This year, after 2 years of spending my birthday mostly alone and at home, I decided to celebrate with my friends doing my favorite thing in the whole world: karaoke. In the days, weeks, and months leading up to my birthday, I hesitated a lot, constantly expressing to my partner that I should and would cancel any reservations and forgo having a social birthday for at least one more year. He talked me down frequently, reminding me that we are fully vaccinated and fully boosted as well, that our friends know how cautious we have been and especially how cautious I have been and would not risk infecting me if there was any reason to believe they could.

So I went and I had an incredible time on Friday evening. A staff member at the karaoke establishment recognized me from my previous birthdays celebrated there and pulled me up on the (new-to-me since 2019) stage to celebrate and pour sparkling wine into stranger party-goers’ mouths and generally be merry. It was a fulfillment of a wish I never even dared to make.

On Sunday, already a little hoarse and tired from an evening of singing for my life after having not sung for years, I screamed and cried and cheered as Argentina won their first world cup in decades, cementing Leo Messi’s status as one of the greatest to ever play the beautiful game.

On Monday, I went about my day and cooked a big pot of soup for myself, my partner, and my brother who was staying with us until his new lease started a few weeks later. I recall feeling the effects of all the singing and screaming of the weekend on my throat, and having been so busy with the day that I was uncharacteristically dehydrated. My lips and hands were dry, and my head was starting to hurt, not quite bad enough to call a migraine but enough that I realized I hadn’t had very much water at all that day, a bit embarrassing to realize as the person at work who reminds everyone to drink water. The three of us cleaned up after dinner and sat down to play video games together when I started feeling chilly. “Are you two cold at all?” I asked. Neither of them felt cold, but I had pretty distinct chills.

A knot of anxiety formed in my gut and I excused myself to take my temperature and also a COVID test, just in case. My temperature was normal, so I wasn’t experiencing a fever, but I wanted to see the negative test just to be safe. I swabbed my nose, set a timer for 15 minutes, went to the bathroom, and came back 3 minutes later to make sure the test was working correctly, bracing myself mentally for maybe that faint wisp of a line that you can barely see.

Photo: Mediakit Ltd

Instead, I saw a very solid line, indicating I most definitely had COVID. I broke into a cold sweat and immediately put on the N95 mask I had next to my side of the bed while I grabbed more tests to re-test myself and have my husband and brother test themselves. My second test also turned positive within the approximately 2 minutes it took for me to open all the windows of my apartment in the middle of December, but luckily my husband and my brother tested negative. Since my brother was staying with us before his new lease started, my husband still slept in our bedroom with me. We kept the windows open during 30°F nights and our air purifier on full power next to my masked face, which I kept turned away from my masked husband by arranging my pillows to push me away from him while we slept.

This was always a tenuous arrangement, and I offered to get a hotel and asked my husband if he’d be comfortable taking the couch while my brother slept on the air mattress, but he insisted it would be fine. I slept most of the day and through the evenings, with a fever that reached 101°F before I took acetaminophen so I could sleep more comfortably. (I found that as my temperature went above 100°F, my head would begin hurting badly.) However, my husband, in his efforts to help me feel comfortable, frequently entered the bedroom without knocking to bring me food or water, which put him at risk because I was frequently taking my temperature or finishing the water he had previously brought me.

I contacted all of the people I saw for my birthday, including my father, who came back from China in the fall and had driven up to spend my birthday with me. My chest ached thinking about the possibility that I had infected my dad, or any of the other people I cared about over the weekend. I knew I had let my guard down, as I thought about how I attended my own birthday festivities and went to the office, even though I was masked nearly the entire time (removing it to eat). The same thought kept circling in my head: I spent almost 3 years being extremely careful, and I went too far in the other direction and put only the people I care about at risk!

By Wednesday, my husband began to have a sore throat and my brother quickly decided that, actually, he would leave New York a few days earlier than originally scheduled. While I was concerned that he booked such a late bus out of town, I understood that he was at high risk of also getting COVID if he stayed at our home any longer, and especially with my husband being not-as-strict as I would have liked with my quarantine. My brother arrived at his destination around 2am that night and my husband agreed to sleep in the living room.

Sure enough, by Thursday, he tested positive as well, and I had a whole new wave of feelings because this was his second infection. We are both fully vaccinated, with both vaccines and two boosters, so neither of us were as nervous as we were in March 2020 when even getting tested was difficult to do. I did feel guilty about reinfecting my husband, and he felt guilty for being non-chalant about my quarantine. But, by Thursday, I was actually feeling significantly better. Maybe I was already recovered, as I had read/heard anecdotally that many people recovered from the omicron variant within about 3 days. Excitedly, I took another rapid antigen test and was deeply dismayed that it immediately yielded a positive result as I watched the test liquid go up the paper and show the dark positive line within seconds.

But I was feeling much better, and in fact, I was able to get my own food and water so that my husband could spend his time resting instead. While I offered to trade spots with him (the bed for the couch) he insisted we could keep our arrangements as they were since I was still testing very positive. So we kept our masks on and our windows open as the temperatures dipped down to 15°F and I watched my favorite time of year pass by.

Funnily, I actually had taken the last 2 weeks of December as a staycation and I had many grand plans of how I’d spend it: I’d walk around New York to see the holiday decor, I’d finally clean out my closet and pantry of things that were taking up space but were unneeded and unwanted, I’d sleep as much as I wanted! Well, I did sleep, but whether it was as much as I wanted is still a question. I spent almost the entire 14 days in bed, and I still feel very crummy about it.

I’m about 2 weeks out from testing negative for COVID but I’m still taking it easy. My sleep schedule is all over the place because of how much daytime sleeping I was doing, so I remain extremely fatigued. I noticed that after walking around my brother’s new neighborhood on New Year’s Day, I felt very winded the day after. Going up and down the stairs for the subway also feels like a lot more of an effort than it was before. One of my biggest fears associated with getting COVID was suffering with long COVID, so I took my rest very seriously while I was ill. I didn’t watch TV or read or do anything but sleep and sleep and sleep while I could. Even though I had ambitions of getting back into a fitness routine, I am willing to let those ambitions wait so I can rest, rest, rest and not have long COVID. I’ll work my way up much more slowly, perhaps with some hot girl walks and stretching, to get my body used to moving and not being in bed. I will prioritize my health and recovery.

During this time, our families in China were also dealing with COVID infections, as China’s abandonment of zero-COVID led to a rampant surge in cases. Almost everyone we know in China had it or was suspected to have had it but did not get tested because mandatory testing had ended and so they were just resting at home. I didn’t even tell my mom for days until I was on the mend because I didn’t want her worried, given that she was already stressed about her family members who were sick. (She scolded me for this later but I maintain that I made the right call, since my health was never in a dangerous place and her active worrying would only have hurt my recovery rather than help it.) I’m just glad my brother seems to have escaped just in time to avoid infection, and no one else I saw that weekend reportedly tested positive. (Maybe if they did, they didn’t tell me.) In fact, I’m almost wondering if I caught COVID after my birthday celebrations, during my grocery trip Monday to buy soup ingredients, or the grocery trip Sunday to buy game day snack ingredients. It’s all possible, especially with the new variants of COVID being so much more infectious and immune-evasive.

All that being said, please continue to practice public health safety. We are in the middle of a BIG surge in coronavirus cases. Wear your mask when you are indoors, keep indoor spaces you share with others ventilated, get your bivalent booster if you haven’t already (it specifically provides better protection against omicron). While you’re at it, get the flu shot if you haven’t gotten that either, as we are in the triple-demic of flu+COVID+RSV and hospitals are struggling with capacity. I am beyond devastated that we’re so far into this pandemic and it doesn’t seem to have gotten much better, but everyone has decided to just keep living life as though it’s normal for people to keep dying and to be so sick they can’t work or see their loved ones.

Be safe, stay healthy, and keep your loved ones safe and healthy as well.


2 thoughts on “I got COVID

  1. I left a long comment and then it got deleted when I couldn’t log into my WordPress account 😂 TL;DR is- glad your COVID symptoms weren’t “severe,” though it probably was extremely sucky. But glad you didn’t end up hospitalized! I’m also very scared of long-COVID. Hope you’re resting lots and feel better in the upcoming few weeks!! And Happy Birthday!


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