• Aisling Salisbury

My Rona Experience

What's the old saying? Third times the charm? Well, it's true for me that's for sure. Since August 2021 I have been sick with cold and flu-like symptoms three times, the first time was during my first five days in Hotel Quarantine in August, fancy that. The second time was a cold in November, yet here I was just a month later, getting sick again, surely not? Before August I was free of the cold and/or flu since June 2019. So this time around . . .

Perhaps it was the fact that I had only just recovered less than a month earlier from a cold that lead me to think it might be something else. But COVID was far from my mindset at the time. What did I think it was then?


I actually thought it might be delayed Altitude Sickness. For a week I was flying around Montana and Colorado. Never going below 4000ft elevation for an entire week. Plus I was in -16°C (3°F). temperatures for most of that period. A period of time in high elevations and low temperatures that I had never encountered for such a prolonged period of time, ever. On the last day of my trip I was somewhat fatigued, but who isn't after getting up early and doing 10-12hr days in those kinds of conditions?


I had one night in Denver at the end of the trip and was supposed to fly to Houston on my day off to continue another four days of work prior to Christmas. I figured that during my one night in Denver to have an early night, which I did and I slept for 11hrs straight. I awoke with some muscle aches and pains and figured it's either a cold or an attitude problem. For the aches and pains a Panadol would easily fix this, unfortunately, I didn't have any with me but a long shower helped that. Now the question became, do I fly to Houston or do I fly straight home? I had no fever nor was out of breath so I figured I would go to Houston and if I'm still feeling like this the next day then I'll go sick and fly home.


That all changed between leaving the Hotel and getting a coffee at the airport. As I sat down I felt exhausted, muscle aches were still there and I figured home is just over 2 and half hours away, it would be better to go there and assess tomorrow how I am, instead of going to Houston then face a four and a half hour trek home. At the time I figured it was simply either another cold or, as I said, a form of Altitude Sickness. Within 30mins of sitting down for a coffee, I was on board a flight home, it was the last "empty flight" for the day so I had a row to myself, was in the back row of the plane with no one in front of me. Thoughts of the fact it could be Rona were there but I didn't have the severe symptoms to alert me that it might be that. I had no fever, which was the biggest thing that tips you off to it right? There was no loss of taste or smell either. I figured by the next morning I'd be fine once I was able to get to my stash of Panadol and get back down to a Sea Level elevation.


As I walked from the gate in Seattle to the airport train station I quickly realised I definitely at least had a cold again. My walking pace was incredibly slow and gingerly, it was a tad of exhaustion and muscle aches. I figured I would be out for at least four days, so let's call this Day 1.


I stopped by the grocery store and got supplies for the next couple of days and some take-out food then headed home. When I got home a nice warm shower and that Panadol I was craving since Denver did wonders and I felt golden again. But what simply got me seeking a COVID test was for it to be my "medical note" for work. I'm taking the next four days off sick and then had my rostered days off for Christmas. Going sick these days meant that I now had a full week at home over the Christmas break, which looks a little suss. To save having to go to a Doctor, I opt for a COVID test for free and if work calls then I can say "I had cold and flu symptoms and went and got a COVID test, I am waiting for the results before returning to work"


The only problem was trying to find a COVID test in Seattle that accepted Insurance and wasn't already booked out until 2022. There were no at home kits in the stores that I could find online either. I think similar to Australia people were simply getting tested so they could spend Christmas together in a "safe manner". Thankfully I eventually found a place and they had testing available for the next day. So I made a booking.


Day 2: I awoke that morning, after another long sleep with a heap of fatigue and honestly didn't want to get out of bed, but who doesn't? I eventually did and headed out to get tested. The walk up Seattle's mountainous streets caused me to be out of breath easily but whenever I had a chance to remove the mask I was fine. I have been struggling to breathe with a mask on the last couple of months anyway. I got myself tested and headed immediately home to play the waiting game.


I had muscle aches again by the time I got home and a headache, another long shower, Panadol and some lunch fixed that up. However, by the afternoon I had something that lead or convinced me that I might have COVID. I didn't have a sore or scratchy throat but I had something that would cause a little discomfort when swallowing and it was also just lingering up the back of my nose. It was exactly like what would happen when I have a cold, so I figured if it's a cold then by tomorrow all I'll have is a runny nose. But the symptoms of a regular cold seemed to be all there for me but in a completely different order. It was weird enough to raise an eyebrow that this might be different.


I figured that by the next day I would know, not from a test result because that wouldn't be there for another two days but if I have a runny nose and constant sneezing then it's a cold. I also received a call from HR that afternoon and I figured it was the "you've gone sick before Christmas" lecture, instead, it was to be advised that someone I had worked with recently had tested positive for COVID and as I had gone sick I was asked to get tested if I had symptoms. To which I simply replied, "way ahead of you". So I figured, maybe I actually have COVID. But if it wasn't for work, then I wouldn't have gotten tested at all.


Day 3: That morning I woke up really early with some form of a stomach upset, I used the facilities and then went back to bed. Perhaps it was the leftover Thai food? I don't know but it was a little random. I can confirm that the fatigue is definitely real. I slept for another three hours waking up at 9 am and dragging myself out of bed an hour later at 10 am. I now had a runny nose and tender throat still. Generally, when I hit the runny nose stage of a cold the sore throat is gone, not this time around.


It was hard to get out of bed or off the couch but I forced myself to be productive. I did ten minutes on my exercise bike, then did some Yoga and Mediation. After that, I was out of breath for a fairly easy workout session, but when you constantly have to clear your nose or hock bag your sinuses it would be expected. Aches and pains were also there but two Tylenol (ran out of Panadol so had to use the local stuff now) cleared all that up. The runny nose and the sore throat was also gone by afternoon. Sinuses were easy to clean out, nothing like a cold.


I was even considering that I should be able to go back to work by Day 5. The only problem was I would have to fly to Houston on Day 4, I can't legally fly, even as a passenger if I am awaiting a COVID test. But honestly, I felt fine to go back to work with the symptoms I had. Sinuses weren't blocked, any aches and pains were easily treatable. Only thing is, in order to make it worth my while, I would have to fly to work tomorrow, otherwise there's no point in flying four hours to work for just one day then come back. So regardless, I would be using my full four sick days regardless of the results tomorrow. But honestly, I could have easily returned to work with my symptoms.


Day 4: Like the previous day I awoke early with a stomach upset but then went back to bed until about 10 am. Similar struggle to get out of bed but I did. I grabbed my phone and saw in the email list I had my results, "Virus Detected", well, fancy that.

I can't say I was surprised, but I can also say I wasn't really expecting it either. But hey third time's the charm. It was my third time with cold and flu-like symptoms and this time it was the Rona.


The next hour was dealing with work and HR, filling out the paperwork to be given COVID leave, which is completely separate from Sick Leave. As I had symptoms it would mean a ten-day isolation period from the date of first symptoms, but work took it from my test date. That meant December 20th-30th I would be off from work. So, let me get this straight, basically with my current days off that means I'm not going back to work until Jan 4th?

Despite having incredibly minor symptoms now and clearly on the backside of any form of the infection I'd just been given a paid vacation for the Christmas/New Year period. With work sorted out, I order the next week's worth of groceries to be delivered the next day. Then did 15mins on the exercise bike and 30mins of Yoga and Meditation.


It seems like a very crude assessment of the virus but that's what it was for me. Nothing more than a couple of bad days and a paid Christmas Vacation. Quite simply the way to some up the symptoms is like Forrest Gump explaining his time running.

"When I got tired, I slept. When I got hungry, I ate. When I had to go, you know, I went."

The only thing I'll add to that is that is:

"If I had a headache or muscle ache, I took a Tylenol. If I needed to blow my nose, I blew. If I needed to cough, I coughed."

During the day I received a notification that a Chrissy present from a friend in England arrived. So I left the apartment to collect it at 10 pm as it should be mostly quiet and no one around. I also walked down and back up the staircase and I live on the 11th floor? Seriously if COVID was that bad I doubt I could've walked up and down that amount of stairs with ease or even done any form of exercise during the day. Now don't get me wrong the walk back up was tiring, but it would've been anyway. But the fact is I could still do it.

Day 5: I slept easily throughout the night, no early morning rises and the day was just like Day 4, if not better because there was no need for any Tylenol. I did also notice a difference whilst brushing my teeth. The previous days I thought I looked a little pale in the mirror, today's reflection confirmed that. I now certainly had a better complexion to my face today.


My grocery order arrived mostly without a hitch. The main thing I ordered in preparation for Christmas dinner didn't arrive though, Prawns (sorry Shrimp, seriously what I ordered weren't Shrimps), but thank you Pike Place Market. I called one of the Seafood places and they had an amazing stock. The guy said, "Yeah we have Big Ass Prawns" that's what they were calling them, I kid you not. When I asked if they could deliver it because I lived half a block away and was under isolation they were more than happy to do so for me. We'll call that my Christmas Miracle. But thank you guys for being my Chrissy Saviours.

Christmas Dinner: Absolutely Delish and the Prawns were Big

Day Six (Christmas Eve) onwards: All I can say is that it was completely over. Yes, I still occasionally got a tickle in my throat causing a cough and would have to cough if I had to clear the stuff down my airways. But isn't that what normally happens after a cold or flu? By Day 8 I was back to my standard fitness regiment with ease and could easily clear my airways whenever I needed to.


So let's recap the timeline of symptoms:


Day 1:

  • Fatigue and easy exhaustion;

  • Muscle Aches and Pains

Day 2:

  • Fatigue;

  • Shortness of Breath;

  • Muscle aches;

  • Headache;

  • Sore-ish Throat;

  • No Fever, but sometimes a few chills;

  • Pale Complexion ;

  • Sinuses suggested a cold was coming on.

Day 3:

  • Morning Stomach Upset;

  • Disrupted Sleep;

  • Fatigue;

  • Sometimes a few chills;

  • Pale Complexion;

  • Some Muscle aches;

  • Headache;

  • Sinuses filling but easy to clear, so not entirely a blocked or runny nose.

Day 4:

  • Morning Stomach Upset;

  • Disrupted Sleep;

  • Fatigue;

  • Pale Complexion;

  • Muscle aches;

  • Headache;

  • Cough

Day 5:

  • Fatigue (or lack of motivation more like it);

  • Better Complexion;

  • Muscle aches and headaches are all gone!

Day 6 (onwards):

  • Cough at random times;

  • Need to cough to clear my airways at times. Mostly done post a workout or during the shower because of the steam.

  • Sinuses were basically all clear.

So what was my elixir to get through these days? It was simple:

That's all I took over the last couple of days, and as mentioned it was no more than two Tylenol/Panadol tablets each day for Days 1-4.


So is the virus really that bad? Well, I really don't want to downplay it and the other thing too is that data suggests that the current strain of Omicron is mild anyway. What would support that too would be the fact that I never had a fever or loss of taste and smell, although one day I thought my dinner tasted different, but it wasn't, I just cooked like crap that night as my desert (a packet of Snakes Alive) tasted no different.


I have worked with many people over the last two years who have had and recovered from COVID, some even having the virus twice, and the symptoms and recovery of myself are basically on par, whether they are vaccinated or not.


The brutal truth though, all the Virus got me was a fully paid Christmas vacation and in reality, I have had regular monthly symptoms worse than COVID. Once you pass the first two days, which is just a struggle with energy levels, the worse things were the muscle aches and headaches but Panadol (well Tylenol) clears that up and I only needed two tablets a day to keep it at bay. Sinus congestion was easy to clear and simple coughs would clear anything that went down to the chest. For me, it was a mild cold, with some fatigue and a severe headache.


I can easily see though how this virus could run a mock and be quite serious to someone vulnerable or in poor health. But a regular cold or flu can do the same thing. I can hear the trolls going "but COVID is more transmissible". Is it though? I mean so is a cold, I have worked in offices and one person comes to work sick the whole office will come down with it within the next week.


When it comes to this virus, in the days leading up to becoming sick, the crew I worked with didn't come down with it. Including the non-vaccinated colleague who I spent the last four days in a room the size of a cupboard with. Considering work told me that I had come in contact with someone with COVID then it would lead me to believe that my exposure came from either an airport employee or someone at the hotels I stayed at.


As I said, I can see how someone who has underlying issues would be at risk of this virus, but that's why we locked down for so long wasn't it? To protect the most vulnerable until there were a vaccine and/or treatments? So why did the plan change? Are the treatments or vaccines no good? Because we have them now, those that want the vaccine have got it (boosters too) so why do we have to continue lockdown and destroying the mental health of all of us for something that really isn't that harmful to the majority?


My biggest word of advice, yes I am no health care professional, I would recommend taking it seriously but it's not a death sentence either, it is hardly a doomsday virus. The biggest thing I will say is that the fatigue is definitely real. Although I never had the need to sleep during the day, I did definitely sleep for long hours during the night and would struggle to get out of bed and could easily have fallen asleep again once I awoke. A year earlier a colleague told me that once you had any form of energy back it was important to remain active as much as possible. I can not confirm this more.


Yes have a good night's sleep and stay hydrated etc. but don't laze about, as much as you may want to. When you're up (from either bed or the couch) then be productive with that time you are up. Walk some laps of your home, do dishes, laundry or whatever. Because also let's not forget staying active is going to help prevent your airways from getting congested too. In my case, it was some time on my exercise bike, Yoga mat, cooking, baking and just general household chores.


That's really about it from me, that was my time with the "dreaded" Rona, a shame that natural antibodies are not enough to allow me to avoid any vaccine mandates that I'm sure to face in the next year, but that's another issue altogether.


Ash


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