, the likelihood of serious illness or dying was highly improbable. Compare that to two years ago when the Northeast was the epicenter of the pandemic. Lest we forget, in the United States, more than 1 million people died from COVID. And today, hundreds still die every week. A lot of people — too many people — continue to be cavalier. Maybe that’s not such a good idea. If you miss my point: Get vaccinated!
I tried to remember the last time I was this sick for this long. I had a battle with gout in 2008. I won, but I don’t recommend it because it hurts like hell. Twice I was laid up with back problems. If I didn’t move, I felt fine. When I moved, the pain was excruciating. But my worst, lengthy illness, was three years ago. I was attending a James Taylor concert at Tanglewood on a hot July night, when I turned to my wife and said, “I’m freezing. I need a sweatshirt.” Turns out a little spider put a little poison in my body. Like COVID, a fever quickly ensued. And, also, like COVID, it hung around for a week. However, unlike COVID, when the fever went away, I felt fine. With COVID, 10 days after my fever and two weeks after the virus left my body, I’m still dragging.
By the way, I don’t need an epidemiologist to tell me where and how I got infected. When you’re traveling with friends across the Atlantic, and you land in a foreign country, and you have dinner with your friends as soon as you arrive, and the very next morning one of your friends has COVID, and five days later your other friend gets COVID, you pray like crazy that you stay healthy until you return to the United States. That is what I did and, two days after setting foot back on American soil, I got it.
I know what you’re thinking. What about my wife? A week after I tested positive, she said, “I think I’m getting a cold.” I laughed, but in a kind and empathic way, and said, “Sweetie, you are not getting a cold.” The following morning, the diagnosis was confirmed. A little swab. I little swirl. A blue line. A red line. Hello, COVID!
As Michael Corleone famously put it in The Godfather III, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” In the era of COVID, and especially in the post-pandemic era, when those of us who have lived through the peril think we have escaped it, it’s worth noting that it’s still out there, still moving invisibly through the atmosphere, ready to pull us under. But, with vaccinations, we get to rise again.