I’ve been going to work every day in person since May 2020, with the exception of the holidays breaks, and the two separate instances I had COVID – in November 2020, and the instance I’m still recovering from; March 2021. I contracted my second bout of COVID in between vaccine doses.
I have never spent so much time begging for mercy. Crying, laughing, manically. Is this a cruel joke? How do you get COVID twice? In-between vaccines?! I am young. This doesn’t happen. But it does. Rarely; albeit, possible.
My nostrils smelled distinctly of bleach, of chlorine right before I lost my sense of smell. I remember trying to place the smell for two days, before all smell stopped. Losing your smell sounds menial until it actually happens. I didn’t realize how much I used it. I couldn’t smell my food, or tell if the garbage had been sitting for too long. I couldn’t tell if it was clean or dirty laundry. I couldn’t smell the spring flowers, or smell the earth after a fresh rain. I couldn’t smell my favorite candle, the one that comforted me after long days. I couldn’t smell my lavender hand soap I loved so much. I couldn’t smell memories, I couldn’t smell relief. I could smell nothing at all, and it was primal and frightening.
As my symptoms came, went, changed, worsened, lessened, I could do nothing more than lay in bed, extremely fatigued, and cry, sleep, or wonder if I was going to feel like this forever. If I was ever going to smell again. Many hours were spent increasing my blood pressure googling all kinds of COVID related questions. Most notably, “are you cursed if you get COVID twice”. Typically, most days were spent watching Grey’s Anatomy. From Grey’s, I have been humbly reminded:
With the exception of COVID, most of us have been given the blessing to live out our lives without incident. You haven’t been in a car accident which cost you your limb, left you paralyzed, or took your life. You didn’t inherit a debilitating disease that lands you in the hospital frequently. You haven’t had to take someone off life support, or put them on it. You haven’t signed DNR papers for yourself because you’re not high enough on the list for a heart and your condition is worsening. You can see. In color. You can walk. Your body can digest food. Your skin heals itself when you get cut – within days. Your heart beats, on its own, without incident, 24/7. It has been for decades, and will continue. Your body pushes adrenaline, cortisol, dopamine, serotonin and more in response to your environment. The miracle that is your human body works each day to operate at peak performance and rarely lets you down. And in the event that you fall into any scenario listed above, there are doctors with years and years of medical training using 21st century technology and pure medical magic to make you well again.
I lost hope for a few days recently. I was so weak, and the shortness of breath was creeping up and making it hard to breathe. I could hardly get out of bed or stand. I thought my lips were turning blue, which is a COVID “warning sign” your blood is not oxygenating properly. I tried calling places I thought I should go. No one wants you when you have COVID. So, I finally asked my roommate to take me to the ER.
I hadn’t been inside an ER in a long time, and it was fascinating to see all the things I had been watching on TV. My insurance was likely blown up a couple grand that night for all kinds of tests, but the relief and pure happiness I felt when one of the MANY kind physicians there that night told me “everything looks fine, your kidneys and liver look beautiful”, was irreplaceable.
That night I prayed very, very hard for my smell to return, and that next morning during my usual dismal smell tests, I suddenly caught a very, very faint whiff of my extremely fragrant perfume. I don’t think I have ever sobbed so hard in my life.
I’m still in recovery as I write this. It is slow, frustrating, and seems to go two steps forward and five steps back. But I have to remember, above it all, the miracle that is our bodies and our immune system - they are something words can’t describe. To know my body has fought so hard and continues to fight is out of this world. To know my olfactory cells in my nose must be healing in order for me to smell again makes me ecstatic. Having COVID and watching Grey’s Anatomy while sick has helped me realize just how much we take for granted. I have truly failed to thank my body throughout my life for everything it does, but that changes starting now. And really, how could I not thank it after surviving COVID twice? I will never, ever take my body for granted again. And most importantly, I WILL stop and smell EVERY damn flower – because I have the ability to.