We all know the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented. The way it has impacted the entire world is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
We’ve all had the opportunity to think about what might happen if we were to contract the virus ourselves. Considering the evidence that I’m not necessarily in the highest risk category for those who are likely to be most severely affected by the virus, I always felt that IF I did contract it, I would be okay. So while I took precautions, I didn’t overthink it.
Health & Wellness has always been important to me. I do my best to stay active no matter what (like when I completed 591 days straight of CrossFit), and I pay attention to my nutrition. On top of that, my family is accustomed to being hypervigilant about our immune systems because we have someone in our house who has been immunocompromised since birth.
My youngest son Liam was born with a congenital heart defect in 2018. Over the course of the last three years, he has endured multiple surgeries and been in and out of the hospital a dozen times. Despite these challenges, he has grown to be a vibrant young boy. But he remains somewhat immunocompromised, so our family is well-versed in doing what needs to be done to protect him from unnecessary exposure to germs.
COVID has kept most people in this defensive posture for a year or more, but in my house, this has been the norm for three years. So while many people can trace their infection back to a certain source, when I tested positive for Covid in November 2020, I had no idea how I managed to contract the virus considering all the precautions we took. On top of that mystery, COVID had a few more tricks up its sleeve for me as well.
COVID-19: A Timeline
On a Sunday night in November of 2020, I was goofing around and playing with my kids. I also spent some time outside hanging our Christmas lights in the slushy snowfall. As the evening wore on, I began to have chills. I attributed it to the weather.
The next morning, I was still feeling unwell, so I worked fully from home that day. By the afternoon, I knew something was wrong. I headed out to get tested. Where I live in Langley, BC, the testing sites are pop-up-style, with tents and drive-thrus. I am eternally grateful to the healthcare workers putting their lives on the line to fight this pandemic, but it was incredibly eerie to drive up to the test site that day. It felt like something out of an apocalyptic movie.
Once the test was administered, I was given information on quarantining and isolating. Then the 24-hour waiting game began. At first, I ran through the scenarios of what I might do with my “quarantine” period. I thought about books I might read or postponed projects I might pick back up. I had all these ambitions for what I might accomplish, but by Tuesday, COVID arrived fully to set me straight.
By the time I got my positive result, I was acutely aware that I was infected. COVID for me was a bit like the Sandman: All it wanted me to do was sleep. I didn’t want to eat. I didn’t want to move. We set up an air mattress in my office (the basement bedroom in my house), and I lived there for the duration of my illness.
Days 2, 3, and 4 were the worst. I had no appetite, but if I didn’t eat, my fever intensified. I tried to work for 30 minutes at a time and even that was nearly impossible. I could barely stay awake for more than 30 to 60 minutes before needing to sleep for two or more hours to recharge. I had constant fever and chills and a pervasive sense of exhaustion.
On Day 5, I started forcing myself into a bit more activity, as the symptoms seemed to lessen when I pushed myself to eat more or get up and move around. In my experience in the fitness world, “recovery” can be beneficial as an aggressive treatment as opposed to just using passive techniques like rest. Consider things like trigger point therapy, needling, and deep tissue massage. The idea of just sleeping for a week was foreign to me, and naturally, I fought it.
I have a rowing machine in my garage, so I would sit down and row for eight minutes before taking a short nap. Then I’d work for an hour before napping again. I was essentially building up to one-hour intervals of energy in the midst of the semi-constant sleep. By Day 6, I was able to muster two or three-hour working blocks of energy between rest periods. My appetite began to come back, and I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Many people who have contracted COVID end up with long term impacts. As far as strength and muscle density are concerned, I was gratefully able to bounce back pretty quickly and build back up to my pre-virus levels. Unfortunately, my lung capacity didn’t fare as well. Nearly six months later, I still don’t think I’m fully back to where I was before I got the virus. I feel confident I’ll get back to 100% eventually, but that has certainly been the most serious impact of my encounter with this virus.
Deposits and Withdrawals
Life is going to throw a lot of challenges at us. Whether it comes in the form of COVID or cancer, a car accident or a chronic illness, our baseline wellness can be a factor in helping us survive battle.
I look at my overall wellness like a savings account. Every workout or family walk or healthy meal is a deposit, and every poor decision is a withdrawal. A balanced life isn’t made up of only deposits, of course, but ultimately, we want them to outweigh the withdrawals.
This doesn’t mean just engaging in fad diets or doing a juice cleanse. It’s about making decisions every day that build healthy habits. It’s about adding more to the wellness account than we’re taking out of it. This means focusing on adequate sleep, nutrition, activity, and mental health.
The mental struggle that people have endured due to this pandemic cannot be ignored. It has shifted the way we work, the way we play, and the way we engage with one another. People have gone a full year without hugging family members. Others have lost loved ones to this virus. Children have spent a year or more of their crucial developmental years isolated from their peers. We have all been changed by what we’ve been through.
In the end, I am overwhelmingly grateful that my encounter with COVID was as comparatively mild as it was. And I’m thankful that my wellness account was full when I contracted the virus. Hopefully, we’re on our way to a post-COVID reality in 2021, but just remember that a little bit of wellness today can help us protect against whatever tomorrow might hold.