Like many family illnesses, this one started with my petri dish of a son.
He had a quick fever that lasted a couple of days, some coughing, and he was done.
Then my husband got it. The runny nose and sinus headache we initially thought were allergies, turned into a 102-plus fever, body aches and an overall illin’ feeling.
Finally, I got my turn. I experienced two days of fever and body aches. I felt better. But then I developed a cough and another fever. Then felt better again. Surely, I was on the mend. I met friends, went out to dinners and carried on with life.
At a dinner out with friends, I appeared slightly congested but otherwise healthy. Then, sickness happened. There was wheezing. My cough became rough and constant. I shudder to imagine the colony of illness my sweater was harboring for every “batwing” cough. My burgeoning health spiraled into festering illness until I was crumpled with chills, a miserable sinus infection and another eff-ing fever.
Spring Break was approaching, which included a family trip to Orlando and my son’s birthday. I had things to do, amusement parks to see and no time to get sick!
All the while, coronavirus was descending upon the U.S.
As someone with auto-immune issues, I’m no stranger to longer-than-normal recovery times. I knew what I had to do if I was going to kick this. I had to see the doctor.
I got a flu test (negative), some antibiotics, bedrest, fluids and focused on positive virus-busting thoughts.
It was not enough. But even if it had been enough, I began wondering how wise it would be to visit the hotbed of international activity that is an American amusement park in my current condition. Sure, the number of cases on the East Coast reported at the time was small, but traveling through airports and breathing recycled air in my weakened state made me pause. If I did encounter coronavirus, could my body even fight it?
With these unsettling questions on my mind, we canceled our trip and listened to the news as coronavirus started escalating around the world.
After a few more days with an unresponsive fever, my doctor gave me a new prescription for stronger antibiotics and a recommendation from the CDC that I get tested for coronavirus.
I was the first coronavirus test subject for my doctor’s office. They escorted me into a private room — emphasis on private. My doctor came in with a heavy-duty mask and a test kit. “This is going to feel like I’m attacking your brain,” she told me, right before she forced a swab up my sinuses. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t terrible. (I personally think strep tests are way worse). A nurse held the door for me on my way out so I didn’t have to touch any surfaces.
I went home and waited.
I waited some more. I cancelled plans. A workman came to fix a hole in our floor. “Get back!” I yelled from the door. “I understand,” he said, “but it’s probably a cold, right?” I told him I was tested for the virus, and he left. Quickly.
My doctor called checking on me daily, but she hadn’t heard about my test results. She said the CDC halted all coronavirus testing for their office after mine until it could regroup. And my sole test was proving difficult to track.
My parents called and messaged multiple times asking if I’d heard anything.
I had my first day in nine without a fever. We learned schools will be closed for two weeks. But still no results.
I feel much better. My temperature is normal. I have some energy. Though my son now has a low-grade fever.
I got a call from my doctor saying she tracked my test to a state testing facility, but they can’t find any trace of it. Since my case didn’t meet some of the state criteria (I hadn’t left the country, I wasn’t exposed to a known case of coronavirus), she said she wouldn’t be surprised if they just tossed it. And if they did still have my test hanging out after all this time, she questioned whether the sample would even be viable.
So, I’m not counting on receiving test results.
What I did receive; a lot of feelings.
Feelings of frustration that something like this, at best, slipped through the cracks, and at worst, was tossed out knowing the potential ramifications said test could have on the lives of my family and community.
Fear about how this virus is being handled. If my case is representative of how the coronavirus is being dealt with countrywide, I question the validity of the numbers reported, and can’t help wondering how long it’s going to take for it to be contained.
But I’m also feeling so, so grateful for my health (however fragile it may be), a supportive family, for all the doctors who are working hard trying to chase down answers and continuing to try to streamline this process.
In the end, my sickness forced me and my family into self-quarantine early, which would have been the exact same prescription had the test come back positive.
Update: I finally got a response. “Per Alice at ADHS – sample was received but Pt didn’t meet criteria for testing per their epidemiologist.” It was never tested.
Editor’s note: As of March 18, only 265 people had been logged as tested for coronavirus in Arizona — a state of more than 7 million people — according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Of those, 27 were positive.