By Brianna Bush
DISCLAIMER: I omitted the last names of my roommates for their privacy and to make the story more personal.
At first, I thought that the symptoms that I was feeling at the time were my seasonal allergies, unfortunately they were not. I was feeling tired, I was coughing, I had a runny nose and I had shortness of breath if I moved too quickly from one place to the next. Those symptoms were all in the beginning.
Every year around October or November, I have seasonal allergies that can leave me in bed for a few days. So, when that time of the year came and I started to feel ill, I thought nothing of it because I had taken all the safety precautions. I stayed home for the rest of the week. I called into work for the weekend and scheduled a COVID-19 test just to be safe and because work required me too.
The day of my COVID-19 test, I got up to clean my cats litter box like any other morning and I noticed that I couldn’t smell anything. I tried to smell anything that I could think of that had a strong odor, and maybe I could detect it. Even after I tried to smell white vinegar, I still couldn’t smell anything — that is when I knew I had COVID-19.
Unfortunately, I live with two other people. But because our campus is handling the pandemic so well, it has been hosting frequent pool testing and both of my roommates were scheduled to be tested the same day I had my test.
I had my test scheduled at the local CVS, and I did not know what to expect. My roommates both had the mouth swab and they said it was easy. CVS did the nasal swabs and I found out through a YouTube video that I would be sticking the swab “into my brain” myself.
It was extremely uncomfortable, the technician who was helping me at the drive-up was coaching me through it. She kept telling me I had to stick it into my nose deeper. It is one thing to have someone inflict pain or discomfort upon you, but when you are the one inflicting the pain, it is different. I not only had to stick it up one nostril but both. I have a nose ring on one side, so sometimes it is a little drier on that side and it cracks, and I get the occasional bloody nose. Well after I stuck it up the nose ring side and the technician instructed to twist, it hurt. It was not discomfort like the first nostril — the first nostril was also all stuffy from me being sick.
After the test was done it was a waiting game. We all separated into our rooms, well Marios, our other roommate, went to his room. My other roommate, Bre, I consider her my best friend. We only really spent time with each other, so if one of us was positive, it was a given that the other one was. So, we did isolate ourselves from each other, just from the outside world. We work together at Olive Garden, which is probably where I contracted the virus, and because we didn’t spend too much time with our roommate, we knew there was a possibility that he was fine.
As we waited to get our test results, we all Bre and I isolated ourselves from Marios, we would wear our masks when we had to leave our room to go to the bathroom. Bre and I lived off takeout because we did not want to be near Marios because we knew how important it would be for him to go home to his family for the holiday.
We waited three days to get our results, Bre was the first to get her results first. She came into my room in tears saying she was positive. I didn’t really mean to laugh, but she did catch me after I woke up.
“Are you really that surprised,” I asked. “Why are you crying, I probably have it too, so you’re not alone.”
We knew that we had to tell Marios, he was supposed to go home that coming weekend and if he tested positive it would be because of me. So that started a mental spiral for me. Plus, we knew if Bre was positive, that meant that I was most definitely positive as well. Bre was still asymptomatic, so I knew that I was “ground zero” for our apartment outbreak.
Marios fortunately got negative results, but the next day as I predicted I had positive test results. Marios had a long phone call with his parents and ended up buying a train ticket home for the next day. I had mixed feelings about him not quarantining like we were all supposed to, but I also understood where he was coming from. He left and it was just Bre and I for the next few months.
I did not have the energy for anything. I barely ate anything; I neglected all my responsibilities for school, and I felt like it was my fault that Bre and I were in this position. I started to get worse health-wise as well. I was diagnosed when I was nine or 10 with chronic migraines and I have a prescription for medicine to take when a migraine comes on. Usually, the medicine will wipe out any headache that I have had, even one of my headaches where I wake up with one and can’t see straight.
I had never had headaches like these. The headaches I had during my quarantine were some of the worst that I have ever experienced. One of them lasted three days and no number of naps I took, water I drank or medicine that I took got rid of it. The headache was debilitating. The light hurt, the sound hurt and even moving the slightest bit hurt. I was in bed most of the time, when I wasn’t in bed, I was on the couch cuddled in my blankets softly talking to Bre.
I am not a lonely person. Or I should say that I don’t do well when I am left with just my thoughts. I know that the CDC wants people to isolate completely when infected, but I can’t be alone. I am afraid of being alone, that is my number one fear. No matter how sick I am I need to feel needed or I need to know that I am not alone.
So, no matter how sick I get I always try to seek out some sort of companionship, and my cat and reptile farm can only cover so much of that. I was fortunate enough to have Bre there with me, and I was fortunate enough to have people outside of my apartment who would text or call me to keep me company and make sure that I was doing okay. Because I felt like crap.
It’s funny now, I can’t really remember too much of what had happened during the whole thing. Everything just blurred together, we didn’t really know what day it was most days or what it looked like outside. We had so many garbage bags piled up, that we had to use her car to do a garbage run and we got winded just moving bags from the car to the dumpster. It all sounds so fake to me; it also just didn’t feel real at the time either.
I did not know how to deal with it either. This semester has just sucked for me and I kept telling myself that it is a dream, and I am going to wake up but it’s not a dream, it’s reality. It hit even harder when my family told me that I could not come home for Thanksgiving, I knew it was coming because my family had broken even more difficult news to me the week before. I knew that I would not be able to go home for Thanksgiving before they even told me. I made the choice in my head when I heard the news, I did not want to risk it.
I am very thankful that Bre’s dad opened his invitation up to me to come home with Bre for Thanksgiving. He was already planning to tell his boss that he will be having Bre there while she had COVID-19 and Bre asked if I could come since I would be alone here if she left. I am very thankful for Bre and her father. Fortunately, enough on the drive to Bre’s house we both received phone calls from the health department that we were free from quarantine. I still was cautious because I was still symptomatic, I did not want anyone to feel uncomfortable by my presence.
Though the country and school say that I am cleared to go back to normal activity I am still not 100%. I am still stuffy; I still have a cough and I get winded easily. I am slowly working myself back to where I was at the start of the semester and to anyone who thinks it is just allergies get tested for COVID-19.