Well, it finally happened: Earlier this month I tested positive for Covid. It wasn’t a big surprise: Multiple family members had already tested positive, and I’d had a worsening sore throat and cough. But it was still something that made me think.
It felt inevitable
So what was my strongest feeling about getting Covid? Just that it felt inevitable.
Not that I expected it to be that particular week, of course, just that I expected it to happen sometime. I think I’d have been surprised if I hadn’t had it at least once by the end of the year - perhaps at a far more inconvenient time.
The first couple of years of the pandemic, Australia had had tight border control and fairly low Covid case numbers. There had been outbreaks, particularly in my home-town of Melbourne, but lockdowns made it unlikely that I would catch it.
That changed in the final months of last year, as we completed the mass vaccination project, re-opened our borders, and decided that we must live with Covid. So by the end of last year it felt much more possible that I would catch Covid. But I’m not sure it began to feel inevitable until the chaos that was January’s first Omicron wave.
Once we passed that peak, case numbers weren’t quite so high, but I continued to hear of co-workers and friends catching it, both here and overseas. I saw no reason to believe I was immune to the trend. None of my family had got it either, but that too felt somewhat inevitable.
Personally, I thought it most likely to get it either through work or through family - I just didn’t want to be the one who brought it into the family circle or the workplace.
A Saturday walk
Friday night, a few weeks ago, I shared a meal and an evening with some family members. There was nothing particularly unusual about that.
The next day, I went out walking. There were kangaroos:
There were bushland views:
As well as other views:
And there were boats sailing on the lake, even capsizing in the wind:
I even saw the sun! All in all, it was a lovely walk on a day that had been meant to be wet.
But it was also during that walk that I first heard from a sibling that they’d tested positive. My mental reaction wasn’t so much “This is it”, but “Is this it?” At that point I didn’t have any symptoms - but I knew it was quite possible I’d caught it.
The dread disease develops
Other family members got tested, and also tested positive. We’d spent enough time together that the rest of us were classed as household contacts [That no longer means mandatory quarantine - just regular (rapid) testing requirements and masks while indoors].
Sunday morning I had the slightest runny nose. The kind of thing that is common in winter, and that I wouldn’t have thought twice about normally. I tested negative - but even then I was starting to think “Perhaps I shouldn’t go in to the office tomorrow”. Legally, though, if I’d wanted to go in, I could have.
By Sunday night, I’d started to have a sore throat and cough. The symptoms only got worse on Monday, and even more family members were testing positive. However, I again tested negative, and so was legally allowed out. And did go out, too, though with caution - seeing hardly anyone, and wearing a mask where I was required to.
I went walking (maybe even broke into a run). Got some needed groceries. Washed clothes.
Autumn was past, but there were still coloured leaves about:
The promised hail came, but it was fine because I was just about home.
By Tuesday I was sick of this: I was clearly getting worse, and it was almost certainly Covid. The seven day isolation period would start from when I first tested positive, no matter how long I had symptoms. I certainly wasn’t wanting to spend a week sick, then test positive and have to spend another week in isolation. And perhaps part of me was also wanting to test positive so I could write about it 😉.
So I was wondering if I should get a PCR test instead - and I think if I’d got another negative rapid test I’d have strongly considered going out to get tested. But no, within 20 seconds it was fairly strongly positive:
I don’t think it was an earth-shaking revelation, or that I panicked, or anything like that. I guess it was nice to confirm what I was already fairly confident of. To be able to get on with the isolation period that felt inevitable.
Memories of lockdown
The isolation period really brought back memories of lockdown. There was the working from home and not seeing anyone in person. There were the days blurring into each other - enough that it was difficult to keep track which day of the week it was. There was the feeling that I was being restricted.
The difference, of course, was that in lockdown I’d still been allowed outside my property for exercise or to get groceries. As a result, it would have been rare for me to spend even a couple of days without going out of the house. Walking was an important part of my coping mechanism.
In reality, of course, a week isn’t that long. And at least I had a known end date - it wasn’t going to drag on for months like some of our lockdowns did. I was going to cope just fine if I didn’t get too sick.
But it was still the longest period of time I hadn’t gone out of my gate since the start of the pandemic. Quite probably the longest since I moved here ten years ago.
And so, if I’d been permitted to leave my property for exercise during the isolation period, I would have (avoiding people, of course). I did go out into my garden when I could. I was even able to see a decent sunset there:
I really feel for those having to isolate in an apartment or even a single room (I’m sure if I had to do that, I could cope just fine - but I’d prefer not to have to find out).
A healthy appetite
Unlike many people, sickness rarely seems to affect my appetite. Even when it seemed like I’d done nothing in the day I still felt the need for food (maybe it’s hard work fighting off a dread virus?)
That led to one of the most amusing incidents (or at least, I found it amusing). It was the evening of what turned out to be my worst day, and I’d spent half the day in bed. But earlier in the week I’d planned to cook chilli con carne that evening, and when I got up I felt enough better to do some cooking.
Pro-tip: If you have a bad cough and sore throat, do not fry onions and chilli. It will get in your throat. At times during that process it felt like I was coughing up my lungs. But at least I could see the funny side…
The end result was delicious, and lasted several days. So all in all I didn’t do too badly out of it. I got both a story and good food.
A return to exercise
I’d say there was only one day when I really didn’t feel like exercise. And the day after that I felt this bottled up energy, like I was trapped and needed something to take it out on. And so that evening found me running laps round my garden. As did following days.
I wasn’t sure whether it was wise doing that, but it felt right, so I went with it. Maybe it delayed my recovery - but maybe it actually helped it. I really don’t know.
A midnight outing
The final day of my isolation was actually a public holiday (part of why I’d have preferred to test positive a day earlier 😉). I wasn’t completely recovered, but I’d been living life fairly normally for several days.
Given the isolation period finished at midnight, it perhaps isn’t a surprise that I planned to go out for a night walk (I’ve got form in that area). The surprise is more that it took me so long to figure out that was an option.
So how do I describe that midnight walk? It wasn’t quite like the Freedom Midnight, when I’d probably been out walking every day (just not after curfew). I think this time round it felt more unreal than it felt like freedom. And the darkness and the absence of people contributed to the feeling of unreality.
Before I went out, I wondered whether I should bring my camera. After all, I’d got some great moon shots the previous Freedom Midnight. In the end, I didn’t bother because I knew there wouldn’t be much of a moon.
As it turned out, the moon was nearly full, while I was still remembering a crescent moon. During my isolation period, I really hadn’t had any reason to go out after dark. So I guess it was just another example of me losing track of time during isolation.
It was a clear, cold night - cold enough to see my breath (though for most of the time I was out, I was too busy running to really feel cold). There were a few cars, with bright headlights. There was the sound of trains running across the railway bridge. At one point there was a possum on the wires. Then another possum down on the footpath, running at my approach.
I went into the national park, and saw the silhouettes of trees on the path. It felt magical, but I think it also felt somewhat alien. I had just become a bit too used to staying in one place. But I was very glad I’d left it.
The day after the midnight walk I continued to work from home out of caution, and went on a longish lunch-time walk. And again it felt right, though I certainly wondered “Am I going to push myself too hard?” I got my answer pretty quickly: The next day I was a lot worse, and after that I was a little more careful for a week or two (though still probably not enough).
Several weeks on, it definitely hasn’t completely gone away, but nor is it stopping me doing anything I want to do. I suspect I would be better if I’d got more sleep, and perhaps if I hadn’t pushed myself so hard with exercise, but often that’s easier said than done.
How serious is Covid, really?
Australia, and Melbourne in particular, have endured significant restrictions over the last couple of years in the effort to control Covid. And I think for many that’s meant that personal stories have to fit particular narratives.
If Covid didn’t affect me too badly, I’m supposed to say “Why did we bring in all those restrictions for this? It’s just a cold”. However, if it did affect me badly, I’m supposed to say “Covid isn’t over, and we really should be treating it more seriously”.
But neither of those narratives really suit me. To me, the important thing is the societal impact of Covid: The hospitalisations, the deaths, the long Covid. The restrictions we imposed meant that we could face Covid as a highly vaccinated population, and that has led to a lower level of problems. But we know that it still leads to a serious societal impact. From a societal perspective, the percentage of people badly affected matters far more than whether I personally am one of those people.
I’d been vaccinated in September/October last year, and had got a booster in February. I didn’t (and couldn’t) know how much difference that would make in my case - but it was a case of “doing what I could”.
I always knew that it was possible for me to be hospitalised, or to struggle with long Covid, or even to die from Covid. And the night I had chills and fever I might have spent far too much time worrying about those scenarios. Because the truth is, I didn’t have a good reason to believe those things likely to affect me - but I knew they would affect some people of my age and position in life, which would have an ongoing effect on both those individuals and society as a whole.
My actions, my experiences, and my choices are all just that: Mine. They say nothing about how seriously it is affecting society as a whole. I had some family members who had it worse than me - and still do. Others seemed less affected than me.
For me, most of the time it’s been closest to a bad cold (though an annoyingly persistent and lingering one). There was one day when I felt some brain fog. Another day when I spent a lot of time in bed. There was that one night when I had fever and chills and could hardly sleep. Overall, though, I can’t be confident of the long-term consequences, but it made me feel miserable much more than it seemed to be actually damaging me.
So I think I can clearly say both that it was worse than anything I’ve had in the last few years, and that it hasn’t been too bad.
It’s a nasty experience that I’d have preferred not to go through. Many I know have experienced it worse than me, and the overall effect on society and particularly the healthcare system does worry me.
At the same time, though, it did feel inevitable that it would get to me sooner or later, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that thought that. I’m not sure that me “taking it seriously” would have made much difference.
How disruptive was it?
There’s never going to be a good time to be sick, or to spend a week in isolation. But in reality it didn’t affect me that much. I had a comfortable house to isolate in, I wasn’t that sick, and I was able to work from home most of my isolation.
There was one appointment I had that needed rescheduling, but there was no particular urgency to it.
I’m sure it would have been much worse if it had caught me travelling somewhere. Particularly if it had been inter-state or international.
It might have been different, though. I had needed a doctor’s appointment to get test results and remove a stitch. Originally, it had been supposed to be the Monday after I caught Covid, but I’d chosen the Friday before instead because I was impatient to get the results. I guess otherwise I’d have needed to delay at least a week - probably fine, but definitely frustrating. And with other health conditions, or other work arrangements, or other things planned, I might have been more seriously affected.
So, what’s the positive outcome here?
For over a year I’ve been reminding people that the word “positive” now has, well, negative connotations, so I couldn’t resist using it here.
So, up to you. Maybe the positive outcome is that I tested positive for Covid. Or maybe it’s that I’ve been out of isolation for a few weeks and living a fairly normal life.
Really, though, like always this post isn’t just about Covid. It’s about my experience of Covid. That also also means it’s the story of a week or a month of my life. A month in which I had other priorities, other concerns, other things I wanted to get done. Covid was a distraction, and an annoying one, but it didn’t stop me being me.