What I learned from having COVID-19

I was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Dec. 21, and through that experience I found new perspectives, both good and bad. 

Even the good things came with their own burdens. As I spent Christmas and New Year’s Day locked up in my room, only seeing my family through my window as they dropped off food, (that I could not taste unfortunately) I became more grateful for those holidays I had spent with them. I became more grateful for frontline health workers that have dealt with this pandemic up close for nearly a year now.

As for the bad perspective I gained, it centers around the idea of the concept of public health, and playing a part in your community. Now, I don’t blame a specific person for why I became sick with COVID-19. I had been cautious, but ultimately I couldn’t avoid it after my roommate had caught it. For the last year almost every time I’ve left my house thinking, “I’m wearing this mask to protect those who are high-risk and to help this virus end.” 

I always assumed that if I did catch it, being 24 and healthy would keep me from the battle I’d seen high-risk individuals fight for the last year. I was wrong about that. 

I’ve had exercise-induced asthma since I was young, and the virus took every opportunity it could to remind me of it. It kept me in bed for nearly three full weeks. There were four nights where I considered calling an ambulance to take me to the hospital since I was afraid to go to sleep. Breathing had become something I had to consciously think about in order for it to keep happening. I had no energy or strength. 

If I forgot to do one of the five preventative measures I needed to do, such as refilling my humidifier or putting vapor rub on my chest, I’d have another night of being afraid to go to sleep because breathing became so difficult. I’ve had pneumonia before. It didn’t feel like that. It felt like there was a deep pain in my lungs — almost like there was an open wound.

It’s now early February, and I hardly feel better. The thing is life doesn’t wait. Especially when you’re a senior in college. I still expect myself to carry my backpack across campus, do all of the same work in my classes, contribute to my career in the same ways I demand myself to do each year. 

But my body doesn’t hold up for very long unfortunately. The dizziness, tingling fingers, lung tightness and more all come back once I do any physical activity for more than a half hour or so. 

One person making a decision to opt out of playing their part in public health is the reason COVID-19 entered my house in the first place, and now my doctor says to expect to give 12 weeks of my life to recover from it. I’m six or seven weeks in now.

My story is one of millions at this point in the pandemic. The cost of choosing to not take proper precautions during this pandemic is high. Half a million Americans will have died to COVID-19 by the end of February, but at my second job I see people every day who walk in without masks, throwing slurs and scoffing at the idea of wearing one. It takes away their rights, apparently. It never should have been about personal rights when your neighbors and loved ones are dying. It’s about putting the health of those around you over the perceived inconveniences brought on by doing something as simple as covering your face in indoor, public places. 

Bronchos return to campus this week. Cases in Oklahoma aren’t what they were during the holidays. The most high-risk of our population are being vaccinated. But the warning still remains: Play your part in public health. Take the precautions that your neighbors and family need, not just the precautions you need. 

I carry my backpack around campus on a cart now. I’m waiting on lab results that will tell me if I have permanent lung or heart damage, but I’m alive. I still have the same opportunities I had before, and I’m fortunate, given my circumstances. Think of everyone else who wasn’t so lucky.

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