Place your bets. Do I have it or don’t I?
I had the phone appointment with my doctor this morning. Apparently a test had already been ordered for me. He asked me a few questions about my symptoms and said to assume I have it. He said he hasn’t had any patients be reinfected so far, so it would be “interesting to find out.”
I couldn’t get a test the first time around. Now I’ve gotten a promotion. I am clinically interesting. This should open a few doors for me as I become a “data donor.”
How am I doing?
Yesterday morning, I got up for work, got dressed, took my pills, ate breakfast, signed in... and immediately felt like I was going to pass out. I was sorta thinking I could work for at least a few days, maybe ride this thing out. It took about two minutes to realize this was not going to happen. I emailed my boss and the others on my team and signed out. Then I emailed my doctor.
As soon as I put my phone down, I had an extremely weird new symptom:
A wave of prickly heat ran from my elbows through my hands. My skin flushed red. My hands and wrists felt slightly swollen, and when I tried to bend my wrists, it stung all through the backs of my hands. At the same time, waves of this prickly heat rash feeling pulsed in and around the tip of my nose.
I had a lot of very strange symptoms when I was sick in April, feelings I had never felt before, and this was not one of them. It went on for about five minutes. So far, that’s been it.
I lay in bed most of the day and had a three-hour nap. My lungs burned all day, unrelated to my breathing - it just felt like someone had blasted through my chest and upper back with a cannonball.
Slept fairly well, woke up feeling marginally better, but now I’m short of breath.
I had to go across town to get the COVID test, what turned out to be a two-hour round trip. I wore a surgical mask with a heavy-duty cloth mask over it and a plastic face shield over that.
The process didn’t seem as organized as it was when I had to get my chest x-ray back in April. They were confounded by the fact that I was dropped off and did not have a car. I was sent back and forth to both sides of the building, and a big security guard walked with me part of the way - not distancing! Aren’t you scared of me? You should be!
I sat on a folding chair in a little pop-up tent, baking in the sun and feeling quite uncomfortable under my masks. A woman young enough to be my daughter came over to take my sample. She said that people find it uncomfortable but it would only be ten seconds. She had me lift my shield and lower my masks, tip my head back, and
NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE IN ALIEN ABDUCTIONS
I will simply leave you with the code word “swirling” and say that my vision turned completely red for a while. I had a hurt dog’s instinct to find a bed and crawl under it.
“Okay, you can go now” - directly to therapy??
I came home and asked my husband to speculate. Let’s game it out. Place your bets: Positive or negative?
Negative, he said.
Care to elaborate?
These are basically the options. Either I had COVID-19 in April and now I have something else; or I did not have COVID and now I do; or I did not have COVID either time; or I was positive before and now I’m positive again. We can draw those out as:
Any of you who chose N/N should pause and realize that that is the scariest of the four options. This would mean that there is a non-COVID thing out there that *also* causes loss of taste and smell, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and an x-ray indicating peribronchial thickening. And either it’s possible to get *that* thing twice, or there are *two* distinct non-COVID things, the second of which can be contracted through both an N95 mask and a face shield.
Nobody is ever going to know what happened to me in April, because I couldn’t get a test while I was still sick. I also didn’t get an antibody test. In that sense, a skeptic would consider anything that happens to me to be anecdotal. Which is fine, and good for you; by all means please double down on your belief in objective data. All I can really offer you for evidence is that chest x-ray with the peribronchial thickening.
My husband thinks I had COVID-19 in April and that now I have something else, like the common cold. My immune system is probably still a little weak, my lungs may be damaged, and now maybe any little thing will be enough to lay me out. Call this [Y/N(a)].
I think I had it in April and now I have a separate strain, indicated by the rush of weird new symptoms on Monday morning. [Y/Y(a)].
There are a bunch of other formulations, all of which are worth exploring:
I had COVID-19 in April, developed antibodies, cleared the infection, and was exposed again. What I am experiencing now is my body mounting an effective antibody response, and I’ll be fine in a few days. [Y/Y(b)]. This formulation would not necessarily be invalidated by a negative test result; if I was exposed before Wednesday then I may have had enough time to clear it already.
I had COVID-19 in April, never cleared the infection, and got a false negative test because the cheek swab test was not as accurate. [Y/Y(c1)]. Another version of this formulation would be that I beat back the infection enough that it was undetectable, resumed normal activities and started working out, but then the infection surged again. [Y/Y(c2)].
Whatever my anecdotal narrative may be good for, it should serve as a test of reasoning. Mine and anyone else’s who reads this. This is your chance. Take a little sticky note or an old envelope and physically write down what you think is going on.
Do I or don’t I? Do you believe it’s Y/N, N/Y, N/N, or Y/Y?
How will this affect your evaluation of your own reasoning abilities when the test results come in? Will it change your behavior?
Personally, I have a lot to think about. If I test positive, I have to reevaluate my PPE and my sanitizing procedures. If I test negative, I have to reconsider my physical vulnerabilities in a whole different way. Either way, I can only be more cautious going forward.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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