COVID-19 is somewhat straightforward to understand as an intellectual idea. There’s a new virus out there, it can infect you, make you sick, and you’ll very likely recover. However, as you start to experience symptoms it starts to become a very different experience. A rollercoaster of emotions and thoughts. I want to make a record of what my own experience has felt like.
I got back to India about 6 weeks ago on a Vande Bharath flight from SFO to BLR. It was a surreal experience to fly across the world with empty airports, no hot foot or entertainment on the plane, and being police escorted to a hotel to quarantine. It all passed by and I was back home to do what every other millennial is doing right now, live with your parents.
My parents run a small business which produces an essential commodity. Apart from a few people who can work from home, almost everyone in their business has to be physically present, including them. This meant, driving back and forth between two cities on a weekly basis. As I had recently come home, I tagged along with them for these journeys given I’m in a transition period in my own life and had time on my hands. We were aware of the risks of being out and about but weren’t really too worried as we were sticklers about wearing masks + face shields, sanitizing our hands, and maintaining 6+ feet in the instances where we had to interact with folks.
We did this trip 3 weeks in a row. Then on our last trip back, we all started falling sick one by one. Initially worried by this we began isolating almost immediately. However, we tried to keep our minds from the worst case scenario. Not just because the virus is a thread but more interestingly because testing positive comes with some amount of social stigma. We let a couple days pass and things didn’t really get better. I was of the opinion that since nobody had particularly bad symptoms that required us to go to the hospital we would just recover if we stayed at home for the next two weeks. Our fevers were mild, our SPO2 levels were not out of the ordinary, and there wasn’t serious bouts of sneezing / coughing. Plus, we were worried about rumors of local diagnostic centers marking people as positive because “incentives aligned”.
However, my sister insisted that we didn’t take this lightly and to get all of us tested right away. This is a point that I dwell on. I’ve read up so much on this. I knew it was the right decision to get tested right away, but I still managed to rationalize that we’d be fine at home without a medical opinion. I value having that outside opinion because we did get tested and all of us were positive.
Then came the first bout of despair, how bad could this get? Would we all recover normally? Would there be any long term damage? We still don’t know all the answers here but the next few days were filled with anguish and endless calls. Calls to family and recent contacts informing them, calls to doctors from across the country on their recommendations, and to our family doctor about our medication course and symptoms monitoring. Of course this also involved marking ourselves as positive in the arogya setu app (india’s COVID tracking app) and getting permission form the local municipal authorities to home quarantine.
We got started on some meds, taking lots of rest, and eating all the food the family began sending us. Now, a week in everyone is in positive spirits and recovering just fine. We’re now a little too happy that we’re recovering fine, buying us more freedom (likely) for at least a few months. Though very, very cognizant of the fact that re-infections are a thing.
Now come the interesting decisions we’ll need to make about continuing to travel regularly for work. What about in the neighborhood to go on runs? I, for one, cannot wait to go on a walk outside the house again. But what’s the signal we’re sending out there. Lots of decisions to make and we’re all making it up on the fly.
Stay positive, test negative!