I’ve kicked around the idea of writing a series on local residents and how they’ve been affected by COVID for a few months now. I often read stories about people around the world being affected in negative ways and in some instances, some good ways. It always makes me wonder how some in our community behind closed doors have been changed or affected by this life-altering pandemic.
When I placed an ad in the Journal asking community members for their stories, I received a few calls and emails from people willing to participate. Some wanted to remain anonymous; a couple were happy to share their story. Still, some people shared their story and ended it with a warning that they didn’t want me to publish it or share it because they felt they would be judged or have a stigma attached to them for having COVID.
I would tend to agree with them on some level.
Back in November, the week before Thanksgiving, I told Chelsie that I wouldn’t be in to help stuff and mail papers because I felt “off.” I couldn’t describe it. I didn’t feel terrible, but I didn’t feel great. I decided to quarantine to the spare bedroom as a precaution and see how I felt in a couple of days. I was working from home and only leaving the house to stuff papers on Tuesday’s. Everyone was wearing a mask if they had to be in public and we were social distancing. At this time, the school was a week out from making masks mandatory, but as far as we knew, Alex was wearing his daily. I didn’t think it could be COVID but wanted to play it safe.
I woke up two days later with no sense of taste or smell. What an odd sensation that was. Thanksgiving was less than a week away and I couldn’t taste a thing. Brian and Alex were in charge of cooking for me (pizza rolls and frozen pizza) but, the food didn’t matter because I couldn’t taste it. As long as I had something in my stomach to keep me healthy, it didn’t matter. One night I asked Alex to leave hot sauce by my door because I wanted to see if I could taste it; I drank it and nothing. It didn’t burn until it hit my stomach.
I spent my quarantine in a small room, looking out the window and praying my health didn’t get any worse. I was terrified. I kept working and slept a lot. I was weak and exhausted. I couldn’t get enough sleep. Then a few weeks later, just like that, it was over.
Christmas came and went and I told my family and some friends about having COVID. Alex or Brian must have brought it home. They quarantined the same time I did and never really showed any symptoms outside of exhaustion, better me than them.
After Christmas, I started to really feel miserable. My sense of taste and smell has never really returned. I can’t taste ice cream yet, the horror! I have phantom smells that are putrid. For weeks at a time, everything smells terrible. Then it goes away like it was nothing, but then it all comes back. I’ll tear through the house cleaning, but the smell attaches itself to me and I feel like it’s me, but nobody else can smell it. My perfume all smells like it’s old and needs to be thrown out. Food I once loved now tastes awful. I’m in the middle of one of these phases right now, where everything smells terrible. The best way to describe it is like I stepped in dog doo and I can’t get it off, so that’s all I smell all day, every day.
My hair is falling out like crazy. I was discouraged from cooking for a while because my now very long hair (I haven’t been out for a haircut in well over a year) is baked, steamed and air fried into everything I make-even cereal.
I’ve suffered from migraines since I was a teenager and I take daily medication for them, but the headaches I suffer from now are different yet just as painful sometimes. I get earaches all the time, I get so tired I feel like I’m going to pass out or get sick, sinus congestion and pain, tooth pain, my fingernails peel in layers and the list goes on and on. Studies say that many people experience “long hauler” symptoms. However, we are still learning about it and I’m not comfortable diagnosing myself or sharing information about it without knowing more. I haven’t talked to my doctor about all of this yet because my symptoms have not been crippling and they have more important things to deal with right now. All I know is that I’m not allowed to forget for one day that I had COVID, but I’m thankful that I have these symptoms as long as I’m on this earth to battle them. I know I’m lucky to be here when so many others are not and I don’t take that for granted.
All of this is to say, I hope that sharing my story makes others feel like they can too. I did what I was supposed to. I didn’t go out and shop, eat or see my friends and family. I stayed home and I’m still staying home unless I need groceries or I need to work. When I knew I had antibodies, I went to see my family for the first time in almost a year. This spring, I’ll social distance see my family in driveways and yards, but that’s it. I’ll be safe until I get vaccinated because I don’t want this a second time. I didn’t think I would get COVID, but I did and I wouldn’t say I liked it. It’s not funny; it’s not a joke or something to be mocked for having. I don’t like that I got it because someone else didn’t want to play by the rules and stay home when they were sick, but here we are. I followed the rules and while I said I’m angry, I got it; I’m not ashamed I got it. I know I did everything I could to prevent it and I’ll still do what’s expected of me. I’m going to mask up and social distance because I miss my friends and miss my family and time away from them now means (hopefully) I’ll get to see them sooner.
I hope you’ll share your story because it’s a part of our history. Someday, God willing long, in the future, people will read our stories like we read the Flu Pandemic stories of 1918. I hope they learn from us and see that we thrived and supported each other during such a strange and scary time. Hearing some of the stories from our community is why I want to share them. Someone said they feel lucky and blessed to live in Falls City because of the support; this is why we should share our stories. Remember when this started and we said, “we’re all in this together?” We still are and as long as we live in Richardson County, we always will be.