March 9, 2021 (this morning)
CRYING IN MY CAR
I sat in my car and silently cried tears of happiness. I just received my first vaccination for covid-19. I feel like enormous weights have dropped from my shoulders. Also, I think I feel a deep and abiding gratitude for this shot! I had covid in January. A retroactive realization of perhaps just how close to death I had come. There’s nothing special about my experience other than it is my experience. But my story isn’t especially tragic.
On January 8, 2021, I finished massaging my first client of the day, and I was not feeling well. I thought it was only some mild indigestion thing. But after the massage, as I washed my hands in the break room, I knew better. I was sick. I had them cancel my remaining clients for the rest of the day and left.
By the time I had got home, I was almost ready to admit that this was probably the dreaded covid-19. My number had come up. It was my time to dance with this nuisance. Up to that point in time, the thing that bothered me most about the idea that I might have covid was that I might have infected someone else, a long-standing client, with this potentially deadly virus. I called the spa where I worked and asked that they contact her and let her know.
Massage is a relatively new career for me. For years I was an engineer and then a programmer. It was fun, but my heart hadn’t been in either of them since my father had passed in 1992. Looking back, I realize I was probably living out the life my father never had a chance to. After he passed away, I just never had the same attachment to the technology work.
But massage was different. There were scientific underpinnings to it, the study of kinesiology, anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc. But the more I do this (just five years now), the more I see that there is as much an art as science in bodywork.
A ‘POST-TOUCH’ WORLD?
Massage was interesting to me. All aspects of it fascinated me. I studied, read, took classes, watched videos, and was always willing to discuss it and do it! Then, in 2020, despite all our silly exceptionalism, the virus caused all such businesses to shut down for most of 2020.
It deflated me. I had finally found a career I could see committing to for the rest of my life, and now it seemed we might move into a post-touch world. I felt cheated; I was angry and sad. I was also anxious about what I could do for a job. No matter where we looked, it was impossible to not see that this had affected everyone. Everyone in the world has had their life changed, affected by this infernal virus. The only thing that makes my story unique is that it happened to me.
INTROVERSION & ORIGIN STORIES
As an introvert, the forced social distancing, staying at home, wasn’t that big an issue for me; with NETFLIX and my Kindle, I do just fine on my own. But I have friends and clients who are highly extroverted. I think it’s much, much harder for them to adhere to the suggested guidelines. I feel for them while wanting to scream at them to stay home! But it’s not my place to police them.
Then I contracted it. A client had coughed in that ‘way.’ And I, not wanting to make a client uncomfortable, said nothing. They require the clients to wear a mask while receiving a massage. We were both masked. And this client might not be how I caught covid.
SELF-QUARANTINING FOR THREE WEEKS
Since late in 2020, I’ve been staying with friends in Wylie. I went into my room on January 8, 2021, and self quarantined for three weeks. I only left once to get a drive-through covid test (which came back POSITIVE, obviously).
For three weeks, I slept pretty much all day and all night. I would have chills then wake in a sweat. I had a dry, nagging, unproductive cough. I had shortness of breath, nausea, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, and feeling weirded out. I felt like it was attacking my brain. I would awake in the middle of the night and see the wooden candle holder on the dresser writhe erotically that I still can not explain. A fold in the drape, near the curtain-rod, became a flirtatious mermaid. My brain felt under siege. Perceptions were off (clearly!), and my dreams were bizarre and unsettling. I felt like I’d aged 30 years in just a matter of days. I felt like Poe besieged by night terrors.
For days at a time, I would do very little for my hygiene. The idea of a hot shower appealed to me, but I knew that in the time it took me to dry and dress again, I would be cold again. So I stayed in the same clothes and marinated in my filth.
When I finally stepped into a hot shower, I felt like I had no equilibrium at all. If I closed my eyes under the showerhead, I felt the world spinning and had to open my eyes again before I fell.
NOT THE FLU!
Covid-19 was not just a glorified flue! My perceptions, thinking, consciousness felt unreliable and foreign to me.
My friends brought me meals and coffee and whatever I requested via text messages. They did so much for me; I doubt I will ever be able to repay them.
Several times I would wake to what I thought was hammering. In my rattled head, I was thinking they were building something downstairs. I would pray for it to stop. Eventually, I would get out of bed when my brain finally put it together that it wasn’t hammering. It was someone knocking at the bedroom door to deliver me the food that I had requested.
I would weakly get to my feet and make my shaky way to the door. My friend handed me the food and drink as I would inevitably lean against the wall. I felt so weak. I felt vulnerable. I’m 59, but I felt 159.
VISITING THE ER
Late one night, my friend took me to the emergency room. It was every bit as crowded I’d imagined it would be. My friend left me there (assuming, as I had, that they would admit me into the hospital).
I threw up in my mask at one point. I felt disoriented, and the nurses would frequently ‘test me’ with questions. What year was it? Who was the president? My hearing felt distorted. And not just that I could NOT hear, but it felt like my ears were in my ankles is the best way I can explain it. When someone would talk to me, it sounded like their voice was coming from the floor behind me!
But the hospital policy seemed to be that “If you’re not dying, then please go home!” Which makes sense. I was only in the hospital for a few hours. And my friend came back to get me in the middle of the night. Still, the nurse there gave me fluids, a steroid shot, took some measurements, etc. I got some benefit from the time there.
As I sat and filled out my little vaccination card and rested for longer than the recommended fifteen minutes, it flooded me with love for everyone that made today possible. The doctors, scientists, healthcare workers, politicians who did not run from science, and all the volunteers here today, I want to hug each of them. They work selflessly. They deserve our love and gratitude.
The healthcare workers deserve a parade! A national holiday! Bonuses! Your love and respect. It stresses them to the breaking point, yet they continue to fight the battle while others are shouting hoax and fake news. It may be unpleasant news; the truth often is. But one thing it is not is fake. The disease is genuine. After catching it, I resolved I would not massage another person until I had received at least the first vaccine. I worried I would not survive a second serving.
Please wear a mask! Stay at home, wash your hands, get vaccinated! Please don’t speak to me of conspiracies, junk science, alternative facts. My experience trumps the nonsense you read on your fringe websites.
Time to go! I’ve set her so long I think the volunteers are beginning to worry about me. I restart my car. Looking out my car, I get an idea; this parking lot would either be the best or worst place for a viral Thriller flash mob! Either way, I’m sure it would go viral immediately.