Before I had kids, I remember watching a bit by this comedian Ron White. It was about building up a facetious alias around town, calling himself “Tater Salad.” Ron White has a drunken-Bill-Clinton vibe and always performs holding a rocks glass with about two-fingers worth of brown liquor in it. He tells a story about getting arrested and having the opportunity to say, “Yep. You caught the ‘Tater.’” Or something to that extent.
I thought of The ‘Tater yesterday morning as I clicked on the results from my COVID-19 test and unfortunately, got to tell myself, “Yep. You caught the ‘Rona.”
Now that I’ve officially got it, I’m happy to share my experience. For one, so that other people can know what to look for — but also because my mother will assume that I’m dead unless I keep the communication coming. With that in mind, you might consider this a public service announcement directed at family and friends.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about The ‘Rona, but here’s what I can tell you about how to not catch it. First, don’t go anywhere. If you do, don’t touch anything, don’t get close to anyone, and absolutely wear a mask every single second. Make sure it covers your mouth and nose, obviously–but at this point, an astronaut helmet is really what I’d recommend. Not just a face shield. I’m talking full NASA-grade helmet. Just encase all your head holes in a plexiglass orb. When you run out of air to breathe inside, you know it’s time to crawl back into your cave and wash your hands until your fingerprints rub off.
That’s certainly what I wished I’d have done when I saw that “positive” result. But since I don’t have a time machine or any legit astronaut gear, there’s nothing but time that can un-‘Rona me now. In case you’re curious about the anticipated timeframe for recovery, I’m told anywhere from 10 days to 14 days to 20 days to 90 days to basically never. So…my fingers are crossed for “soon.”
In all seriousness, the accepted understanding is that I can be considered contagious for 10 days from the first positive test or first appearance of symptoms. Anyone who’s been in close contact with me since my symptoms started needs to quarantine for 14 days. If someone I’ve been around gets a positive test result or begins to have symptoms, then the 10 day timeline starts over for them. In the meantime, my doctor has told me this: If the shit is going to hit the fan, it’s likely to do so between Day 4 and Day 8 of my symptoms showing up. I’m currently on Day 4 and feeling good. I’ll keep you posted.
In terms of symptoms, I’m pleased to report that mine have been mild so far. As you may have heard, ‘Rona symptoms can include both everything and nothing — so you might still be grasping for clarity about what to expect if you, too, catch a ride on the pandemic bandwagon. How will you know you need to be tested? Basically, if you know you were exposed and you start to feel any kinda way — you should get tested and stay away from people because you probably have The ‘Rona. If you don’t know if you were exposed and want specifics, here’s what I experienced.
I had one night of being pass-out-like-a-drunk-person, face-down-on-the-bar tired. Fell asleep on the couch by 9:30, which is normally not my thing. I originally attributed it to the onset of Fall, it getting darker earlier–nope. It was probably the ‘Rona.
This was short-lived, with a grand total of 3 “trips” in a 12-hour period. It was notable, but not severe–somewhere between being too heavy-handed with the black beans on a make-your-own burrito and having one more cup of coffee than you needed to get things going. We had just gotten the call that we may have been exposed to COVID, so I figured it was a stress reaction. Nope. It was the ‘Rona.
This was less “I’m going to vomit” and more of a “yucked out” feeling. It was intermittent and first appeared with the diarrhea. Because diarrhea is gross, right? Because it’s natural to be yucked out by that, right? Maybe so, but in this case–it was The ‘Rona.
Out of nowhere, while taking a walk or off-loading the dishes or even just sitting there, I’d feel a weird warm tingle from my armpits to my fingertips that ended with cold sweat. Very fleeting. I thought maybe it was The Change coming for me early. Nope. ‘Rona.
You know when you’re hungover and feel like squinting all day from the dull ache in your head? Or when you spend time outside because it’s actually nice again, and then your allergies give you a sinus headache? Well, it was like that. Except it was The ‘Rona. I will say my headache was significant. Not migraine-level, but fairly lingering for the first 48 hours. It’s pretty much gone now, but I still feel a twinge from time to time, like a lead pinball hitting the interior of my skull if I get up too fast or something.
More like a percolating nose. Because it won’t even feel like I’m congested until I feel the slightest trickle working its way down. Very much like allergies again. But no. ‘Rona, ‘Rona, ‘Rona.
You know those croupy, wet, winter-cold coughs that evacuate wads of phlegm from your chest cavity? Mine isn’t that. It’s a dry, tickle cough at the level of the vocal cords. It’s not bark-y yet, but it might achieve “seal” quality eventually. Mine is very intermittent and definitely hasn’t been the centerpiece of my experience yet. As my mom will attest, I typically kept a cough all winter long from birth to 8th grade, so I’m grateful for small blessings in this regard.
I’ll typically get a sore throat right before I get a cold, so I figured I’d have strep-level, swallowing-shards-of-glass soreness in response to a novel mutant bat virus my body has never defended itself against. Nope. Kinda parched, maybe. Very much like you get from allergies or post-nasal drip. But never truly sore.
Bless the hearts of all those dedicated souls checking people’s temperatures before they enter a building. I’m sure it will weed out some sick people. But personally, my temperature has yet to exceed 99.3 by oral thermometer. Based on body temp alone, I could have been in and out of everywhere– licking hand rails, touching things, close-talking without a mask on, singing opera at high volume–all while definitively having The ‘Rona. I’m still taking my temperature regularly, just in case. But it might be helpful to keep in mind that some people get fevers more easily than others. You can not have a fever and still very much have The ‘Rona.
Shortness of breath is a common ‘Rona complaint, but I haven’t had that. There’s a persisting tickle in my throat, like I need to cough, but not so much a pressure in my chest cavity. That doesn’t stop me from having mild periodic panic attacks about the mere potential of not being able to breathe, but that’s just me. This is clearly the scariest symptom, in my opinion, since breathing is how we live… so, I’m happy to report that I’m currently producing effortless, unhindered breath.
And there you have it: a fairly comprehensive list of symptoms that may or may not apply to your experience! I hope it’s helpful to those of you who were curious, and soothing to those of you who were worried about me. In the meantime, just keep in mind that (apparently) everyone’s experience with The ‘Rona is like a snowflake–an insidious, invisible, usually mild, but potentially lethal snowflake. Many of us may never even feel it if it lands on us–but we can still wipe or spew or sprinkle that snowflake juice on anyone we’re close to.
So be considerate of others. Even when it’s inconvenient, tedious, boring, or seems weird. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Be careful with your contacts. And cover your face. Preferably using a space helmet.