Early on in the pandemic, I was horrified like everyone else to learn of COVID-19’s unusual symptoms – from shortness of breath and the need for a ventilator to loss of taste and smell, as well as high-grade fevers, crippling body aches and weird dreams.
Even worse, people all over the world were dying from this airborne virus on a daily basis. The numbers quickly added up to more than 930,000 deaths in the U.S. and 5.8 million worldwide, which continues to shock me.
We’ve all also heard about the effects of “long” COVID and COVID “fog.” It’s now easy to understand the malaise and mental health crisis that took hold. Calls for empathy in such frightening, surreal and divisive times aren’t always heeded in a nation and world where this invisible force significantly altered the way we work and live.
Nearly two years later – fully vaccinated and boosted, along with my family members – I was starting to think that the virus might never enter our home. But the Omicron variant was spreading like wildfire when it first struck my 11-year-old daughter, whose mild cough gave way to a low-grade fever that climbed to 102 the next day. One by one we all got PCR tests, then home tests to confirm those results. My 12-year-old son was next, sent home from school with a positive result but no symptoms that ever surfaced, followed by my 22-year-old step-daughter who was visiting us for three weeks and just had the sniffles and some fatigue.
Although I began feeling a sinus headache and intense pressure on the back of my head, along with excruciating low back pain for a week from the time my youngest first displayed symptoms, I continued to test negative. But I just didn’t feel right. Then came flu-like body aches and fatigue, which led to a positive test result a few days later and gave way to a head cold. This all went on inside my body for 17 days – a veritable greatest hits of symptoms – and then just like that, COVID came and went.
I was grateful to know my symptoms, although an annoyance for longer than I would have liked, were manageable – especially for my kiddos. The only logical conclusion is that the vaccine, while not 100% effective, made our illnesses mild.
There continues to be a lot of disagreement about COVID-19, but one thing we can all agree on is an eagerness to leave behind this awful chapter and return to a sense of normalcy. With each mutation of the virus, we’re gradually transitioning from a pandemic to an endemic with herd immunity and will have cause for celebration once this is officially acknowledged.
Thankfully, the pandemic has produced some silver linings – from renewed appreciation for facetime with family and friends to the realization that many of us can work more flexible schedules. The efficiency of virtual gatherings – from business meetings to telemedicine calls – also has been hugely beneficial. We can all only hope that post-pandemic life will be sweeter and more thoughtful than ever before, but ultimately it’s up to all of us to turn that dream into a reality.