Back in the spring of 2019 I got sick. The symptoms were very mild at first, feeling similar to a cold but not nearly as miserable. I didn’t have a runny nose or even a particularly noticeable sore throat but I distinctly remember losing my sense of smell very early.
I thought it was odd because I hadn’t even been blowing my nose much and all the mild cold type symptoms went away. I remember thinking, “Well, my old age is starting to pay off. I’ve been exposed to so many viruses that my immune system must have recognized it and healed me fast.” Yes, I really thought that.
And I remember what I was doing when I felt it roar back after feeling almost completely well for a day or two. Respiratory illnesses take a very predictable course with me. I get a tingle in my throat, then an awful sore throat, cough, fever, nasal congestion, and then it typically develops into bronchitis, and sometimes even pneumonia. I’ve always been very susceptible to respiratory illnesses.
So that’s why it seemed so odd that it went away so quickly, until it came back and Lordy, it came back with a vengeance.
I was at work when it roared back. I still couldn’t smell anything and wouldn’t for another three months. But quickly I developed a high fever over the course of just a couple hours but couldn’t leave work early because I was driving one of my coworkers home that day. So, I sat in the break room feeling like death warmed over and hoping I wouldn’t pass out.
Over the next few days at home I had difficulty breathing. At one point I had the phone in my hand debating whether or not to call 911, since I was home alone. It was that concerning.
My then 21-year-old daughter also caught whatever I had and had many of the same symptoms. Her most notable symptom was difficulty breathing. She actually had breathing difficulties longer than I did. She was tested for the flu and it came back negative.
I had gone to the doctor during the early stage of the illness and they ran a test for strep throat which came back negative. I’d visit the doctor again after it became more severe and I was prescribed antibiotics, even though no other tests were done.
I only had a few days of feeling like I couldn’t breathe well but it was odd in that I don’t remember having much chest congestion that I could notice, although I did have a dry cough.
I remember being sick the entire month of April and still not fully recovered when I flew to Boston in the middle of May for my nieces’ college graduation. I was weak, still couldn’t smell anything and I generally just felt wiped out.
Then neurological symptoms flared up to the point I had a MRI of my brain. Multiple Sclerosis was a possibility and still hasn’t been ruled out since I’ve had “flare ups” of such symptoms over the past 4-5 years.
I can’t say whether they were caused by whatever illness I had or just contributed to the flare up but I had difficulty walking for a while, as I’d often drag one foot and trip.
There was one occasion while on my lunch break I tried to walk to the hospital cafeteria but had to hold onto the wall to keep from falling. I turned around and just sat in the break room. It wasn’t so much dizziness as it was just a lack of muscle coordination. It was if my brain wasn’t communicating well with my body. I couldn’t walk in a straight line and instead veered off to one side.
This happened to me several times during the summer of 2019, when I tried to go for a walk in the park or around the block, which is why I had the MRI performed but no definitive cause was found. I had blood tests and all the other tests to rule out everything but MS, and everthing else was ruled out.
So why am I sharing this? Well, because my symptoms and recovery are a textbook example of Covid-19. If I developed the same symptoms today I would be freaking out. Nearly every doctor would believe I had Covid-19 if I developed those symptoms now.
Are there other viruses that cause the same symptoms? Possibly. Viruses can cause a person to temporarily lose their sense of smell but it’s more the course of the disease that raises the red flag.
It started mild and then I thought I was over it. It came back with far worse symptoms. I had a dry cough, a hard time breathing, aches and pains, neurological symptoms and it lingered for months.
There are some indications that Covid-19 was active in China during the Summer of 2019 but wasn’t recognized until the late Fall of 2019. There’s evidence it was in Europe much earlier than thought as well. Studies now indicate it was in the United States far earlier than the first published cases in the news.
I work in a hospital in a very germy environment. Sterile processing is all about infection control and killing bacteria and viruses that can harm patients but the surgical instruments come to us highly contaminated. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to assume we’d be some of the first exposed to any new virus.
A few of my coworkers also fell ill, probably from me. I was the first to develop the symptoms. Nobody got over it very fast and some didn’t seem to catch it at all.
I can’t prove anything and it could have been some other “virus” but I don’t know of any other that follows the same progression as Covid-19. We all know what it feels like in the early stages of a cold and the miserableness of a cold but it’s just a cold. I know what the flu feels like. We all know the routine. What I went through wasn’t routine and I noted that at the time.
Does it even matter when the virus began? Yes, because even assuming my illness was something else, early cases were missed across the board for several weeks, if not months worldwide. We have to do better than that if we’re going to be able to prevent another pandemic.
So, now I’ll forever wonder what I had in 2019. I didn’t write anything about it until now because it seemed too improbable and a bit kooky. So, I’m going to assume I didn’t have it but regardless, we need to do a much better job identifying new viruses in the future.