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I Have A Presumed Case Of COVID-19. This Is What The Past 10 Days Have Been Like

A sign in Inman Square in Cambridge urging residents to stay home during the Coronavirus epidemic, March 25, 2020. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A sign in Inman Square in Cambridge urging residents to stay home during the Coronavirus epidemic, March 25, 2020. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor’s note: On March 16, Kat Powers started feeling unwell. Within hours, she was battling symptoms consistent with COVID-19. She’s been remotely monitored by physicians, but because of the scarcity of testing kits, she hasn’t been able to confirm that she has the disease. Her doctor is calling hers a “presumed” case, and she will be tested as soon as kits are available. On March 24, seeing on social media that people were blatantly ignoring social distancing guidelines, she posted a thread on Twitter explaining her symptoms and her time in quarantine. This essay has been adapted from those tweets.

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You’ve been sent home so coronavirus doesn’t spread. You’re bored and you want to socialize. It’s cool, but I want to share a little bit of wisdom with you first.

I’ve been locked up in my house for 10 days now, my kids and I in quarantine and dealing with symptoms of COVID-19. I know you’re on the way out the door, so I’ll just tell you what’s coming.

It starts with a sore throat. The sore throat feels like you've been smoking menthol cigarettes when you already have a cold. You’ll start to feel really tired, and get a bit of a headache behind your eyes, no big deal. Soon your eyeballs will really hurt, and feel larger than their sockets, like a Warner Brothers cartoon character who gets surprised. You’ll be surprised how much it hurts, and ice packs won’t help.

You’ll feel thirsty, and drink a lot of whatever is on hand. And — this was a surprise to me -- your urine will smell really pungent, as if you drank sewage. The rest of you might start to smell too, but soon you won’t care. Or you'll lose all smell.

Ready for the good part? To recap, your head hurts, your throat hurts and burns, and now body aches will start in all of your large muscles. Sitting up hurts your back and your legs ache. Advil and hot baths won’t touch this kind of ache, and it lasts for days.

Did you lie down to feel better? Grab a blanket, because the chills and fever are coming. I tried hot tea and water bottles and I still shivered. (If you don’t have a hot water bottle, try a liter soda bottle with hot water in it.)

You’ll now start to feel like a 50-lb kid is standing on your chest. You’re wondering how you deal with the bloated stomach from drinking too much water, the chest pressure, your legs and back aches, the burning throat ... when the headache becomes piercing.

About this time, you’re wondering where you got coronavirus. What did you touch? Who did this to you? Curse him, or her, or them. You're bloated and sore and your head hurts too much to find your phone to track them down. If you can, do turn down the light on your phone. It will seem blinding.

The author, pictured on Sunday, March 22, 2020, in a homemade face mask. (Courtesy)
The author, pictured on Sunday, March 22, 2020, in a homemade face mask. (Courtesy)

You'll be shocked when your doctor tells you that this is likely a mild case of COVID-19. I had no shallow breathing, no pneumonia. There are no tests for you while you’re riding it out at home. Some folks won’t believe you’re really sick with “it” since you cannot be tested. There are just no extra tests in the U.S., and that’s hard to explain when you’re sick.

Did your fever break yet? Good. The cough comes now. It’s loud, dry and unproductive. It won’t relieve the chest pressure. Most doctors won’t prescribe anything for it because nothing works with this virus. I found cough drops and tea with honey helped.

Do you live with loved ones? Did you get them sick? At this point, all 5 feet 11 inches of my son were curled up in a ball from the body aches while wracked with coughs. No one could watch that and think “meh, it’s like the flu.” I couldn’t help him, and I knew the stomach cramps would start for him soon.

Oh, did I mention the diarrhea? Any time you feel well enough to eat, you’ll get the runs and get even more thirsty. Stick to carbs if you can and don’t make spicy curry like I did.

So, still think you’re young and you can deal with getting sick when you get sick? Still going out?  I’m really sorry you feel that way. Because if you keep it up, soon enough you or someone you love will be feeling this way too. If this is mild, can you imagine a severe case?

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Kat Powers Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Kat Powers is a resident of Watertown, Mass. She is a former journalist, and a former spokeswoman for the Red Cross.

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