An antibody test confirmed what I already knew:
Shortly after my husband returned from Europe, we both fell ill with COVID-19. Neither of us were critically ill, and we suffered from what seems like a more common experience with the virus. So, in true Blush fashion, I had to write about it and offer my insights. Here’s my advice for how to handle COVID-19.
In my mind, there was a slim chance my husband wasn’t going to come home infected.
He had been working in a few hotspots in France, and then had recently made the transition to Ireland before any precautions were being taken. He’s also the world’s biggest extrovert – so at any given chance, he likes to be in big groups. Plus, in order to board his flight home after production shutdown, he had to wait in a cramped line for four hours without any sort of mask or gloves to stop the spread.
So, yeah, it felt inevitable.
This was March 16th – at what felt like the exact moment America started to take this thing seriously and shutdown. This was also around the time that grocery stores had a hard time keeping up with demand and toilet paper was a hot commodity to be traded on the black market.
Therefore – I was not as prepared as I would have liked to have been. My weekend grocery trip was less than fruitful.
I made it mandatory that we quarantined the second he got home. He had been gone for five months, so quarantining in separate rooms was out of the question, but we at least were ahead of it in that sense.
I’m going to detail day by dayish as to how this virus progressed for anyone who is curious.
I know there’s so much anxiety and uncertainty about what happens when infected – and while again, Andrew and I did not have a severe case – I hope I can alleviate some nerves.
I also want to make it clear that….
1) We did our best to get our hands on a test. We spent hours on the phone with our insurance provider, our PCP, Cedars Sinai, the CDC…you name it, we tried it. At the time Los Angeles was short on tests, so only those who were healthcare workers or lived in nursing homes were able to be tested. There wasn’t much we could do.
And 2) Since we could not get a test, I couldn’t be sure we had it at the time. I’m going to walk you through my inner monologue so you can see when I doubted we had the virus (even with the knowledge that he had been in a hot spot!) and when we knew for sure it was COVID.
**This in NO WAY is trying to diminish the severity of COVID-19 or the necessary steps taken in order to slow its spread. In fact, I hope it does the opposite. While Andrew and I were lucky, there are others who did not and will not survive this virus. Please take others’ health as seriously as you do your own**
Here were our symptoms:
Day 1-3: Fever, chills, fatigue, brain fog, body aches, headaches.
Andrew ran a temperature of just over 100 – so it was very slight. Remember, he was freshly home from Europe and we thought perhaps this was extreme jet lag? No cough…no shortness of breath…so hmm. This was when we tried to access a test with no luck. Within three days, I had the same symptoms he did – and somehow I ended up catching up with him around day 9.
We were TIRED. We slept 12 hour nights and still Andrew and I each had to take three hour naps routinely throughout the day. The chills and fever would come in waves – it would break periodically and we would feel home free, only to come back a few hours later with vengeance.
Day 3-5: Heightened symptoms of the first few days, except with no fever.
I legitimately felt like I had been run over by a gd train.
Again, the virus would come and go as it pleased throughout the day, and thank goodness for that because I wouldn’t be able to bear those symptoms 24/7.
There were times I was so tired I felt like doing anything would require an IV drip of caffeine – but not because I felt physically drained. I’ve heard others mention they were so out of breath that they couldn’t walk. For us, it just felt like we barely slept the night before, even though we were clocking in 12-13 hours. I surmise it’s because our body was exhausted trying to kill this crazy thing wreaking havoc on our system….but I’m not a doctor so who knows!
The headaches were rather severe in nature. I rarely experience headaches, maybe once a year max, so this sucked. And the brain fog was exactly what you’d expect – I didn’t feel sharp or “on it” like usual and my ability to focus was all but gone.
Day 5-8: Fatigue, stomach issues, sinus pressure, runny nose, shortness of breath.
Still tired. The stomach issues were new for me, so that was fun. Both of us experienced sharp pains…and I feel like you all can determine what resulted on your own. I remember cramping so hard in bed after dinner (yes, we were going to bed around 8pm) that I felt like I wouldn’t sleep all night.
Again – this thing would come in waves. That was consistent throughout this entire process. So symptoms would come and go, like a vicious cycle.
The runny nose I chalked up to allergies – it was that itchy, typical kind of runny nose you get during pollen season. Turns out I was wrong, as I haven’t had a runny nose since.
The sinus pressure was bizarre. I had to continuously plug my nose and blow to pop my ears. We didn’t have any Sudafed on hand (again, not prepared) but we had some old generic Mucinex and that kind of helped.
The shortness of breath was even crazier. If we did have COVID-19, then I was anticipating this symptom as that’s what the news was covering at the time – but it didn’t feel the way I thought it would. So I still had my doubts at this point. To me, it felt like really severe anxiety. You know the feeling where you aren’t breathing efficiently, and you have to stop and force yourself to take a big, cleansing, deep breath? It was like that, but after the deep breath I still didn’t feel satisfied. So I was basically mentally and physically on edge for three days.
Day 9-12: Loss of taste/smell, slight dry cough, still had that fatigue.
Each of us had a slight bounce back right around this time. We genuinely thought we were home free, as most flus only last seven days. I guess we both temporarily blanked because the nature of this virus is to quietly leave and come back even stronger.
So, when we lost our sense of taste and smell, we knew that not only was this mystery virus not over – but we knew in our hearts we had COVID-19.
I remember lighting a pungent Trader Joe’s lemon scented candle, and I couldn’t smell it. I turned to Andrew and asked what scent it was, and he didn’t realize I had lit a candle (matches are pretty smelly, too!). I then proceeded to put a piece of pizza in my mouth (delivery was our staple toward the end – no other option!) and it had no taste. Yikes.
Andrew had a dry cough, but I never did. The virus never seemed to travel to my lungs, it instead went up to my head with the sinus pressure and stayed there. His cough wasn’t unbearable, it was more just frustrating. He was so over this by that point.
Day 12-14: Slight brain fog and fatigue, almost back to normal.
Even with the cyclical dynamic of the virus, by day 12 we could tell the virus was leaving our system because we were starting to feel normal again. The past two weeks we really didn’t even feel the claustrophobic effects of quarantining, because the idea of doing anything or going anywhere was a non-starter. I do remember wishing during one of my higher moments that I could pop into our local grocery store, but I wasn’t about to risk infecting anyone.
After two days of lessening symptoms, it was finally over.
So…what’s my advice?
Y’all know I can’t just write a blog about myself and call it a day. Blush has always been and always will be for you – so here’s my thoughts on what you can do to prepare yourself for if/when you contract COVID-19.
This was not ~totally~ my fault.
…Not that I’m really known for being a “prepared” person…per se.
To be honest, our timing really sucked. We had short notice that Andrew was coming home, and by the time I realized I needed enough food for two adults to last two weeks, the grocery stores were out of everything frozen or canned. And, since we couldn’t get our hands on a test, we felt a wee bit guilty asking neighbors to help. Remember, Andrew was jet-lagged so we didn’t want to be those needy, dramatic neighbors claiming to have the virus when really it was just a bug.
My recommendation is to have enough food on hand to last you and your family at minimum two-ish weeks just in case. This virus did not suppress our appetite (I wish it had).
I know that’s tough for some of you with limited space (*raises hand*), so you might want to get creative. There’s also delivery groceries and local restaurants that can help with this, but that can get expensive.
ALSO – do NOT take Ibuprofen (Advil) if you believe you might have the virus. Instead, make sure you have Acetaminophen (Tylenol) on hand.
I’m not a doctor (shocker) but my medical professional friends as well as our PCP told us to only take Tylenol for the aches and fever. I found that to be so random, and would have ~definitely~ taken Ibuprofen had I not known otherwise. So I’m very grateful we had that intel and wanted to pass it along.
I would also stock up on some sinus pressure medicine and have any other of your favorite remedies on hand. You’re not going to want to leave the house (NOR SHOULD YOU) and sending anyone who has been in contact with you for the last two weeks is also not okay. So have the necessities on hand!
I live in a wonderful building filled with amazing people in Los Angeles. And having helpful neighbors during this time truly saved our asses.
Before Andrew got home, I jokingly told my neighbor/bestie/life saver, John, who lives directly above us by two floors, that we needed to come up with a plan in case my souvenir from abroad was corona.
Thank God I did.
Because of this conversation, it didn’t feel awkward to reach out to John and Jordan that we were feeling under the weather and might need to lean on them a bit. I did try to downplay it – as again, I hate asking others for help and would have been MORTIFIED if it had turned out to just be a bug – but John saw through it (love him).
On day 7, we opened our door after hearing a knock to find the biggest casserole you have ever seen sitting on our doormat.
It was like the angels above were singing. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.
That casserole was our breakfast, lunch, and dinner for almost three days. John and Jordan *saved* us, from such a sweet, simple act of kindness.
And they weren’t the only ones. We had another friend, Brooke, randomly text us to check in. When we casually mentioned we weren’t feeling well, she brought us a rotisserie chicken within actual minutes.
Because that’s just who she is. Aussies are the best.
Looking back, we are both kicking ourselves for not being more honest and open about what was going on. Brooke is just one of those people who knows exactly what people need when they need it – and I hope to God everyone has one of those people in their social circle.
John now feels remorse for not going to the store for us (I keep telling him the casserole was more than enough!!!!). So please, talk to your neighbors about expectations/needs/desires if one of you falls ill. Together, we can get through this.
Try to be ~Virtually~ Social
I know this sounds weird, but conversations with our friends and family really helped during those awful two weeks.
As I have mentioned a million times, the virus came in waves. Which meant there were gaps in our symptoms, and occasionally we felt almost okay.
So, when our corona breaks synced up, Andrew and I decided to capitalize on those moments and call friends and family to cheer us up. It truly worked.
I don’t recommend this for those who have a worse case than we did – this virus might easily hit you differently than it hit me. But for me, it was so nice having those small distractions once in a while. Instead of focusing on how poorly I felt (and focusing on the fear of what happens if it continues to get worse..!), I could reconnect with old, happy emotions that could only be reintroduced by my loved ones.
I also continued with my coaching and writing (when I could) during this time. I still have my core group of clients (I love you guys so much!), and by pure coincidence barely any of them scheduled the first week (phew – y’all always have my back even when you don’t know it!). And the ones who did managed to catch me at my peak hours!
Connecting with others and helping them through this scary time made me feel so much better.
So, don’t cut yourself off from the world. Text, FaceTime, call – whatever you have to do. And if you don’t feel supported by your inner circle, remember that Blush is always here for you!
Stay the F*ck Home
You guys, I’m 31 years old and while I’m not the ~epitome~ of health (I do like my Goldfish and wine!), I also routinely bike for 45 minutes a day and don’t suffer from any health ailments.
And this thing kicked my ass.
So I can only imagine what it would do to your mother or grandfather or immunocompromised cousin or friend.
Don’t mess around with this, please. I don’t care if you *think* you’d be fine when you get it. You don’t know. And you don’t know how anyone else will experience this virus, either.
Have a heart. Use your brain. And do not put other people at risk because of your selfishness.
So how did it end up for us, and what does this mean?
Here’s the really great news: by staying home, we didn’t infect anyone else.
No one in our building contracted the infection. And I have to say, we are really proud of that. We didn’t do laundry (communal!) for TWO WEEKS after Andrew had been abroad for FIVE MONTHS and it was definitely worth it.
And, I’m sure some of you are wondering (as I would be)…now that we have the antibody test confirming what we already knew – does that mean we will ignore social distancing protocols?
We will still wear masks in public, we will continue to practice social distancing, and we will continue to stay at home. We simply do not have enough information to convince us otherwise.
So stay home, stay healthy, and stay safe! Sending love to all of you.