Well, it finally happened. After 3 1/2 years of ducking the spiky balls of the novel coronavirus, I got COVID-19.

I woke up the first day with the sniffles and an upset stomach, and went to work because the symptoms were barely noticeable and not what we think of when we think of when we think of COVID (no cough, no fever). The second day, I woke up feeling like I’d been run over by a herd of buffalo. I took two tests from the stockpile under the sink and called out sick.

I called my kidney doctor, because I’m very protective of my one remaining kidney, and he recommended taking the medication Paxlovid. Of course, that required a call to my primary care doctor. And two more calls to find a pharmacy that could fill the prescription. (All of these phone calls were made while I was lying supine on the bed.) I got the pill pack and started the course of Paxlovid on my second symptomatic day.

I’m glad I did; COVID hit me harder than I thought it would, given that I’m in excellent physical health. The body aches were the worst symptom for me, but I also got all the upper respiratory problems, a mild cough, general fatigue (much to the confusion of my dogs, who clearly wondered where their walks had gone), and one day where I was horrifically nauseated and ate nothing but a few bites of lightly salted matzoh. I did get the dreaded “Paxlovid mouth,” so I spent a couple days with a weird taste back by my molars, but I just kept chugging seltzer, which also kept me well hydrated. (Always important!) I never lost my sense of smell or taste.

It sounds silly to say, but a lot of people on the internet were surprisingly mean to me when I tweeted that I had COVID. Most of it boiled down to: “Ha ha, you wore a mask, and got all the booster shots, and still got sick.”

A local sports radio host replied: “Quadruple up on those masks and get 17 more boosters and you should be good to go.” He also added a sheep emoji. Several people have called me a sheep, actually. But the thing is, the masks and boosters work. This is the first time I’ve gotten COVID, despite working in medical facilities, including an urgent care clinic, for the last three years. I’ve had a lot more exposure to the virus than most people. Also, I like wearing a mask. It means I don’t have to fake smiling all the time.


The editor of a local conservative news site sarcastically responded: “Thoughts and prayers. Please link to the GoFundMe.”

That one actually got me thinking. (Not much else to do when you’re lying in bed isolating with COVID.)

I had enough PTO saved up to cover my lost wages for the week I was home. Millions of workers in Maine and across the country don’t have that benefit. They have to choose between going to work while sick or taking a financial hit to stay home and recover. I’ve had to make those choices in the past.

Even with the benefit of paid time off, it was still a hard choice to call out. At my company, an “unplanned absence,” even because of an illness that requires you to stay out of the workplace for five days, goes as a mark on my employee record. Enough of those in one year can trigger consequences, and I’d already had an unplanned absence recently because of a family funeral.

Our culture doesn’t make it easy to get sick! And I’m lucky enough to have health insurance, so hopefully if the worst happened and I ended up in the ICU with COVID-induced pneumonia, I wouldn’t go broke for surviving. (Although anyone who’s dealt with health insurance knows that having it doesn’t mean benefiting from it.) According to one survey, medical debt is a key contributor to about two thirds of declared bankruptcies in America.

The main emotion I kept feeling while I had COVID was gratitude. I was grateful for a comfortable home to isolate in and, in particular, my back deck. I was grateful for the company of my roommate, who wasn’t even mad that she caught it from me. I was grateful that I have wonderful friends who kept dropping off groceries (I think they bought the entire local supply of Polar pink apple and lemon flavor seltzer). I was grateful that I had easy weekend access to a doctor who got me my necessary medication. I was grateful to the inventor of freeze pops. I was grateful for everyone who helped create the vaccines and antiviral medications.

And, yes, I’ll get the next COVID vaccine when it’s available. Baa baa, baby.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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