As an editor, it is my job to keep my pulse on news and trends. Even though I focus on careers I should have at least a vague awareness of major global events even if it just means reading a headline or two on Twitter (but of course telling people ‘I was reading this article the other day…’)
But with coronavirus that was not the case. I honestly thought COVID-19 was a new HIIT workout the first time I heard it. To be fair though, this was the case for many of us.
Like most of you, I was aware that there was this not so pleasant virus by December in China but it didn’t seem like it would ever make it over here and I went on cramming myself into subway carts and touching my face without a care in the world.
My father, a neuro-ophthalmologist, did give me some concern when in early February he said he would be sending me a mask but at this point, I still thought this was kind of a cute and funny situation he could write about in our family holiday card. Maybe there would be one day where I would wear it on the subway I thought and if not, I had next year’s Halloween costume all set (Gwyneth Paltrow in Contagion obviously.)
Little did I know I would soon be starring in my own production of that film except instead of Matt Damon as my co-star I had a 10-pound Yorkshire terrier who was about to get his lifelong dream of having his owner never leave the house.
On the editorial side, we also thought it may not hurt to write about this alleged coronavirus and to my surprise, the article got very high engagement. This was still late February at this point so writing about it was quite fun and exotic. It was all, ‘What is this virus?’, ‘Why does it have this funny name?’, ‘What’s a lockdown?’. I would review our articles on the treadmill at my gym after work (sweating jauntily on the person on the next machine over) not even fathoming that soon the words quarantine, shelter in place, and social distancing would become a part of our vernacular.
We decided to do more coverage on coronavirus and though we saw a surge of interest, in the beginning, it eventually began to wane and we went back to our regular content coverage. And then the first week of March hit.
The Ladders was ahead of the game in terms of having employees work from home thanks to the cautious and quick thinking of our CEO Marc Cenedella. He had even had us do a drill the week before to make sure everyone had the proper set up for working from home. But again, this was still in the cute and fun phase when you didn’t time yourself for speed at the grocery store.
Even that first week we were home and everything was open by Thursday of that week I was thinking, ‘It’s nice to work from home but I may get a little sick of this.’ Oh, you poor fool.
The following weekend was the last semi-normal one for New York residents. There was a heaviness in the air and an intense rush to get out there and just rage one more time whether that meant seeing friends, bar-hopping, exercising, or shopping. I had a small gathering with friends who felt safe as we weren’t in a crowded bar but still rebellious enough as we were closed in an apartment and decided to do karaoke. Our one last germ infested activity of yesteryear.
The new normal
By the middle of the following week, we were in a different world. The world that the majority of New Yorkers have been existing in for the past eight weeks as the rest of the world looks at us in utter bewilderment. The city that never sleeps was now hibernating.
I would say I had a healthy dose of paranoia about getting the virus. On the spectrum of invincible college spring breakers to Howard Hughes shut-in, I would say I was safely in the middle. I wore gloves and a mask and practiced social distancing from the beginning but did go outside fairly often to walk my dog.
However, being a young woman of 30-something in good physical shape I did get a bit cocky and figured I was immune. Yes, I washed my hands and used hand sanitizer and wore gloves but people who do Soulcycle four times a week don’t get coronavirus! That’s just ridiculous.
I will admit though that the loss of exercise studios and gyms was hard for me because in addition to living in the epicenter of a global pandemic I also live in the most expensive city in the world (bonus!) which means my apartment is not one that allows me to boast about spaciousness. It does not have room for a treadmill (nor does that go with the neoclassical aesthetic I am going for) much less the towel that goes on the treadmill. This means in addition to walks, I was running outside most days of the week when I couldn’t motivate myself to do a video workout (though I was really hoping to emerge from this time period with a six-pack to go with my sister wife hair.)
As I was adjusting to this new normal we began reporting on every aspect of this virus. If I wasn’t editing our staff and freelance articles I was writing about COVID-19 myself as our audience couldn’t get enough. By mid-March, I knew this virus quite well. If there was a bar trivia category for COVID-19 symptoms, I would have slain. Even though I felt very embedded in the everyday news I still felt that this virus was impenetrable to me. I was like Jane Goodall observing the apes from a few feet away.
And it comes
That is why when I first started feeling a little off on a Thursday in early April I figured it was just allergies or another little cold which I had had in early March. But I noticed my forehead was warmer and as someone who never gets fevers thought, ‘I’ll just take my temperature for kicks.’ (I had purchased one of the last thermometers in New York City the first week of March amazingly.) It was 99 degrees which depending on your source is a very small fever. But at this point, I was still in full denial.
I still did my HouseParty game that night though I was feeling quite sick at this point but didn’t want to miss a precious social interaction. As the evening progressed my fever climbed and the chills and aches set in. When I collapsed into bed that night at 10 PM I had a fever of 102.1 degrees. Speaking to my father before I went to bed, somewhat incoherently, he said most importantly I needed to watch my breathing. If that started to get difficult then it was hospital go-time but otherwise, I could probably tough it out. At this point, I was still clinging for dear life to the thought that I had the flu but I knew that probably wasn’t the case.
It was the next morning as I lay on my bathroom floor sweating and crying and starting to struggle to breathe (but this was just anxious breathing) that I thought, “Ok this may be coronavirus, and is this going to kill me?” As my dog licked my face I eventually calmed myself down, summoned what little strength I had and picked myself off the floor, dragged myself to the bed, and passed out there, like a civilized person.
The next few days were a blur as I was half asleep, making myself drink juice or water or having fever dreams (note to all of you, do not watch Westworld when you have a high fever as that show is already like a fever dream. )
To describe the pain I felt for the next four days is hard though doctors do it justice here. But imagine being too weak to stand but never being able to be comfortable when you try to lie down because all of your muscles are sore. My lower back ached relentlessly. This again made sleeping and even just lying on the couch very difficult. The Dawson’s Creek reruns only brought me so much comfort.
Coronavirus’s trendiest symptom is, of course, the loss of taste and smell. I didn’t quite lose either but I would say both were way off their baseline and completely ruined my appetite. Coffee, one of the few things still available to New Yorkers allowing us to grip on to some semblance of normalcy, now made me nauseous which, of course, then give me a caffeine-withdrawal headache. Nothing tasted good so eating wasn’t a priority, making me feel even weaker.
After five days my fever finally started to wane without Tylenol and I was able to not have to nap every other hour. In exchange for consciousness, I literally felt like I had been hit by a truck. Walking from the living room to the kitchen in my modest abode left me breathless. I felt like I had aged 20 years in one week.
The chronic exhaustion and weakness lasted for a solid 10 days but eventually, my strength returned and now I am back to running a few miles each day and walking my dog without almost fainting. Though I am still fond of a nice afternoon nap.
The first question most people ask me is how I got it wanting me to come up with a detailed tracing map so we have a culprit to blame. I don’t have a good answer because scientists and medical professionals don’t have good answers right now. If I go back and question everything I did I will drive myself crazy. Did I go to the drug store too much? Did I forget to wash my hands? Did I go out too much? Once I had it I did everything I could to not spread it and that is all I can do.
In the grand scheme of things, I had a mild case. Was it pleasant? Absolutely not. I am lucky in that some ways I am the ideal person to get Coronavirus (though no one should get it) as I live alone and am young and healthy enough to fight it. I also was very blessed to have a doctor as a father who got me a pulse oximeter fast so I could monitor my blood oxygen levels and a sister living nearby who could drop food off for me. Teledoc was also a wonderful resource as they were able to diagnose me over the phone.
Though journalists (and any journalist working right now is now a coronavirus journalist) like to remain unbiased and as objective as possible what we can take away from this is no one is immune to this virulent plague. Some of us are luckier than others but the coronavirus has changed all of our lives forever. We are now the story.