Whenever something tragic and unexpected happens on the news, there is always someone who says, “I’ve never thought this would happen to me” or “you never think it is going to be you.” Growing up, I had always cringed at these interviews, but after getting COVID-19 at the beginning of December last year, I no longer roll my eyes at these accounts of the shock that settles in when we go through unexpected events.
I genuinely never thought I would get COVID-19. I never thought that it was a hoax, but catching the virus or even having symptoms because of it seemed outlandish. Even though the coronavirus had ended my senior year of high school early, delayed living on my own at college, somehow labeled my part time job at a grocery store as “essential” and hindered my relationships with my friends, sister, and grandparents, I still did not consider myself to be personally affected by it.
Attending West Chester University online was challenging and lonely, but so many people on the news had relatives that were dying, and the scenes of overworked health care workers and full capacity hospitals seemed far removed from my calm everyday life of sitting at a desk — or, more honestly, on the couch — doing my schoolwork and occasionally socializing with coworkers at the grocery store.
I was comfortable in my everyday life, even though it had been greatly affected by the virus, because it seemed so different from the chaos I saw on social media. I was quarantining with my parents, wearing my mask everywhere and avoiding gatherings of those who did not live in my household, so I did not think I would ever get it. I wore a mask largely to protect others, not myself. I thought that if I did get it from the store I worked at, since I was young, I would be asymptomatic.
Then right at the end of Thanksgiving break, my mother started feeling ill and tested positive for COVID-19, so my family began to quarantine in separate rooms. My grandparents, who we had reluctantly eaten Thanksgiving dinner with a couple days before, did not get it by some miracle. We were shocked that the virus that everyone had incessantly talked about for almost a year had hit home. My dad and I ordered tests but planned to wait to get them unless we had symptoms. My dad was still scared to go to the Urgent Care because it was always full with what I would find out later were all people waiting to get tested.
Three days later, I had a fever, could barely stay upright, had a pounding headache and was painfully congested. I drove to the Urgent Care by myself and waited in a crowded room, obviously very sick, to get tested. An older man with a cough sat too close to me, with only a rag to cover his face. I got a positive test three days later and remembered laughing incredulously at it. It was obvious that I had COVID because of my symptoms — and my entire life had changed in less than a year because of the global pandemic that I was now infected with — but the whole experience still seemed surreal.
I called into work almost immediately and started my 10-day quarantine in my bedroom. I decided not to tell my professors because the semester was coming to a close, and I had plenty of time to complete my last few assignments. My fever had gone away after three days, but I still had a pervasive headache and was extremely fatigued. I went for a short walk around my neighborhood every day just to escape my room for a bit and collapsed on my bed completely exhausted after, even though I had barely walked half a mile. I spent most of the time trapped in my room watching YouTube and procrastinating several final projects.
My dad went to get tested early in the morning the day after I got tested to avoid the crowd, and his test came back negative three days later. My mom and I were a little sad that he had not also been positive at the time because it meant we had to stay confined in our rooms for another week, but looking back, we are thankful that he never got it. There was barely any information out at the time about what to do if you actually test positive for COVID-19, so we were planning to interact with one another if my dad also had it. Now, with the different variants, people who have tested positive and continued sharing the same living space have become even more complicated and are generally looked down upon.
Now, almost three months after testing positive, my sense of smell is only half of what it used to be, and I still get random headaches when I exercise or work long hours. Although we seem to have all the information on how to stop the spread of the coronavirus, there is still limited information available on what to do after testing positive, and there are little to no solutions regarding the lasting effects that so many have experienced.
Other WCU student experiences with COVID-19
“My loss of taste and smell lasted about three weeks from when my quarantine ended. I had shortness of breath and chest pains for about a month. I’m still dealing with a sore throat, and it’s been almost one-and-a-half months.”
“I was out a lot of money from not working. I infected my mom.”
“My symptoms led me to the ER, which made it difficult to complete schoolwork.”
“I still can’t smell, and my taste isn’t fully back almost a month after getting it.”
“People need to take it more seriously.”
“My symptoms came and went in about a week.”
“Almost my entire family got COVID-19, some of us a lot more severe than others.”
Emma Hogan is a first-year English Writings Major. EH954390@wcupa.edu