Testing Positive for COVID-19 in Russia
“It’s going to be so dark every morning soon,” I typed with barely enough strength to stretch out my thumb and press it against my phone. I was reflecting on the fact that it’s now autumn in Russia and Winter is coming. My friend replied, “I’m envious. Sometimes I stay up all night just to enjoy the darkness.” It felt like we were on the same page, but so far away from each other.
It came on suddenly, I felt very weak, had a slight fever and stuffy nose with a minor cough, and so I started treating myself for a common cold. Still, I decided to take a test just to make sure I could see my parents and not worry about my cold.
The results came back: I was positive for SARS-CoV-2 — the novel coronavirus that’s causing the global pandemic. However, despite all the panic and fear, it didn’t take me by surprise.
During the summer, the situation with coronavirus in Russia was much better than in most places since we handled the spring lockdown so well. We wore masks, used deliveries, and didn’t go outside. We used way too many hand sanitizers and got obsessed with washing our hands and phones. Then, all bars and clubs were opened again and there were not many cases throughout that season. No one was worried about it anymore. The parties were on in every bar of the town until the sunrise. Right until the cold and wet autumn brought up the usual seasonal flu and sparked the second wave we were all expecting yet never took so serious.
I still don’t know where I got it because none of my friends or the bartenders I’ve been going out with got sick or tested positive. Maybe it’s just a damn luck and a quick sneeze in a pet store down the street but there I was, laying in quarantine, afraid, waiting for the illness to pass.
My friend and I continued to message back and forth as I lay there desperately sick and totally helpless; even though I couldn’t even select the right GIF or a sticker.
As doctors say, I got the ‘light’ version of COVID-19, the kind that doesn’t require hospitalization.
Still, I’m too tired, too out of it, too dazed, and in too much pain to think or function properly. COVID-19 messed with my brain, my muscles, my sense of smell, and even my stomach. I am just a vegetable now.
So what does this light version of a second COVID-19 wave actually feel like?
Well, take it from someone who has it right now, it feels like you’re being consumed.
It feels like the aftermath of a car accident without any visible signs of injury, just invisible pain beneath the surface that no one can see or understand. Every one of your muscles hurts and nothing works. You can’t muster up the strength you need to move properly, you’re just so tired.
On top of that, you have a fever that interferes with your thinking. Your body is burning up and the fever leaves you with this perpetual headache you carry around with you the few feet you can make it, from one side of the room to the next whenever you have enough strength to move to get the things you need or do what you need.
Your headaches and fever interfere with your thinking to such a degree that even watching movies to pass the time is impossible. You can’t focus on the plot for more than a few seconds at a time before trailing off and your mind can’t help itself but pay more attention to the pain and malaise you feel in every single cell of your body.
And then there are stomach problems.
No one likes those. It’s like a perpetual, violent storm going on inside of you. Nausea, sickness, discomfort — all of the wonderful things that come along with your body fighting off a virus.
You check your oxygen every five minutes just to see if you’re okay.
One night I woke up in a panic. I knew I couldn’t go on like that. I couldn’t worry about having complications or not being able to breathe. How would I know if I’m dying? How would I know if I actually can’t breathe and not just having another panic attack?
I texted a pulmonologist who’s been personally treating me via phone with occasional visits and check-ups from the nurses. She recommended getting a pulse oximeter to check up on my oxygen level every morning to make sure I have nothing to worry about.
The only available one at this time with immediate delivery to my door cost me three times as much but was on my finger exactly one hour later. The things we do for our health, right?
Of course, I wasn’t checking my oxygen every morning. I was doing it every time I was panicking wondering, ‘Am I dying, yet? Am I dying, yet? Am I dying, yet?’ which approximately happened from 15 to 20 times a day.
Don’t underestimate your liver.
As we all know, antibiotics don’t treat viral infections, however, at least in Russia, you would always see people getting antibiotics prescription along with their antivirals which sometimes makes sense since COVID-19 is often accompanied by various bacterial infections in the background.
Still, despite worrying about our hearts and lungs, we all forget about another crucial organ that plays an important role in our fight with the virus — our liver. It simply can’t process the toxins and soon enough gives up or results in a complication.
After talking with a narcologist, pulmonologist, and a coroner (don’t ask), I noticed that all of them mentioned the same thing about people with weak liver or alcoholics — there were simply too many of those dying from coronavirus so quickly. Their liver just couldn’t even fight it.
That’s why my doctor was constantly checking my blood to make sure I don’t have any inflammation in my blood that would require start taking antibiotics or stronger pills. She also decided to go with antiviral suppositories instead of a very harmful pill analogy that is so frequently yet not always effectively prescribed in our hospitals these days.
Surround yourself with the loved ones, but only remotely.
I’m lucky enough to have the most wonderful friends, men, and family members who’ve been incredibly helpful and caring even though none of them could actually come and take care of me when I needed it most.
Still, there were packages with food and medicine left at the front door from my mom, handmade vegan cupcakes, fruits and treats from my friends, coffee from my brother, and flowers from my readers and friends from across the ocean.
I received all the love and support from the people surrounding me and never felt alone despite spending over a week in my bed not being able to hug or see anyone I love.
I’m still weak but the symptoms are passing. I know that I might have to stay in bed for another month as some people don’t get their strength back even after being treated and testing negative. But I know that my loved ones will be there for me. I know that I did everything I could to protect them and convince them by my own personal example that they, especially those working in public and largely exposed places like bars, should be more careful and make sure everyone around them, including them, is safe.