We Got Covid | Our Experience
Yep, you read that title right. We got Covid-19 and had to isolate ourselves throughout the holidays. I don't tell many personal stories on this blog, we aim to keep it very “reader” focused so we prioritize travel, itineraries, top 10 lists, etc. Our goal here is to help you travel more and make better memories. So, the personal stories and anecdotes are kept to a minimum.
This is a story we've been urged to tell! Let me be clear. I'm not (obviously) a medical professional of any kind. I'm a travel blogger and marketing strategist. This article comes with a giant disclaimer so please read it carefully before you proceed. It also comes with some controversial perspectives and opinions…so buckle up dearest blog reader, buckle up.
Disclaimer: This blog is our personal experience with Covid-19 and not intended as medical advice. If you have questions (outside of those about our personal experience), concerns or are showing symptoms please contact Public Health by visiting your local branches website. Here in Nova Scotia, visit https://covid-self-assessment.novascotia.ca/en
Let’s get to the first thing first. Yes, we have been traveling…and I wouldn’t change any of that! My goal with sharing our story is to hopefully shed some light on what it’s like to get Covid in a world that is crippled by fear. I’m hoping that by sharing our story we can create a deeper level of understanding and empathy and share a new perspective. So here we go.
Our First Symptoms
We flew home after 2 weeks in Florida on a Wednesday night and started showing symptoms very early Thursday morning (around 2am). The symptoms were mild; stuffy, headache, and a tickle in our throats.
We tested NEGATIVE before leaving Florida (on Tuesday).
We tested NEGATIVE on Thursday when we arrived home feeling crappy.
We tested NEGATIVE on Friday
While we were traveling we followed all guidelines, masked and distanced in indoor spaces, ate outdoors at restaurants, sanitized and were both double vaxxed. So this idea that we've “done something wrong” (which is how a lot of folks perceive those who've contracted covid) is something that's just not accurate.
Testing Positive & The Ever-Changing Protocols
Friday night, after 3 negative tests over a 5 day period, I went to visit my family. Included in the visit were my Mom, Step-Father, two brothers and their spouses. I arrived late Friday afternoon and spent the night.
During the night my “tickle” developed into a significant cough and “tight” feeling in my chest. I went for a walk and found myself out of breath quickly. I tested again (rapid home test).
“Sara, I think you just tested positive!”
Two lines. POSITIVE result. I tested again. Positive. Mine was a very faint second line, but a second line nevertheless.
I immediately removed myself, called Brent to come and get me and everyone went to work sanitizing everything. Brent completed a third rapid test and came back positive as well. We booked PCR tests at a local clinic for the following day and started isolating.
The Bad News Continues
By Saturday afternoon (less than 12 hours after I’d visited my family) some of them started showing symptoms too. And shortly after that (hours) they all started testing positive. One by one, over the next few days, all 6 of them developed symptoms and tested positive.
Enter, severe guilt!
The reality that I had infected my entire family and ruined Christmas was hard hitting. It’s also something I don’t see anyone talking about…so here we are. Aside from being very sick, I get the added benefit of knowing that I’m the reason my whole family is not only sick but also missing Christmas.
What Happens When You Test Positive | The Protocol
Protocols change every other day so by the time you’re reading this, they could very well be different. Be sure to check the government guidelines in your area. At the time we tested positive, here’s what happened:
- PCR Test Booking | After testing positive at home we booked a PCR test for the next day
- Positive Test Confirmation | We both received a text from the Government of Nova Scotia with instructions to register for daily check-in’s and isolate immediately
- Public Health Phone Call | Within 36 hours of our positive confirmation we each received a phone call from public health. They asked some questions and offered to issue pulse oximeters (to measure blood oxygen levels).
- Blood Oximeters Delivered | Via courier within 24 hours of the public health phone call.
- Isolation | 10 days from onset of symptoms or (if no symptoms) from the positive test result.
- Daily Check-Ins | Positive cases (at the time) were required to check in with public health daily, record our temperature, record any symptoms, etc.
- Final Check-In | This email came on Day 12 (which we found odd). Day 10 we checked-in as usual. On day 11 it was radio silence from public health. On day 12 we received an email saying we had completed our isolation.
- Follow-Up | The jury’s still out on this one. There is (currently) no protocol for testing again. Once you’re done with the 10 days, you’re done. There is supposed to be a recovery letter issued but the information we’ve received from public health has been varied and conflicting. The letter is supposed to (according to the public health representative we spoke to) be issued within 72 hours but we haven’t seen anything yet.
The most common question we're getting as more and more people find out we've had covid is “what symptoms did you have”. The answer is… A LOT. There are plenty of people out there experiencing mild symptoms or none at all but that wasn't us. Our cases were both considered “mild” because we didn't require hospitalization (thank you Universe) but we were quite sick. Here's a quick play by play of our symptoms.
We both experienced very different symptoms. Brent was more flu-like with a fever that lasted several days, night sweats, etc. My most alarming symptom was difficulty breathing and tightness in my chest for nearly a week. The other thing we found really strange was the symptoms kept changing. One would pass and another would start. They came in waves.
When I say “difficultly breathing” please know that I mean very congested lungs and tightness that I had to work hard to “clear” (so gross). I was never hospitalized and didn't require any external medical help. We also monitored our oxygen closely throughout.
Here are the primary symptoms we experienced when we got covid:
- Sore throat that got quite severe on day 4
- Cough throughout (we're still coughing, weeks later)
- Chest congestion
- Fevers on and off for several days
- Night sweats (Brent only)
- Tight chest
- Excessive sneezing
- Thirst (we were thirsty all the time and couldn't drink enough water)
- Loss of appetite (almost entirely). We would try to eat but feel “full” almost immediately
- Complete loss of smell and taste (Sara only) that lasted nearly two full weeks
- Brain Fog
What we've noticed is that the fatigue and cough is hanging on. Although we're considered recovered, we get tired really easily and need several extra hours a sleep each day. I'm still noticing waves of dizziness, a lingering cough, and serious brain fog.
The Other Side of Covid | What it’s Really Like
Symptoms aside, a lot goes on when you test positive and have to inform your close contacts. Especially if you’re a “public figure”. Especially if you’ve exposed others. In our case, we experienced a lot of different things we weren’t expecting.
First, testing positive for any virus or disease is private, medical information. Yes, when someone is contagious you’re obligated to inform close contacts but we weren’t anticipating the swift spread of information to non-essential people and that caught us off-guard. It’s almost as if people are “excited” that they know someone who has Covid and they can’t wait to tell others.
I use the term “public figure” loosely. What I mean is that we’re very visible, we have an audience online who pays attention to what we’re doing and, as such, we expose ourselves to the opinions of others on a regular basis about our choices. Like the choice to travel during a pandemic. Like the choice to frequent restaurants during a pandemic. Like the choice to continue our lives post-vaccines as “normally” as possible.
The reality is, testing positive for anything whether it’s a virus, a disease, an STI, a pregnancy, etc is very personal, very private information. Yet somehow, in the midst of a pandemic, we’re all forgetting that. I can’t tell you how many people have told me about others who have Covid.
Remember when I said this blog would contain controversial opinions? Get ready for it…
If someone you know tests positive for Covid (or anything for that matter), exercise extreme discretion! Actually…let me be super clear… TELL NO ONE without that person’s permission. It’s unfair to share another person’s very private information related to their health without their consent. It also feels like a massive breach of trust when that happens.
To be clear, the people I’m referring to will never be named here. None of this was done maliciously. No one considered the ramifications of sharing this kind of news. And, if they thought it would be hurtful, they would have never done it. Furthermore, we all have people we “tell everything to” because they “won’t share it” but here’s the cold hard truth.
When it comes to this pandemic – people can’t help it. Everyone wants to be involved and telling one person effectively means telling all of their closest people who tell a few of their own and so on and so forth. The reality is, news like this spreads VERY fast and VERY far.
I share this with you in hopes that when (not if) someone you know is in this position, you’ll consider this and be damn sure you have their permission to share.
Since I’ve had this uncomfortable conversation several times, I know what you’re thinking:
“But Sara, if I’ve been exposed as a close contact it’s my right to share that news and I also have to inform my close contacts”
It’s your right to share the news that you’ve been exposed, yes.
It’s your right (and obligation) to contact anyone you’ve been in contact with during that window, yes.
It’s not your right to share WHO your close contact was. Here’s a simple script to use while maintaining the privacy of the person infected:
“I’ve had a close contact with someone who tested positive so we’re isolating until we get a negative test” If they ask “WHO”, you say, “that’s personal information and not my news to share”. End of subject.
We often feel the need to overshare or provide explanations to people. And, we all have people in our lives who pry for additional information but it’s not your news to share – ever. If you’re still not convinced, I’d like to share just a few of the emotions and/or thoughts & feelings that we experienced after testing positive.
These are things that I hadn’t considered until I tested positive and, honestly, I don’t know that I would have considered them unless I was the one who had tested positive.
Guilt & Shame
My immediate feeling was extreme guilt. I had exposed my family. I'm a smart girl. I know, technically, I did everything right. I followed the protocols. I got vaccinated. I tested negative repeatedly. And still, the moment I realized I was positive and had potentially infected my loved ones I felt shame and guilt. They don't know this yet but the moment I got in the car and left, I burst into tears (poor Brent). It's illogical, yes. But that doesn't change how you feel.
There's a really strange phenomenon that happens (let me know in the comments if you've experienced this) where you feel immediately alienated from everyone and everything. This type of isolation is completely different from what we all went through during lockdowns. It just felt different. And, because we didn't tell anyone beyond immediate close contacts, we had very few people checkin in on us (which also felt weird). I'm normally the kind of person who shares a lot of my life. So not telling my friends was strange. Being really sick and having to “not share” with people was strange. We just felt cut off from the rest of the world. And, because I didn't want to lie to anyone about what was going on, I avoided conversations all together.
This was the most surprising. The almost immediate anxiety that set in was intense and twofold. First, we were nervous about our symptoms. How bad would it get? What if something goes wrong? What if someone else gets sick and that goes wrong? What if, what if, what if. Then the fear that this could potentially affect our business because there's such a stigma around Covid started to creep in. What if people think we weren't being careful? What if clients do? What if brands decide not to work with us in the immediate future? I know, that's all illogical BUT those are the thoughts we had.
To be honest, the stigma is very real. So while it's easy to think “oh no, it won't affect your brand”, consider this. In the days and weeks we've been considered fully recovered, people are still being “weird” around us. Folks who would normally hug us, don't. People stand back a little further if they know you've had covid. It's apparent and that is what I mean when I say this could “potentially affect our business”. Even if it's subconscious for folks, knowing you've recently had covid does have an impact on people wanting to be around you.
You see a pattern right? Most of these feelings stem from the assumption that if you've contracted covid, you've done something wrong. Just look around the internet at all the memes about “ain't no covid here” and “covid free zone”. That all contributes to what I'm talking about here. Having had covid feels embarrassing. As I'm writing this, I'm nervous because now EVERYONE will know.
So much frustration. That the protocols are unclear. That the rules keep changing. That you can't get answers to questions. That your own privacy isn’t in your control. That you can't do anything for yourself. In our case, we live in an apartment so even having groceries delivered was tricky (because we couldn't go down and collect anything). And, also in our case, that we missed ALL of Christmas.
3 Things to do if Someone You Love Tests Positive
Even as I'm writing this, the numbers are climbing so I'm hopeful that some of these issues will be a moot point. Still, if someone you love (or know) tests positive for Covid, here's the best things you can do for them.
- Tell no one. I know I'm beating a dead horse now, but this would have been the most kind thing our loved ones could have done for us. Don't assume they're OK with sharing the news unless they explicitly tell you they are.
- Tell them you love them & check on them often. As I've said, being isolated for 10 full days while you're sick is very different from a province wide lockdown. We felt very alone many days.
- Genuinely offer to help. Some of us have a hard time asking for help but in the case of getting covid, you really do need the help. Drop off a puzzle or offer to send groceries.