It’s mid-January 2021 and I am alive and well after a “brush” with the dangerous and deadly coronavirus.
As an 80 year-old senior, I received a dose of an “enhanced” flu vaccine on Nov. 2, administered in the office of our family doctor, at which time I was told it might provide some protection against COVID-19.
About two weeks later, I fell ill with mild cold and flu symptoms that I attempted to treat with over-the-counter cold/flu medication. I mostly remained at home for two weeks, feeling like I had a bad cold with minor chills, headache, achy bones, and a general feeling of lethargy. My symptoms slowly went away and I felt better.
I did not think for a moment I might have contracted COVID-19 as I had not only taken all the precautions of masking, physical distancing and handwashing, but had exhibited none of the “markers” for the disease such as fever, loss of taste and smell, trouble breathing, or chest pain.
I called my doctor’s office to ask if my illness may have been a side effect of the flu shot and was told it was not likely as the flu vaccine was derived from a “dead virus.”
As my health improved, I looked forward to resuming physical activities, especially curling, which I had been enjoying under strict protocols: masked, social distancing, and with liberal use of hand sanitizers.
A friend suggested I get tested for the virus as a precaution that would give me a clean bill of health, ensuring I wouldn’t bring any illness into the curling club.
I booked a test online through the Interior Health Authority (IHA) testing site, showed up at the appropriate time and location where I was given a “swish and gargle” test that took about 10 minutes. Imagine my shock when I received an email late one night four days later stating I had tested positive for COVID-19.
I subsequently received a call from a public health nurse at IHA who went over in detail the history (dates, symptoms, and times) of my illness. I reported I was now, two weeks from onset, symptom-free and feeling well. She asked me to check my calendar, diary and any receipts for purchases during the illness and be prepared to provide a list of people and institutions I had interacted with during this time for use by the IHA contact tracing team.
As an aside, I cannot say enough about the efficiency and caring of the IHA team. We are blessed to have such dedicated and devoted medical teams — doctors, nurses, and staff.
In the meantime, we booked a COVID test for my wife, who was advised within two days she tested negative. (While there, she was told it seems the time of most danger is a few days before symptoms appear.)
However, as I was a contact for her, she was required to self-isolate for two weeks.
Two days after her isolation, an IHA supervisor called and spoke at length with both of us. Since I had been living in quarantine for two weeks and had no COVID symptoms, he was “closing” my file, and I was “free to go,” although he suggested I should still get the virus vaccine as soon as it was available because of my age.
I thus count myself as one of more than 400,000 Canadians who contacted the virus and recovered.
More problematic for me, however, was the reaction of family and friends to the news that I had tested positive for COVID, which resulted in a sense of “shame.”
While I had done nothing wrong and had no idea where I might have caught the virus, I had the distinct feeling others thought I had done something unwise or even foolish to have contracted the virus.
When my wife spoke to an acquaintance who was on her way to a party, she asked: “Aren’t you in lockdown? We are.” The reply: “Of course you are, your husband has COVID.”
(I became aware of other examples of what I saw as hypocrisy, such as people who quoted the rules, but did not appear to follow them.)
However we were comforted by close friends and neighbours who rallied around us, offering help for anything we needed. Entire meals, as well as generous helpings of muffins and other goodies were left on a chair outside our door. We would hear the doorbell ring and open the door to find these treats, the donors waving from the end of our driveway. This warmed our hearts!
While I understand the fear accompanying any mention of coronavirus and why people might shun the victims, I want to tell anyone willing to listen that it does not have to be a death sentence, a real fear I had at my age. The good news is there are people who contract it and recover, and I am thankfully one of them.