I woke up on a beautiful spring Saturday, coughing and hot as a furnace. Also a little disoriented. How could I have slept so late — it was almost 6 a.m.
The thermometer told the story: 102.1. Normally I wouldn’t have worried, but these aren’t normal times and so we sought out the experts. The on-call person at my primary care doctor’s office suggested we hunker down.
As in self-quarantine.
As in not leaving the house. Or visiting family. Or going over to friends’ homes.
For 14 days.
I demanded a coronavirus test but was told I wasn’t eligible. I had not traveled nor was I short of breath. And anyway, there weren’t enough test kits to go around.
Three days later, when my 102.4 fever refused to budge after cold compresses and Tylenol, I was ordered to the nearby hospital ER, where, masked and distanced from everyone, I got swabbed.
The days that followed turned out to be a labyrinth of confusion, misinformation, desperation, inefficiency, lots of hacking, sleepless nights, scary fever spikes, exhaustion, and warning calls and texts to people I’ve spent time with — but also enough humorous memes to keep me sane.
As I write this, I just received news that I tested negative. Whatever else this fever is, a strain of influenza or a nasty cold, it has left me exhausted and achy.
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And worried. And appreciative of others.
My time in isolation has changed me. I’ve learned a bit more about myself and the world around me. No great epiphanies, just small, essential ones.
We’ve really bungled our initial response to COVID-19. There’s no excuse for the limited number of tests and the long wait. That said, the health care workers putting in the hours must be applauded. I think Anthony Fauci, M.D., head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, should be president. He’s a facts-just-the-facts kind of guy — my type.
I will never again speak badly of technology and social media. It’s been a lifeline to family and friends.
While a crisis can make us act like jerks at times, it also brings out the best among us. A neighbor who owns an industrial cleaning firm dropped off masks. Another neighbor has kept us supplied with groceries. The emails, texts, DMs and other social media communication have been constant. We do care about each other, deeply.
Humor is everything. I’ve never laughed so hard at the coronavirus-related videos posted on the family WhatsApp. Laughed so hard, in fact, that I’ve often descended into coughing fits.
The Hubby, who I’ve nicknamed Titanium Man for staying healthy despite tremendous odds, is actually a pretty good caregiver. Thank goodness. As we grow older, those skills will come in handy.
I can be petty. I went off on Titanium Man when I caught him eating my chocolate wafers. Mine! I didn’t apologize.
My children love me. They’ve called me or texted every day and haven’t asked for anything.
Life at a standstill is not all bad. For screen-less entertainment, we walk or sit in the backyard. So many small pleasures to be had: the squawk of birds, the skitter of lizards, the cool breeze on my face, the mango nubs on our trees. We talk. We talk a lot.
I’ve become a total sap. I watch videos of penguins and meerkat, of a mama bear protecting her cubs. I tear up at good-feel news stories. Anyone who has hung around me for more than a day knows that I am not a crier, but something about a pandemic … well, no need to say more.
Crisis can be the handmaiden to clarity. What I want out of life has been distilled to one thing — the chance to smother my grandchildren with kisses. Right now, only COVID-19 stands in the way. All I can do is pray, wash my hands, and isolate, isolate, isolate.
Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues. Email her at email@example.com or visit her website anavecianasuarez.com. Follow @AnaVeciana.