The SARS-CoV-2 virus has touched nearly every single person on the planet – directly or indirectly – since it was first identified in late 2019. I am writing this not for sympathy or a commentary on your opinion if masks work or not. I have had people ask me to tell them my story – one of 105+ million survivors. I have a platform to share it. So, I am.
Being immuno-compromised, I was ridiculously careful when the first lockdowns in Costa Rica (where I live) happened in mid-March 2020. Short of wearing my own hazmat suit, I was masked up – sanitizer gel dripping from my body. A few months later, places like beach bars/restaurants, national parks, slowly began to open at half capacity in the late spring and early summer. I live in a popular tourist area, but borders remained closed until the fall 2020. So, the only tourists who began to trickle in were the national tourists “rediscovering” the beaches once filled with gringos.
I lost a high school boyfriend to the virus and several others dear to me. I have a number of friends and acquaintances dealing with long-COVID. One in India Whatsapped me, “I was hospitalized for 8 days. It’s bad, bad shit. We all think ‘I won’t get it’ and that’s the worst part. Not that I got complacent, and yet… Not even the best doctors know what they are addressing. It attacks everyone differently. Different symptoms, different organs. In fact, it touches almost all the vitals. That is how bad and tricky it is. I have been through the crap and don’t know how long I will continue to go through this”. I knew survival chances were very good, but I also knew it could be deadly.
Life at the beach continued to loosen up, although numbers in the country were rising in the fall. I always had my trusty mask and distanced, but became a bit laxer. I did not know anyone here who had contracted it. Until it happened here. Suddenly, there was an outbreak in our little expat community in October 2020. Most cases were mild. I only knew of my friend’s neighbor who was hospitalized and intubated. I tested negative that round.
I re-reminded myself to stay vigilant. People made verbal jabs. I would hear, “Oh, you’re not a hugger” or “I am not living MY life in fear”. Whatever people. I believe in science. The shit is real and I am at a higher risk. I was still going out and living life (we even took a few COVID road trips and stayed at swanky hotels normally not in the budget). I was simply not hugging anyone and I certainly was not going to dance indoors with a bunch of maskless strangers.
But then, regardless of my precautions, it was my turn. I was enjoying a sunset beer outdoors with neighbors (negative testers, as they were flying back to Canada the next day and a test was required) at the beach on Saturday, 13 Feb, 2021. At the end of the evening, I felt cold-like symptoms – scratchy throat, stuffy head, a slight cough, and a headache. I thought to myself, how the heck could I have contracted a cold with all this masking, distancing, and sanitizing? I spent Valentine’s day in bed – not the fun way, unfortunately. Feeling tired, but not terrible. I was convinced it was just a cold. Fortunately, I did not have a job outside my remote work. So, I chose to be a responsible human and quarantine, “just in case.”
On Tuesday (16th) during my continued headache hell, I lost my sense of taste and smell. Ding, ding, ding, red flags flying. I tested on Thursday but still did not feel miserable – just tired and not quite right. Food tasted like cardboard and the swelling of my brain was still moderate, albeit annoying. Saturday morning the dreaded email landed in my inbox. “POSITIVO” results. Whaaat? Even though I suspected, I was still stunned. That entire weekend I had to attend a virtual work conference presenting some segments live. I powered through like any good media ex-salesperson would do.
Monday and Tuesday (22-23 Feb) were the darkest days. Nothing would free me from the vice grip on my skull. I never did have lung or heart issues and barely a cough, no fever. A friend from the US had brought us a blood oxygenation reader, so I was checking that multiple times daily. But my joints began to swell. My hands were throbbing. An itchy rash broke out on my back and my mouth developed lesions. And then late in the afternoon on Tuesday waves of nausea gripped me, but I could not get out of bed – shaking and fearing I was going to vomit all over myself and my bedding. We (my husband was asymptomatic) discussed going to the hospital.
A neighbor brought some codeine for me that evening. A friend from Spanish class brought a COVID cookie. As it turns out, a cannabis horticulturalist here has been studying weed formulas and strains for healing various ailments. It was the ticket! Wednesday – after nearly 2 weeks of a constant headache I emerged feeling better – and, thankfully, showered.
I learned some realizations while in the darkness…
- My bed is pretty awesome. There are a lot of crappy mattresses and scratchy sheets out there. Not mine! You spend 30% of your life in bed. Or during COVID 90%. Make it comfortable.
- The local community and the neighbors in my building are incredible. So many reached out via text to see if we needed anything whilst in quarantine. Leaving everything from food to vitamins to prescription (and illegal) drugs to books at our door.
- This virus is stupid contagious. I have racked my brain trying to figure out how I contracted it. I contact traced as best I could in a country without an app and any enforcement of tracing. I warned everyone with whom I came in contact the week before. Everyone who cared enough to test were all negative.
- My husband would not be my first pick as a nurse.
- When I posted on social media about my personal viral invasion, the good vibes and prayers overwhelmed me to tears. I cannot say enough how much it meant to me. I heard from people I have not communicated with in decades. And yet there they were telling me their personal stories dealing with the virus or wishing me well. From school mates to co-workers from the 1990’s to virtual connections I have never even met!
- The virus not only messes with you physically, but mentally. You don’t know what comes next, since we just don’t have a road map.
- COVID-19 seems to manifest itself at your weakest points/organs and wages war. I guess I have good lungs.
- I have antibodies. It does give you relief to be as good as vaccinated and feel freer to go out and make plans. And hug.
- Weed should be legalized around the world, certainly for medical purposes.
I am dealing with some long-COVID after effects now into the month of April. Some days are better than others. I am still tired. I get headaches easily – coupled with brain fog (bad for a writer). The rash on my back has not gone away completely. My taste and smell came back at least to 80% in the weeks ensuing, but it seems to ebb and flow. My joints still hurt. I am so dehydrated. Nothing seems to help that. Some days are better than others. As we say here, poco a poco. Little by little. It could have been a lot worse. But I recommend getting antibodies via vaccine instead of naturally.