I feel like I have been playing a very long game of tag. I had successfully avoided being tagged for nearly a year. But just when the game is about to end and the winners declared, I got tagged. Ah bummer!

I'm talking about the COVID pandemic. I got it in Feb 2021, the 11th(?) month since the official start of the pandemic in the USA. 

I'm young and was in good shape when I got it. I'm alive and over the hump now. But the in-between two weeks of COVID was no joke. 

"Stay home and protect your grandma", they said. But ironically, we got it from our grandma. To be fair, we weren't airtight otherwise - there were a few other ways and occasions when we could have gotten it. Grandma just happened to be the one.

I remember the Sunday morning. We woke up to some loud and frantic conversations from downstairs. I went down to investigate and get my cup of coffee. Grandma, who had stayed at one of our aunts' place, was running a fever. Aunt was also running a fever. We suspected it had to be the thing that was going around. 

Grandma's test came out positive. Later, we found out that aunt's test had also come out positive a day or two earlier. There is some social awkwardness - a mix of guilt, embarrassment, uncertainty, fear, ego, status - around sharing a COVID exposure. We'd go through that too. 

That's when the freak-out started. All of us had close contact with grandma over the last two days. We had some textbook high-risk people - my two sisters-in-law were pregnant and my parents-in-law were over 60 and diabetic. Luckily, both my grandparents and my father-in-law had received their first dose of the vaccine. I believe that's what saved them from a severe illness. 

Grandma and grandpa got dropped at our house after the test. Whaaat! What's the protocol here? How do we protect ourselves and one another? Should we wear masks in the house? 

The CDC has some specific guidance for this situation. Everyone exposed should quarantine, and if you can, stay in different rooms, and avoid and mask up in common areas, We decided to split grandma into a separate section of the house and grandpa into a different room because he tested negative. But they ended up going close to each other anyway. 

We then scheduled our own tests - we staggered our tests a bit so we'd get a sample every day.  My sister-in-law went first and she tested positive - that was concerning as she's pregnant and she was also feeling some pain. But luckily, she turned out to be asymptomatic. 

I started feeling the symptoms on Tuesday afternoon - feverish and exhaustion, like a bad case of flu. I tested negative that day. Apparently, tests are likely to be false negative in the first few days of exposure. You need a certain build-up of "virus load" and "virus shedding" for the tests to detect the virus more reliably. 

It took me down for the next 2 weeks. My main symptoms were fever, cough, and exhaustion. I was sleeping 12+ hours every day. In week two, I lost most of my taste and smell. I tried eating a handful of chili flakes -- nothing! The doctor recommended regular flu treatment to treat the symptoms - DayQuil, NyQuil, lots of water, face steaming, lots of rest, and sleep. I added a couple of supplements - Zinc and NaCl - to my regular Vitamin D, Multi-vitamins, and Fish Oil. 

My wife was fine for the first week, even though she was sleeping in the same room as me. We assumed all of us were exposed anyway. I thought she was asymptomatic, but turns out she was just a few days behind me and went through similar stages of symptoms and recovery. My brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and grandpa followed the same path too. We had to call an ambulance for grandpa one night because his fever was too high, and he tested positive this time at the hospital. Our house felt more like a hospital as we were all fighting our sickness in our rooms, masking up in common areas, and avoiding contact. 

Now, most of our fever and cough symptoms are gone. The fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, and occasional low-grade fevers still remain. It feels like being at a high altitude, with thin air. I was exhausted after two meetings at work on my first day back and had to take the next day off. I tried exercising and felt like I had run a marathon after two minutes. From what I read, COVID affects the lungs and the heart. Most people take a few weeks or sometimes a few months to fully recover after the main symptoms go away. Unlike regular flu, this may need a deliberate and longer path to full rehabilitation - deep breathing exercises in the first week, then short walks in week two, then short uphill walks, then jogging, then when you feel good, you can get back to regular exercises and activity. Oh and I still can't smell most stuff (and therefore, taste) - seems like that can take a couple of months ro recover. 

I was lucky. I was lucky enough to be with family, and get regular care and meals without any effort. I was lucky enough to be able to take as much time as I needed from work without worrying about my responsibilities, pay, or sick days. I was lucky enough to have good employer-sponsored health insurance that covered my test, medicine, and hospitalization if I ever needed it. Many people don't have these luxuries and probably find it much harder to quarantine and recover. 

Someone wise said, "When you are healthy, you want a lot of things. When you are sick, you only want one thing." Take care of yourself and be healthy - keep a healthy weight, eat well, take necessary supplements, and exercise. Stay safe and protect others. Get the vaccines. If you get COVID, don't freak out - rest, protect others, treat the symptoms, then rehabilitate. Hope we all live and learn from this horrible pandemic.