Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Gio M. age 47, Entertainment Executive (Queens, NY)
Gio wrote an article about his experience with the Coronavirus, for an online publication "Medium". He titled the article as "The Lonely Togetherness" - click on the title of the article, to read his story on Medium.
As the sound of the ambulance sirens swarms a once quiet town in Queens, I find myself reflecting on the past 60 days. Struggling to put my thoughts down on paper, I cannot help but think about the poor soul who is in the back of that ambulance. The Coronavirus had begun to ravage our city in early March of 2020, and it was hard to not think, “Is it someone’s parent, child, relative or friend”?; “Is it someone I know”?; “Is that person alone”?; And sadly, “is that person going to survive or not”?. The thought of someone dying without a loving family member by their side is both sad and mind-numbing. The loneliness this disease has caused transcends the infected; their loved ones; and the ones who have been staying home to protect themselves and their neighbors.
To sit here and say that the past few months have not been some of the scariest times of my life would be a lie. From being told that I had a common cold to a life-threatening virus that can infect someone by just breathing, knocked me off-center. Once I was hit with the myriad of symptoms, the complications lasted for over 2 months.
I began experiencing my first symptoms in early March, when Covid-19 was new to the United States. My symptoms started with a sore throat and a heavy dry cough, a high fever for 1 day which then continued on for weeks as a low grade fever, tightness in my chest, shortness of breath, diarrhea, horrible night sweats, where I would wake up drenched; as though I had run a marathon in my sleep, twitching in my feet, numbness and tingling in my toes and hands. By week four, I began to get a debilitating headache, that felt like a combination of sinus headache and migraine. It lasted days and no matter which medicine I took, the headache would still be there pounding; the only relief I would find would be if I were lucky enough to fall asleep when I would lie down. One of the scariest symptoms was my racing heart which would begin beating rapidly when I would stand or walk up the stairs. At times it would beat up to 139 beats per minute, at rest, the palpitations which would follow would take my breath away.
As Covid-19 had hit New York City hard, it was a well known fact that it was not advised for anyone to go to the ER or hospital unless you couldn't breathe or you were coughing up blood. Many of us knew that at that time, it was a possible death sentence, to be admitted to the hospital, due to them being overcapacity and filled with Coronavirus patients as well as overworked and exhausted front-line professionals. I decided to remain at home and try to recover on my own. My bag was however packed and by the door, my coat on the chair; ready, as I was prepared if needed, to drive myself to the hospital, to get medical intervention.
At the writing of this story for True Stories of Covid-19, August 10th, I currently still have numbness and tingling in both my feet and hands. Although I had battled a couple of months, hard , with this illness, and I am mostly recovered, I still find myself five months later, questioning every heartbeat that feels different; every sniffle that I feel in my nose; and every time the heat rises in my body. So many of us have been dealing with the emotional, physical impact of COVID-19 for some time now. This disease was a complete mystery, as the symptoms would seem to disappear, there would be a couple of good days, making you think you were healed and as though it were some sick Coronavirus joke, they would return a few days later, to begin torturing you again.
I felt it important to share a glimpse of how this virus impacted my life, to bring awareness to how bad this virus can affect you, if you are unlucky enough to contract it. I went from having a very active life in the city that never sleeps to being locked in isolation away from the people and world I loved.
I am fortunate enough to have an apartment in the downstairs area of our family home. My sister and her 9 year old son have an upstairs apartment in the house, and my parents live in the main family home. My mom is 72 years old, and my dad just turned 80; my family had no idea that evening, that they would be spending the next seven weeks taking care of their son/brother. Even my young nephew was silently cautious, not because he didn’t love me, but because he was scared for his "Zio".
Putting their lives on the line to put food in our mouths, my parents would venture out once a week to the grocery store. Like soldiers heading to war, they would leave the home base to come back with distant blank looks on their faces, like the scenes you see in war films. They would express how scary it was out there, a world where the grocery stores were packed with sometimes mindless, selfish, ignorant people who did not care to practice social distancing or wear a mask to protect themselves or others around them. (After all, this was "only like having the flu")
Food was soon prepped with love to nourish my ailing health. As I would devour my mom’s home-cooked meals, I would hear my family laughing through the textured ceiling in my lonely dungeon. It warmed my heart, knowing that they were having a good time in this new world we were living in, and thankful they were okay health-wise and not dealing with this poison that had somehow invaded my body.
On a good day, I would check my temperature, oxygen levels, and pulse 20 times a day; and on a not so good day, many times more. I would fill myself with every immune building vitamin out there, Nona’s infamous tea, and as much information I could find on the world wide web to fight this thing. You may be surprised by how much you can learn from different countries that are four weeks ahead of you.
I would spend my days working and resting when I felt too fatigued; there were days when i could do nothing but sleep all day. The people I loved would beg me to take time off, but it was the work and the virtual connection to the outside world, that kept me from diving into a dark black hole.
In the evenings, I would talk to as many people as possible to avoid thinking about this deadly virus I was fighting. Zoom had become my new best friend. And while a majority of the people slept at night, I would be wide awake listening to the sirens pass my once quiet block, while connecting with other COVID-19 patients. Each of us looking for a connection and answers, each of us struggling to stay awake so that we could stop ourselves from getting worse, and each of us in our own way, fighting for our lives.
As the days were getting warmer, I would venture out to breathe in the fresh, crisp air and feel the bright sun shining on my face. I would take that moment to peek through the glass, at the family I was longing to hug. I reluctantly accepted that the only way to see them was through the glass door in our backyard. Some nights I would pull the table against that door so that I could have dinner with them.
Some days we would all congregate in the backyard with masks and gloves on, sitting many feet apart, listening to the “oldies, but, goodies.” I would get to see my nephew play basketball with my sister; I would see my dad’s bright blue eyes, and my mom’s youthful face. We would laugh, talk politics, and argue. This was the new norm and the highlight of my day.
On Palm Sunday, I began to feel better and joined my family outside for Easter dinner on a very beautiful sunny Sunday; there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as my appetite that had been non-existent for over a month was now back.
As the following week progressed, I started to get healthier and more comfortable; my family encouraged me to go upstairs.
Missing the human touch, I started my transition back into society. My anxiety levels were high. It was emotionally challenging to be in the same room with my family without thinking that I could still infect them. As I started to get more comfortable, I would go upstairs more frequently. I took long walks; started to exercise, I even had the energy to play basketball with my nephew.
I am ever so grateful for the many good people around me who kept my spirits up and telling me that I was going to be okay, especially my family, who took care of me so well. I know that i am blessed to have survived, as so many New Yorkers died during the months of March to May, in such catastrophic numbers.
Although it has been about 5 months since I fell ill, at times, I have to admit I still struggle with health set-backs, as well as the occasional mind-tricks, that make you question if this is still the disease? Or “after-shocks”?, who knows?? As this virus is so new and people experience it in a number of different ways, I know the answer to that question is , nobody does.
The advice I would offer to those who have not contracted the virus: Try to do everything you can to not get it, wear a mask, wash your hands, don't touch your face. do the best you can to quarantine. (I accepted that I could have died but I would have felt way worse if I had infected someone; my family especially, I wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing that I had infected them. I knew the importance of quarantining.) If you get sick, sleep, rest, shut off the TV, take vitamins, listen to your doctor, join a support group; I recommend the Facebook Coronavirus Survivor' Corps. There are thousands of people who will be there to support you and answer questions. Also research, read up on whats happening in other countries, countries who had it before us. Read up on the medicines they are prescribing, read up on the side effects. I have discovered that so much information found on the net, is not being relayed to the American public. I knew things before they hit the paper due to my research. Lastly, don't be afraid, just be "aware".. this virus can be very dangerous for some and mild for others.