By Drake Toll | LTVN Managing Editor
Contrary to the posts you’ve scrolled across from the Facebook “doctors” everywhere, COVID-19 actually does exist — I lived it. And, no, it’s not remotely fun.
Granted, it’s been implanted in our brain that plenty of people can contract the virus and never skip a beat, but here’s the firsthand journey of someone who was fully symptomatic but thankfully recovered.
Moving back to Waco, I understood the risk that presents itself to every student this semester. I’m a very social person, and especially knowing how fast the new coronavirus spreads, I believed it to be likely that I’d be exposed relatively early. That said, I took precautions and tried to limit any risky social interaction.
Little did I know, all it would take was attending dinner with a friend of a friend who had yet to show symptoms but would later test positive. That was it. It wasn’t a rager. It wasn’t a mass gathering. It was mostly out of my control. I mean, you can’t eat dinner with a mask on.
I say this to make the point that none of us are exempt from contracting this disease. We’re currently in a five mile radius of 20,000+ people — my dream scenario if I was a virus. You can be as cautious and meek as possible, but that doesn’t definitively ensure your safety once you walk into your 9:30 a.m. class or sit down for a meal with a friend.
As for my specific journey, my symptoms began on a Thursday and started relatively mildly. Honestly, no specific symptom was tangible enough to realize until Friday evening, but looking back, I recall chest tightness on Thursday being the first time I felt somewhat out of the ordinary.
Even after the early onset of symptoms, my mind didn’t even consider COVID-19 to be at the root of my discomfort. It originally felt like the typical sinus infection that hits perennially around this time — especially with a half inch of pollen currently residing on my windshield.
As evening fell Friday, I took a turn for the worse. That night, I battled with a headache, nausea, aches and continued chest tightness. Again, this isn’t uncommon to endure this time of year, and I was quick to blame allergies and the 60-hour work week I was uppercut by.
Waking up Saturday, everything intensified. I crawled out of bed as sore as I’ve been since junior high football, and my headache was monstrous. I quickly developed an awful cough, and everything I’d dealt with the night before struck in full force. At that point, the possibility that I contracted the virus crossed my mind, but I reluctantly didn’t act since no one I’d been near had tested positive or even shown symptoms.
As the day wore on, no amount of medication would suppress my nausea. I found it hard to just stand without becoming dizzy or needing to rest. Through rounds of DayQuil, Mucinex and even some special Texas concoction my housemates threw together, I still felt really gross. That’s about when I got the call. The friend of a friend who I’d seen just days before received a positive result.
With it being a Saturday evening, I knew my testing options were limited. But with the first signs of a low-grade fever, blaming allergies was no longer an option. I decided to trek to the SignatureCare Emergency Center in Killeen, a 24-hour testing facility that produces results in half an hour, on Sunday morning.
Upon leaving Waco, my final and most inconvenient symptom arrived — all taste and smell was severely altered. Alas, I think I would have preferred to lose taste and smell completely rather than have it tweaked. It was bad enough that my strawberry Crystal Light packet tasted like mango — I hate mango. This symptom was far and away the hardest to get used to, and I’ve yet to properly smell or taste since recovering.
Pulling into the hospital in Killeen, it was quite literally the saddest Baylor party you’ve seen. Three cars parked next to me all had Baylor emblems, and I ran into a few familiar faces once inside. This aided my belief that COVID-19 would take Baylor by storm quickly. After exchanging pleasantries with my fellow Bears, I was taken back and given what I like to call the “nose, brain test.” Unsurprisingly, I was positive.
The ensuing stress came less from having the disease and more from informing my friends, colleagues, professors and family that I had the virus. At this point, I felt as though I’d be ostracized for being the first person in my immediate circle to test positive. Instead, it opened up a conversation that exposed how many around me were feeling ill for a few days and had also blamed allergies. Turns out, almost everyone I knew also tested positive within the next 48 hours.
Thankfully, we were able to aid one another over the course of the week and doctor each other back to health. My worst symptoms (ugly cough, nausea, aches, congestion and headache) took their course over the span of three or four days and slowly subsided. While my cough and fatigue do still linger, that’s not too atypical for a normal college kid.
And while many have downplayed the severity of the virus, I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone. Obviously I never felt that my health was in serious danger, but this thing sucked. I’ve never once had a disease that checked so many boxes when it comes to symptoms. This was like the flu, strep, a sinus infection and a Tilt-A-Whirl had a lovechild. I can certainly see how anyone, especially those who are immunocompromised, could face serious risk with COVID-19.
My message to those who haven’t had it and don’t take it seriously would be this:
Be safe. You don’t live in fear and you’re not a sheep just because you decide to be cautious. This virus is real. Take every precaution you can, and do your best to avoid contracting COVID-19 — if that’s even possible in a five mile radius of 20,000+ people.