By Tobili Hatcher
There are a lot of things that happened in 2020 that I didn’t see coming. For starters, just four days into the year, I had my very first date. It was an okay date, a solid six out of ten affair. Shortly after that first date, I found my creative outlet in something besides folding sweaters through my journalism class – which then pushed me to start writing for my school newspaper, The Observer. Then, there was the spontaneous trip to Toronto with two of my closest friends, which was coincidently the last time I was able to see my friends before the coronavirus pandemic really took off. After that, well, it all went
downhill from there.
Correction, my life started going downhill on the 27th of February; but that’s a story for a different day.
Out of all of the wild things that happened in 2020, like the crazy U.S. Presidential election cycle or the war on the U.S. Postal Service or, my personal favorite, white people learning about what racism actually is for the first time in their lives; the one thing I did not have on my 2020 bingo board was actually contracting the virus myself.
That’s right. I, Tobili Hatcher, contracted the novel coronavirus with only nine days left in the year.
Working as a sales associate in the mall, I had come to the realization that at some point or another I’d catch the coronavirus. With the high volumes of traffic into the store, working with the public in close quarters, and the occasional costumer who comes in flaunting their “right” to not wear a mask (even though there’s a mask wearing mandate in the state of Ohio), I had just assumed that my time would come eventually.
And then, eventually, it came.
Even with the mask wearing, six feet plus of distance between me and the next guy ahead of me, and the extra pump of off-brand tequila sanitizer, I fell victim to miss rona in the end.
Contacting the coronavirus can be a fickle thing. Depending on your line of work or how old you are, there’s a particular sense of shame and guilt that wash over you when you first find out that you’ve tested positive. As a young, healthy, twenty-something who doesn’t work in healthcare, when people first found out that I had COVID, I was met with an interesting array of responses.
Most older people and those who didn’t realize that I worked with the public, blamed me for catching it and putting my mother at risk of getting it too. It’s hard to explain to someone that you did not purposefully contract the coronavirus when all they want to do is shout facts and figures (which I was now included in) over the phone.
No matter how many times I explained that I was in fact, not partying with large groups of people or going out to restaurants and bars and even stopped going to the gyms when my country reached a higher level of cases, it still felt like I had some type of scarlet letter on my forehead with my positive test result.
For me, COVID was a 14-day series of what-ifs and trying to figure out which one my asymptomatic co-workers gave the virus to me. Although I have no proof, it is highly suspected that one of my mask flaunting co-workers, one of which goes out and eats in restaurants regularly, became infected with the virus, was asymptomatic, and passed it on to me. Funnily enough, I was the only person in my workplace that tested positive for the virus.
When I first became sick, I was in a constant state of denial. All of my symptoms were remanent of symptoms one could feel for the common cold, the flu, PMS or a concussion. At first, I experienced a series of hot flashes and headaches that didn’t seem to want to go away. However, it only lasted for a mere 36 hours. My symptoms came and went within less than two days and with ease. After those 36 hours, I never broke a fever and all of my senses were intact. And most importantly, I hadn’t been in
contact with anyone outside of my small pod of people.
I went to get tested out of a mix of precaution and paranoia. Yes, I felt fine, but was that cough I just let out normal or was it a tell-tale sign that I was infected? Why does my coffee suddenly taste weaker than normal? Does caffeine no longer have a death grip over my body or am I truly losing my sense of taste and should be worried? Is this chest pain from my asthma or is it miss rona coursing through my veins?
There’s a certain element of fear that goes into being sick when you don’t know for certain what you have. Before, feeling ill or having a mild case of the flu was more of just a personal issue. Now, feeling ill at all could potentially put people’s lives at risk. The night my test results came in, I was calm as could be simply because I was absolutely convinced that my results would come back negative. Me, contract the
coronavirus? No, I was healthy and uninfected. I was certain that there was no way that the results would come back positive.
Until my screen lit up with the notification, and my eyes frantically moved across the screen looking for answers I suddenly found myself desperate to find. Finally, my eyes landed on the big, bold red letters onto the single word that changed everything.
I had officially fallen victim to miss rona; three days before Christmas no less.
Thankfully, and I truly thank God for this every day, my COVID case was very mild. The only lingering symptoms that I had were losing my sense of taste and smell for about eight to ten days. Personally, the hardest part of having the virus was being in isolation for 10 days. As with most illnesses, there is a physical and mental component. For me, most of the struggles I faced with my positive diagnosis were mental. It was tough. There were feelings of guilt, fear of not knowing if my seemingly mild case could take a very sudden turn for the worse, and the overarching feeling of anxiety that I may have unwillingly or unknowingly passed on the virus to hordes of other people. For anyone who has had the virus or has gotten the dreaded call that they’ve been in close contact with someone who tested positive, you know what I’m talking about. Mentally, it can be very taxing.
On the other end of the spectrum, physically, I had the privilege of being very young and considerably, very fit. A large reason why I think my case was so mild and why I wasn’t as freaked out after the initial shock went away was due to the fact that I am 22 years old. Now, being young and having the coronavirus doesn’t absolve one of not experiencing severe symptoms. However, when you are younger, your body is able to fight off illnesses a lot quicker and the long-lasting side effectives aren’t as bad in most cases.
The best advice I can give is to continue to stay hydrated, stay active (remember your mask and distance when you exercise outside!), and to listen to your body! If something feels off, listen and react accordingly.
As this piece draws to a close, I want to leave you all with a fun, feel-good story that took place on my second full day of quarantine.
On Christmas Eve, my next-door neighbor had small, socially distanced group of carolers singing in her back yard. I had been down and in bed all day, frustrated with my situation. When I heard small, muffled voices outside my window, I peeped through my blinds, trying to find where the noise was coming from. Much to my surprise, my neighbor and her friends and family were outside singing old Christmas carols and drinking hot chocolate together. I was so moved from hearing and watching them sing, I decided to let them know via window-note. By the end of my isolation period, in the spirit of old-school Taylor Swift music videos, we had exchanged window notes of encouragements three times.
Experiencing COVID during the final few days of 2020 was definitely not what I had imagined but it did force me to learn some very important lessons. I learned that it’s important to listen to your body, even if you feel like you’re being paranoid. I learned that movement is essential; even if it’s just for a few minutes a day. Whether it be a walk around the block, a short yoga practice or even just getting out from behind your desk to touch your toes, every little bit helps.
Most importantly, I learned that even when you feel as if you’re all alone and no one is listening, there is always someone there, watching and waiting in the wings.