health

'The shock I feel is incredible.' A diary of exactly what it's like to have COVID.

Day 1, Saturday

We’re pottering around in the garden when suddenly, I feel like I’m getting a cold. I tell my husband Sam, who says he actually feels like he’s getting one too. 

"Right, I’m going to get a COVID test". 

Yes! I think, time out of the house on my own - here I come! I’m so optimistic about the time alone I’m going to have that I pack a book, snack, drink bottle and some work. I drive to the testing station and for the first time since the pandemic started, there are only four cars in front of me. 

All up, it takes me 30 minutes for the test - including driving to and from home. I spend 20 minutes making up for my missed opportunity by sitting in the car outside our house.

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Day 2, Sunday

It’s Sunday and Sam and I wake up feeling like we REALLY have a cold. Headache, blocked nose. 

"I hope we don’t have COVID," I say. 

Surely we can't have it? I'm double vaccinated and Sam has already had his first dose. 

"But if we don’t have COVID, how have we possibly managed to catch a cold?" he says. 

We have been following all the lockdown rules. I haven’t been anywhere - other than walks outside - for over two weeks. In the same two weeks, Sam has been to physio twice (where the rules are strict and all staff are double vaccinated), and he went to one of our local supermarkets on Thursday.

We spend the morning doing more gardening outside. I’m Facetiming my mum (who lives overseas) to get her opinion on how to prune a plant. A friend texts and says there is a bug going around as her friends are sick too. 

"But did they test negative to COVID?" 

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The relief I feel when she texts they did test negative is palpable. Phew! There ARE other viruses circulating. We must have that.

Literally two minutes later, while I chat to Mum, another text pops up. "Ooh, it’s my COVID result, hang on." 

"Oh f**k, oh f**k. It’s positive! I’ve got to go," and I hang up. Poor Mum!

The shock I feel is incredible. I keep looking at the message. This can’t be right. But I also know it must be right - the chances of catching another bug while following all the lockdown measures are too low.

Sam quickly bundles up the kids to take them all for a COVID test.

I get on the phone and ring Eve, who I’ve been going on socially distanced walks with every day and a friend who I saw (while wearing masks) outside on Friday, when he gave me some fertiliser. I also text our other neighbours to let them know. Pretty soon, everyone we know around the area is heading out for COVID tests.

Thankfully, eventually everyone - including the physios and our close contact - test negative.

Day 3, Monday

We wake up to the kids’ test results - they’re both negative! We can’t believe it. We haven’t been isolating from them. Sam still doesn’t have his result. 

There’s a moment where we both wonder if my result is a false positive. 

Maybe we don’t have COVID? But then I get a call from the testing lab to check if I know I have COVID. Minutes later, Sam gets a text to say he is COVID positive. The shock is still immense.

Not long later, he also gets a call from the testing lab to check if he’s aware of his new positive status. A nice-sounding doctor confirms Sam has the result and asks how his symptoms are. He starts telling her he is short of breath. 

She pauses and then replies "ok then… good luck," in this super perky 'thank-god-it’s-not-me' voice. 

We start laughing manically… Good luck!?

In the afternoon, the contact tracers call. This is it, the moment I’ve been waiting for. We can work out where we got COVID. They’ll go through my NSW app data to work out where I’ve been.

The call is alarmingly brief. It’s clear they are becoming very over-loaded. She has no interest in where I may have caught COVID. Only the two days prior to when I first had symptoms, and got tested, and who might have been exposed to me. 

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And she just asks me for this information - no verification via credit card receipts or the like. Luckily, I’m an honest person and luckily, I haven’t really been anywhere so I tell her the one place I went (the local café) and every person I saw. The woman I ordered a juice from while standing outside is now deemed a close contact. As is Eve, who I went for a walk with, and the friend who gave me the fertiliser. 

They don’t hear from NSW Health for another two days. 

The trampoline I ordered for the kids, to try to increase their physical activity during lockdown, arrives in the afternoon. Prior to having COVID, I decided that of course we would not spend $350 to pay someone else to set up the trampoline. Sam is super handy - he has built decks, sheds and more. Of course, he can set up a trampoline I decided, and ignored all the advice on the internet strongly recommending paying the professionals. 

Now, of course, we have no choice – we have COVID. So no one can set it up for us, anyway. 

For the same reason we can’t get anyone else to set it up (having COVID and all), I should have left the construction of a trampoline until after we had recovered. But the weather forecast said a storm was coming. We were probably going to get sicker. The kids would be stuck in our property for at least two weeks, so we must urgently set up the trampoline I decided…. At 4pm on a winter’s afternoon.

In hindsight, I realise this insane decision is what took us from sick to pretty sick. 

We managed to get the legs and mat on before Sam physically couldn’t do any more and went back to bed. He was definitely deteriorating faster than me. It became completely dark. I used my phone torch to try to read the instructions. It started raining. I pushed through. Inserting every pole into the net required five minutes of resting afterwards. 

Finally, I finished.

Later Sam and I stood looking at the trampoline from the kitchen: "Is it just me or does it look like the net is on an unusual angle?"

Day 7, Friday

Our daughter Thea gets grumpy at Sam for some unknown reason. She starts yelling at him "you should just leave! COVID Man!" I want to give her a cuddle, but refrain for fear of making her COVID Girl.

Day 8, Saturday

I feel well enough to help my son Leo hook up Minecraft on his Nintendo. In doing so, I catch a glimpse in the parental controls of the number of hours he has been playing. 

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If I wasn’t already sick, I’d feel sick. 

The number doesn’t seem possible, and is too high to write down. That night I read an article that mentions 2-3 hours of video game time a week is optimal for kids. Leo is unaware he will soon be entering into a 12-step addiction program.

Sam gets his daily call from the nurse at RPA Virtual Health. He is improving except for a lingering cough and we are both still very tired. She asks him about his asthma medication and whether he has enough. 

"If you miss even one day of your medication, you will end up in hospital," she warns him. 

"If you end up in hospital because you didn’t organise a repeat of your meds, I will divorce you," I warn him. 

Sam has prior from ongoing days without his meds due to his organisational skills.

Haven’t cried in a year. I pride myself on my lack of tear ducts. Sam and I watch the film Coda. It is about a deaf family with a hearing daughter. No one dies. It’s a story of what a family will do for one another. 

Sam and I sob together on the couch. 

Lockdown, home-schooling, working from home, not seeing our families for almost two years, having COVID… It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. We eat some more chocolate to console ourselves.

Image: Getty. 

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Day 9, Sunday

Our good friends and neighbours get runny noses. They go immediately to get tested again. We panic. He runs a café in the CBD and has been out of business since the first day of lockdown. 

Even prior to us getting COVID, he has been leaving amazing meals on our front porch. I say to Sam, "we’ll have to make them meals!" 

He looks at me and asks what will I make. 

"Meal vouchers. Ok, we’ll buy them meal vouchers," I reply. Luckily, they test negative. Crisis averted.

Day 13, Thursday

Sam has first day back at work since we got sick. He gets busy, preparing for his first team meeting by setting up a photo of a hospital ward for his virtual background. 

He is a minor celebrity, the first person at the Sydney office to get COVID.

He has a Zoom meeting later in the day with two people he’s never met. They discuss his COVID recovery and ask if he knows how he got it. 

He says "it’s a real mystery. I only went to the supermarket once. Oh, and that anti-lockdown/anti-vaxxer rally." Their faces drop.

He was very clearly joking. 

Day 18, Tuesday

Smell comes back in spectacular fashion. Sam does a silent fart next to me on the couch. 

"Did you fart?!" I scream. And then suddenly scream again, "My smell is back!"

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Day 19, Wednesday

Instead of asking "what are we doing today?", this morning Thea asked how far away Easter and Christmas are. Extreme disappointment ensued when they were told it wasn't coming up next month. After suggesting we solve the problem by having a mid-winter Christmas Day, we plan on celebrating 'Eastmas' next week.

The day, as dictated by Thea, will involve chocolate hidden around the house for a hunt, a family lunch for the four of us, possibly a concert, and the two items on the list that induced severe guilt in both Sam and I; no phones or work.

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