We are living through historic times. Never before have we faced lock downs of services, of businesses, of schools, of entertainment and of normal life in general. The push to get back to “normal” has been a rough road for many people.
Prior to this pandemic, I was never at home. I would drop my daughter off to school, head to work and usually run errands, or head to my daughter’s sports or music events after work. I was President of the Parent Association of the high school my daughter was attending, I went with my husband to watch him coach soccer or basketball games. I would attend the events at my son’s programs. We went out every Friday night, I ran my kids around all day on Saturdays, leaving only Sunday to catch up on laundry, bills, sleep or any other work that needed to be done. Then it would start all over again.
In February, I got sick. I felt terrible. I had issues breathing and I was coughing. I ran a low grade temperature. I went to urgent care and was give prednisone and ordered to stay home from work for a few days. I was not tested for COVID 19 because I had not traveled anywhere and they felt my symptoms were not consistent with the virus and I should just be treated for a respiratory virus.
I stayed home a few days and my employer pushed me to come back. By early March I was not feeling well again. My throat was sore, I had a cough and a runny nose. I ran a fever the night of March 9 and stayed of work again. For the second time, I was denied a COVID 19 test because sore throat was not consistent with symptoms at this time. A few days went by, I was still running a fever so my doctor sent myself and my husband to a testing site at a local hospital. Only about three people had tested positive in my hometown, it was not “going around” yet in my area. For the third time, I was denied testing for inconsistent symptoms. My husband was as well.
We were sent home to quarantine and I continued to run a fever for two weeks. I was never so sick before. I was basically bedridden. I could not eat. I did not hold down what I managed to eat anyway. I was exhausted by everything. I needed to sleep sitting up or I would cough all night. My back hurt, my stomach hurt, my body was one mess of pain. I felt as though knives were stabbing me up and down my entire body. I sat with my CPAP mask on all day and all night to help stop the coughing and keep me breathing steadily. I was freezing, o matter what I did I could not stay warm. My temperature never went above 101.9, it was usually hovered between 100.4-100.7 but for someone like me with a normal body temperature of 97, that was high.
My husband made me get up and walk up and down the steps twice daily. He made me take showers no matter how awful and weak I felt. He got me Gatorade, and soups. He would not leave my side. I was very pale, almost milky white. I lost 15 pounds in less than two weeks. I do not lose weight easily on a normal basis. I kept my sickness to myself because in the early days of the discovery of the virus where I lived, it was treated as if you should be wearing a scarlet A. My doctor kept in touch with me and assured me that staying home, quarantining and doing whatever I needed to heal was the best for me and to call him immediately if things got to be too much.
During this time, my father was living next door to me, suffering from the affects of a stroke which left him unable to care for himself and showing many signs of dementia. I was unable to see him or my mother during this time of course, but I was grateful that his caregiver called me and let him speak to me. He told me to heat up red wine, add sugar and drink it down hot so that I was sweat out the fever. These were the last words he and I shared. When I was finally well enough to see him, the following month, he had suffered another stroke and could no longer speak.
My father passed away April 2, 2020 in his own home, quietly. It took several hours for the funeral home to be able to claim his body due to the COVID 19 situation. It was a sad, lonely funeral, with my oldest brother and my dad’s sister unable to attend due to COVID travel restrictions. My father was a person who had left his mark on the world. He was very active in his community, he changed the lives of many people through his active life in Boy Scouts, in community groups as well as in the business world. He deserved fanfare, but he got 12 of his family members, masks and asked to stand apart from one another instead of close and in comfort. His graveside service was short and quiet. I hated to leave him there. His casket sat alone, with only the flowers we had provided for the burial. We were not permitted to return to the cemetery for a few months. By the time we returned, the flowers were gone and it was a sunken patch of dirt with no marker.
These past months, I have felt change in my soul, in my heart. As a teacher of over 31 years, I see the challenges that are now part of my profession. I am not sure that I want to embrace them. I feel that this part of my life is past. I am in my mid fifties and want to do more than survive each week, masked and distanced from my students. Asking them to wash their hands all day. Yes, it is not such a big deal, but I am tired, I a past such changes mentally and emotionally.
In the final days of my illness, I felt so awful, that I truly feared that I would not make it. I have never felt so sick in my life. I have never experienced feeling as close to possibly dying as I did in those days. I felt as though I was slipping away. I feel that I have been given a chance to do more. I lost a few friend who were my age during the worst part of the COVID outbreak in my community, and I know that I am fortunate.
I was never tested for COVID 19, having been denied three times due to not having proper symptoms, but I know that I fought an intense battle within my body. My immune system, which is compromised due to having a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and having the same high blood pressure issues that plagued my father, won a battle for me. I take vitamin C and Zinc now, I try to do something sort of healthy activity daily and I am more conscious of what I put in my body now. I have a gift, I am still here.
I have struggled with leaving my house. I never spent as much time in my house as I have this year. I have grown to like it, I feel very safe and comfortable. However, this has resulted in me feeling uncomfortable leaving the house. I am working to change that, carefully and slowly.
I want to do something better. We all should strive to be our best selves. We should look to what makes us happy. What we are good at. What we can do for others that will leave a positive imprint on them as well as on us.
“When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down “happy”. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
I do not feel that I should return to my former life. I am not sure anyone really should. Life has changed so much in this past year. We need to embrace the changes and make a new life that is better than the former. If we were happy prior to pandemic, that is wonderful, but there is always something we can improve on. Something we can increase, decrease or simply do differently. I hope many people explore their options. Life is shorter than we think. We do not always have more time. We need to make the best of the time we have been given.