What I Wish I Knew About COVID-19
For many twenty-something people, COVID-19 is more a bother than a threat. With a survival rate above 99,8%, the odds are in our favor. But what about the future?
In Spain, where I live, many young people refuse, consciously or unconsciously, to follow COVID-19’s health measures. Some often forget to frequently wash their hands, use hand sanitizer in stores, or check whether they have appropriately placed their face mask. (Remember: it must cover the mouth and the nose.)
Others — the opposite extreme — engage in illegal raves. Crowds gather in open fields or rural houses for parties organized through social media or messaging apps. Do they wear masks? No. Do they hug and kiss and hold hands? Yes.
Do they care? No, COVID-19 is “like the flu”. They’re young, invincible, fearless.
I, too, am guilty of underestimating the current situation. Though I’ve never attended — and never will — a clandestine party, I haven’t been as vigilant as I should. Whether it was because I forgot to wash my hands, use hand sanitizer, or fix my face mask, I tested positive for COVID-19 at the start of September.
Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly:
Compared to other people, my experience with COVID-19 was good.
- Symptoms. Though I wasn’t asymptomatic, my experience followed the standard pattern. It started with… “digestive issues” (let’s call them that way), physical and mental exhaustion, fever, migraines, loss of smell, and evolved into a dry cough that lasted for two weeks. Thankfully, I never felt short of breath.
- Attention. Once word got out that I was sick, family, friends, neighbors, and even people I hadn’t spoken with in years contacted me. In the two weeks I was ill, I chatted with more people than in the rest of 2020. To be fair, that doesn’t sound impressive. 2020 is… well, 2020.
- Close network. Though I was with my mother and grandmother two days before the start of my “digestive issues”, they didn’t get sick. Though I spent an afternoon with two friends the day before my symptoms appeared, none were infected. And because I work from home, none of my colleagues or clients were at risk. Only my boyfriend shared my fate.
COVID-19 is not the flu.
- Symptoms. The last time I had symptoms like this was when I had dengue, the tropical, mosquito-transmitted disease. Since I had gallbladder surgery last year, I assumed my “digestive issues” were an annoying consequence. However, when the fever settled in, I immediately knew it was COVID-19. The following two weeks weren’t pretty. The exhaustion was overwhelming: no writing, no energy. The loss of smell was disorienting: Is this food spoiled? And the migraines were debilitating to the point I couldn’t stand the sunlight coming in through the window.
- Attention. When I called to postpone the appointments I had, people freaked out. They changed the dates for two months later just in case and repeatedly begged me not to go if I was sick. Though I imagine they must have reasons to behave in such a way, they were brusque, unfriendly. I felt like a cockroach. The flu doesn’t make you feel that way.
- Close network. I infected my boyfriend. He never gets sick. Never.
What I wish I knew about COVID-19: the uncertainty.
- Symptoms. My sense of smell hasn’t returned. I don’t know when or if it will (studies say it’s likely, but they’re not 100% sure). If it does return, will it be a complete recovery? What about my chest pain? As soon as I felt better, I resumed my at-home exercise routine until a new study surfaced, indicating that exercising after COVID-19 can lead to heart failure, abnormal heartbeat, and sudden death. I already have a heart problem (mitral valve prolapse), does it mean I’m doomed? I don’t know. Nobody does.
- Attention. Everyone who wrote to me asked the same question: Where did you get COVID-19? My answer was always the same: I don’t know. I don’t. Did I use the wrong face mask? Did I clean my hands enough? When outside, was there enough distance between other people and me? I don’t know.
- Close network. Though I can sleep now knowing my friends, mother, and grandmother are alright, I was restless the first days my symptoms appeared. Guilt and worry rattled my bones. If my grandmother got sick, would she die? Would it be my fault? What about my mother? My friends? Are they alright? For many days, the answer to those questions was — you guessed it — I don’t know.
I know only one thing: I regret not being careful.
Don’t make the same mistake.