The South China Morning Post reported, on March 13th, that unpublished government documents reveal the first recorded case of Covid-19 occurred November 17th, 2019, though patient zero has yet to be found.
As the novel coronavirus silently spread throughout China last fall, doesn’t it follow then that it also proliferated around the world unknown and unseen?Wuhan, Hubei Provence, where scientists believe the virus originated, is an international hot spot for big business and global tourism.
My husband teaches at a university and whenever there’s a flu or cold or virus of any kind, we both get it. He started feeling ill just as winter break began. He complained of chills, a cough and pressure in his chest. Still, he pushed through as if it were nothing. As a professional pianist and organist his work only increases during the holidays. I begged him to stay home. He was pallid, weak, fatigued. “It’s just a virus, a cold or something.” Yet it never moved to his head, the way colds do. His throat was sore, but didn’t feel like your traditional sore throat. I was worried it was the flu and more worried that, as he pushed himself, he’d get pneumonia, end up in the hospital and die. He’s in his 50’s.
Nevertheless, the man won’t stop working until he can’t stand up. His cough worsened and his breathing grew labored. We argued and so, I shut up and kept my worries to myself, listening for any change in his cough. He worked through Christmas and finally collapsed on the couch. He had a week to recover before school started up again.
I kept waiting for my own symptoms to settle in. However, nothing happened for two weeks, maybe a few days more. Relieved, I stopped thinking about it. Then in mid-January I returned home from a freelance job feeling a bit out of it. Thinking it was just fatigue, I went to bed early. In the morning, I felt worse. Within three days I woke up with a sore throat and a dry, slightly phlegmy cough. The phlegm was thick and bright yellow. I’ve gotten bronchitis the last two winters. I thought that’s what this was, but what followed over the next ten days was not like any illness I’ve ever had. My husband asked me about my symptoms, and concluded they were the same as his. “Weird,” I said. “How could I have what you had when you got it more than three weeks ago?”
Typically, I get sicker than he and so, proceeded to get much sicker. I kept thinking it was just a cold or bronchitis, but the cough was dry and getting worse. Every joint ached, every muscle sore, and chills ran throughout my body, followed by the burning heat of fever. What’s more, the pressure in my chest mounted. I couldn’t breathe deeply. Within about five days of my initial symptoms, a debilitating cough racked my body. At my worst, I fell on the floor on my hands and knees trying desperately to catch my breath, but the coughing wouldn’t subside. Typically, with bronchitis, I’m able to cough and breathe, cough and breathe and then the coughing fit ends. This was not that. I could. Not. Breathe. In one panicked moment I thought I might die. My husband was at work. I was alone. I forced water down my throat to soothe it. I forced phlegm up to clear my lungs. There wasn’t much of it, but it had turned a bright green. Finally, I stopped coughing long enough to down a half a bottle of cough medicine and fell asleep.
The next day I went to Urgent Care. It was January 20th.
There, the physician on duty asked me if I’d been to China recently, or been in contact with anyone who had.
“No, no,” I said. “This is just bronchitis.” He looked at my dubiously. “I just need an antibiotic. My phlegm is green.” That alarmed him. He ordered a CT scan and wrote me an RX for Z-pac. “This new virus in China, they’re presenting with pneumonia and dying. If your cough gets worse I want you to get a CT scan immediately.”
I got the antibiotic, took it with more cough medicine and went to bed. In about three days I felt better, not get-up-and-run-around better, but I breathed a bit easier and the phlegm had started to clear.
I started working again. I work from home, but it was about six weeks before I could work a whole day. Fatigue persisted and occasionally I’d break into a sweat. I had about two hours of energy available a day. It was frustrating and limited my ability to make an income. In the meantime, news had spread about Covid-19 and I was terrified. My system was already compromised. If I got this new virus, I could end up in the hospital, or worse.
I researched vitamin supplements to strengthen my respitory system and started taking them religiously. I’m not a religious person. I do nothing religiously, accept avoid religion and any kind of thing like that religiously, but this felt like life and death. That may sound a little dramatic, but that’s how it was in my head.
I cut out refined sugars and alcohol, yet still, a low fever persisted and fatigue weighed on me. I remember feeling light-headed and clammy as I stood in line to vote on March 3rd. The very next day, the city of Los Angeles called a state of emergency. The first case of Covid-19 had occurred inside city limits.
I started social distancing immediately, which wasn’t difficult. I’d already been in the house more than a month. My husband and I have been vigilant about it even before Governor Newsom ordered it. We’re introverts. I supposed that makes it easier.
In fact, I’ve never felt healthier or stronger. I breathe more deeply now, because when you know what it’s like when you can’t, you appreciate it more when you can.
Did we have Covid-19? Or is it all just a coincidence? Perhaps, but many of my husband’s students are Chinese and frequently travel home, or, I imagine, come into contact with those who do.
I thought that because I felt better following the antibiotic, it couldn’t have been a virus. However, it’s also possible that I was already on the mend. I didn’t have a fever when I went to Urgent Care and the coughing wasn’t debilitating. My husband recovered without an antibiotic.
I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else experienced something this winter that they thought was just a flu but had symptoms that track more closely to what we now know is Covid-19. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, in a press conference on Sunday, that he wants tests to determine how much of the population has antibodies. It certainly would help scientists not only understand the spread of the disease, but better predict herd immunity, something we desperately need. For those who don’t know, herd immunity, as defined by the CDC, “occurs when a high percentage of the community is immune to a disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness), making the spread of this disease from person to person unlikely.”
I, for one, could do with a little good news right now, not just for myself, but for the nation. There’s nothing worse than waiting for a disaster to hit, which is what we’re all doing as we sit here in forced isolation.