“It was the worst of times,” is perhaps the more fitting intro to this story of two U students who have experienced COVID-19 firsthand. Both are young, healthy and were caught off guard by the severity and longevity of their symptoms. Let their stories be a cautionary tale reminding all of us not to let our guard down.
You’ve heard it a thousand times now…wear your mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, and stay at home as much as possible. If you do socialize, stick to your predetermined social bubble, a small group of people who get together only with each other and gather only when following the same prevention measures.
The vaccine has given us a light at the end of this tunnel; we will eventually make it back to “the best of times.” In the meantime, let’s play it safe, stay healthy, and protect the ones we love.
Meet Kate, a junior
“I’m active and healthy, involved in student life, and always on the go. But COVID completely knocked me on my butt! I got it driving with a relative who had been exposed (neither of us knew). A few days later, I started developing symptoms, that at the time I thought were allergies (i.e. a sore throat and stuffy nose). I got tested the next morning. By the time I got my positive result back, my physical condition was pretty bad—severe headaches, blurry vision, muscles weakness, aching and eventually a COMPLETE loss of tastes and smell. Raw broccoli and chocolate chip cookies tasted the same to me.
As my physical condition worsened, my mental/emotional condition deteriorated too. That manifested itself in extreme depressive feelings, loneliness, complete lack of motivation, brain fog and anxiety. Some of these were caused by the stress of not being able to complete schoolwork and some were fear of what I was facing. Quarantine wasn’t too bad. I live by myself with a very loving cat. Every day I went on walks with a mask to keep myself from totally slipping away. I honestly thought I wouldn’t ever get better. I basically just watched TV all day because I couldn’t do anything else. I still have moments where I look at my couch in disgust.
After 12 days of severe symptoms, like a light switch, I started to feel better. I felt so good that I even rode my bike that weekend and got caught up on school. I felt I was on the other side. A week-and-a-half after feeling good again, there was a noticeable shift. The headaches, fatigue, lack of motivation and brain fog started coming back full swing. I also started developing depressive and anxious feelings again, enhanced by the stress and fear of slipping back into my “covid coma.” For about another 8 weeks, I continued to suffer with depression and anxiety. I had to fight every day to pull myself out of that dark place.
Since then, I’ve turned a corner and feel like that is not a threat to me anymore. But I still wonder if any of it will ever come back. In a few years will the physical symptoms flare up again? Will I always be on the edge of depression and anxiety? I don’t know. And yeah, that’s stressful and scary to think about for sure.”
Meet Ben, a senior
“My symptoms started a few days after I was exposed. I woke up one morning and felt an insane head-fog, headache and sore throat. I felt better the next day and shortly after I was back to feeling 100 percent. About a week went by, and I woke up one morning with a headache, brain fog and fatigue. I could not really get off of the couch and that lasted for about a week and slowly started to subside over the next month. All my symptoms got worse with exercise or exertion. I would not say I was fully recovered until about two months after I first had symptoms. I tested negative the first time and then three days later I tested positive.
Quarantine was tough. I was in isolation for about 25 days because I was still having some symptoms. My work would not let me back so I lost a lot of money. I was busy with school but all I could really do was sit on the couch and watch Netflix and play video games. I was just really lonely and tired of the same thing day after day. Fortunately, my professors let me take a week off and were very supportive.
My experience was scary, especially when my symptoms came back from out of nowhere. I didn’t know why it was lasting for so long. I wasn’t sure I could make it through a 12-hour shift at work once I recovered, or if I would be able to go on a run again. I was also just scared about how much my doctor and the health world did not know about this virus. It works in mysterious ways and I didn’t think it would hit me this hard. I am a healthy 21-year old. I’ve ran four marathons and exercise regularly. I really didn’t know if I was ever going to be the same.
Having COVID changed my perspective. If my experience can be this tough, so can anyone else’s. When I tell people I spent 25 days in isolation, they normally respond with, ‘Ouch, that must have been awful,’and I just think, ‘Yeah, it was, and it can be awful for you too.’ Anyone is susceptible to this disease, and it is really scary when you ask your doctor a list of questions and their only response is, ‘I don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see.’”