This Is How Covid-19 Saved My Life

Turns out, the illness wasn’t the only thing my body was battling.





Unlike some other people who might be unaware of when they were exposed, I know the exact moment I got Covid-19.

My husband and I had taken our littles to a museum in New York City. As we waited in a long hallway to be ushered into the museum, one of the employees talked about the journey we were about to experience. He went down the line, asking each one of us where we were from. A family stood next to us, and when it was their turn, the father said, “We’re from Sao Paulo, Brazil.” As the employee engaged the family with the few words he knew in Portuguese, the dad suddenly (and loudly) coughed into the air.

And in that moment, I knew I was infected.

It was something about the cough that caught me off guard. It wasn’t a “clearing your throat” kind of cough, nor was it a croupy kind of cough, one that sounds more like a seal’s bark than anything else. No, this cough had a hollowness to it, like it was echoing down the long hall that we were in. If coughs could have a sound, this one sounded sick.

My husband, who works in Infectious Diseases (and whom I’ve written about before), looked like a thunder cloud had rolled in. He yanked my arm to get me away from the guy, but really, all we moved was about a foot further away since, again, we were in a long hallway waiting for our turn to enter the museum.

Soon, the door opened, and we were allowed into the museum — but not before the guy coughed another time or two, still uncovered. Throughout the rest of our time in the museum, my husband looked frantically at his phone, checking to see which Covid-19 variants were currently from Brazil, and estimating that if I had been infected, how long it would take for symptoms to show up.

Well, it didn’t take very long at all, because a couple of days later, I, too, had the same funny cough. When it happened (at the dinner table, of all places), I just knew. The cough seemed innocuous enough, but it reverberated deep down into my lungs. It sounded exactly like the cough the guy at the museum had, and I knew instantly that I had been infected. I promptly took a test (we had several kits at home, thanks to the Infection Control hubby), and quarantined right away — just in case.

To be honest, I thought that my days of looking at a test trying to discern two little lines were over. But as I swabbed and waited, so many thoughts went through my mind. If I tested positive, how would I care for my family? Would the symptoms be incapacitating? How long would it last? Fortunately, the results came back right away. Negative. I was thrilled.

I don’t know what it was that made me look at the test 10 minutes later, but when I was about to throw it out, I spied what was an ever-so-faint second line on the T part of the test. Sh*t. I took a picture of the test and texted it to my husband, my BFF, asking everyone, “Do you see a second line? Do you see something?” Sure enough, they all did. I was positive.

Symptoms came swiftly and with a vengeance. I spiked a fever of 102 and had body aches that were downright debilitating. When I was finally able to fall asleep, chills woke me up and sent me straight into the shower looking for relief. I slept sitting straight up; it was the only way that my lungs didn’t hurt.

It hurt to blink, to breathe, to simply be alive.

“But we all got the vaccines and a booster. Why the hell is this happening?” I asked Mr. Infection Control. He explained that vaccines weren’t always 100% effective and that there were “breakthrough infections” which could cause symptoms. If we hadn’t been vaccinated, he explained, the symptoms could be a lot worse, possibly causing a trip to the hospital. I couldn’t imagine feeling worse, but it was totally possible.

Day 2 was more of the same. But by midday, I started feeling slightly better… and I was getting anxious. As much as I longed for days when everyone would just leave me the hell alone, quarantine is, well, lonely. Food delivered directly to your bedroom door (and left outside) sounds like a dream, especially when you can finally eat a meal in peace. But I missed my kids and being productive. So I dragged myself to my desk and started to work. My friend Michelle reprimanded me right away.

“Make sure you rest!” she warned.

“I’m not doing anything strenuous,” I texted back. “I’m just sitting in my chair.”

“I read an article that they think long COVID is related to people who did not rest when they had COVID,” she responded.

I didn’t know if that were true or not, but I didn’t want to run the risk of feeling crappy longer than I needed to. I rolled myself back into bed and sat there, unsure of what to do next.

You see, I’ve always measured my life based on how much I can get done. I have been like this since I was a little girl. Get five things done before 10 a.m.? On it! To sit in bed and do nothing, was so foreign to me. I started to cry, because doing nothing (when there was so much to do in the house, and work demands, too), was absolutely inconceivable. But being in bed felt like the right thing to do. So I did something I’ve never done before; I adjusted my mattress so I could watch TV sitting up. Can you believe it? I’ve had this adjustable mattress for over a year now, and the only time I’ve ever lifted it is to fish out a kid’s toy that’s fallen between the headboard and the mattress.

Being in bed all by yourself when you’re sick and sequestered from your family gets you thinking. It makes you start assessing what your life is like and what you’d like it to be. And I realized that I was packing way too much into my days. I was trying to do it all — and not really enjoying much of it. Did I really need to sign up for so many activities, for both myself and my kids? Did I want to live my life stressed out and saying yes to things that I didn’t truly want to do? I decided, lying down on the bed, aching and miserable, that once Covid cleared, I was going to clear my schedule (and my family’s schedule) too.

And that’s exactly what I did. I began to say no to invitations and unnecessary extracurricular activities. To be honest, it felt super weird to turn down things I would have automatically agreed to doing. But once I got used to saying no — and valuing my time more — it actually became exciting. Of course, I still said yes to some things, but only those that aligned with my values and what truly made sense. I got used to seeing blank spaces on my calendar and realized that my worth didn’t come from how busy I was. Unscheduled time, I learned, was something to be savored and not squandered. As a family, we spent more time just hanging out, playing silly games, and I discovered that I absolutely loved Bluey.

But most of all, I realized that happiness isn’t found in how many to-dos you tackle, but rather in slowing down and taking time to nurture not just your kiddos, but yourself as well. Because when you do, you realize that you don’t need to fill up your time with trivial pursuits, because just being you is all that really matters.

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