Did I have COVID-19?
Looking back, I’m trying to put the pieces together.
It started on a Wednesday night, I know that. My wife goes to dance class on Wednesdays. She comes home on an exercise high and then stays up late. I wasn’t feeling well so I went upstairs to bed while she stayed downstairs watching TV and folding laundry.
It didn’t take long before I started getting chills and feeling feverish. I huddled and pulled my blanket over my head, just shivering uncontrollably. But my skin and body felt hot and clammy. When I closed my eyes it felt like pinpricks shooting in my brain and eyes. I had fever dreams and hallucinations about being at a press conference.
I was so thirsty and wanted to get some ibuprofen. But I felt powerless to do anything. I couldn’t call out for my wife downstairs, and even my phone on my nightstand felt too far away. I was suddenly too weak to get it and text my wife downstairs.
That night I was in and out of consciousness and had trouble sleeping. I woke up early in the morning and emailed work to let them know I was out, and then slept until almost noon. I haven’t slept that late since… college, maybe?
I still wasn’t feeling well the next day, Friday, and stayed home again. If I recall correctly, and by looking at my workout data on Strava, I was still sick on Saturday. I’m usually very healthy, and normally I work out every day and run up to 50 miles a week. I felt drained. I had no energy or appetite.
And then I recovered… as my wife got sick and went through the same thing for days.
The first in our household to get sick was our 6-year-old son, who threw up in the middle of the night. But his version seemed to be shorter and milder, lasting maybe 12–24 hours. We were waiting for our 9-year-old daughter to get sick, and she never did.
Around this time a bunch of people started getting sick in the office. I look up in my email the notifications of people out sick — one person reported “bad fever and extreme chills.”
This all happened the end of January, two weeks after our family returned from a Disney World vacation in Orlando. (From what I’ve read, if you get symptoms they usually present themselves 1–14 days after infection.)
At the time, we didn’t think much of it. Getting sick in the winter is normal. This just happened to be more severe than what we were used to. Everyone in our family got flu shots, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get sick.
You can see where this is going.
I didn’t think any of this again, until yesterday. That’s when I saw this tweet from a doctor in Florida:
In a nutshell, this Florida doctor took a test that seems to suggest that he had covid-19… back in January.
One of my first thoughts was, is this a quack doctor? One of those social media doctors or someone who makes a living by going on Fox News?
This led me down a rabbit hole down his timeline, and no, he seems to know what he’s talking about. His whole timeline is filled with medical conferences, studies and other doctors in his mentions. But then again, what do I know?
I also thought, Florida in January? There’s no way. So I looked up when the first cases were detected in Florida. It turns out Florida was the third state to detect a confirmed case, announced on March 1st, only after local testing was set up. This came after the outbreak in Washington sounded the alarm — when scientists broke with protocols that limited local testing — that the virus has been circulating in the community undetected possibly for weeks. Florida also had the first death on the east coast of a confirmed covid-19 case.
I looked up the test that Peter Antevy referred to, and it seems like it’s only available to doctors. That’s a good thing, because people like me would have no idea what to do with it. (Pee on it? Draw my blood? idk I’m not a doctor).
And if it showed that I had covid-19 back in January, could I trust that information? Does this mean I have immunity, and if so for how long? And what would I do with that knowledge? And then what if you took four tests and they told you contradictory findings?
You can certainly get sick without having the coronavirus. Maybe that’s what happened to me, and many others who suspect they might have it have tested negative. (Though some health experts have suggested the rate of false-negative tests could be up to 30 percent.)
Meanwhile, the health care system has its hands full with people who actually have active and “presumptive” cases, even if there aren’t enough tests to go around. The highest priority isn’t someone who had symptoms back in January. As it should be.
From what I can find through my “research” (aka Googling), there are currently no public or widespread tests for coronavirus antibodies yet. Plans are under development “to screen a few thousand people a day,” which would then amass more data on the accuracy and specificity of such tests. Science takes time. We all want answers right now.
We want some level of certainty, where there is none.
So what now? I don’t want to feel like a Reddit detective gathering bits and pieces of information and drawing my own inferences, probably rife with confirmation bias.
But in the absence of widespread testing, that leaves people like me just wondering and speculating. That seems like a dangerous rabbit hole.