This post is primarily for those who are convinced that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu … and only affects “old people.”
I am currently recovering from Covid-19. My partner and I caught it at the same time, despite both of us working from home, rarely going out, and always wearing masks when we did. His symptoms were very mild and cleared up quickly, while mine, according to the physician who was treating me, were “classic.” Except that instead of lasting 2 weeks, my symptoms lasted 2 months (and counting).
Most people are aware of the relatively high death rates from Covid-19. And many have heard about the “long Covid” sufferers, who continue to be sick or have permanent tissue damage, as well as those who’ve experienced “cytokine storms” and other auto-immune responses. But very few understand how truly harrowing “normal” Covid can be. I had only the tiniest inkling myself, and was not at all prepared for what came my way. I’d assumed anyone talking about horrific symptoms were “acute” cases. But no.
Covid-19 has been orders of magnitude worse than any illness I’ve ever experienced, and that includes treatment for cancer. On my worst day, I could not lift my head or speak above a whisper. My partner was on the phone with my doctor that day, while I gave a thumbs up or down in response to his questions. We all wondered if maybe I should be in hospital, but in fact my fever was moderating and my wheezing was under control. I was actually better when it came to my breathing issues. But the breathing was not the worst part of it.
For me, and for many, the most challenging part of “classic” Covid is the deep, debilitating fatigue that accompanies it. And unless you’ve experienced it, it’s just not possible to comprehend it. Especially if you’re someone who naturally has high energy. Sometimes it was more than I could do to open my eyes, which became extraordinarily light sensitive, so I would just lie there in the dark, wondering when it would finally get better.
It took 2 months, but I’ve improved significantly. The deep fatigue is gone, and my fever finally broke after week 6. I’m still using a puffer, to help with breathing, and I still have to moderate how much I do, not just physical labour but “cognitive labour” too. I still can’t walk outside, when it’s cold, without wheezing and coughing uncontrollably, and I’m still taking painkillers. But all that is so much better than how I’ve been feeling that I hardly notice it. It’s such a relief to feel human again.
Is Covid-19 worse than seasonal flu? Yes, significantly worse. The mortality rates are frightening in and of themselves, but the severity and persistence of the fatigue, and the unpredictability of symptoms you might get (Covid toe, shaky hands, loss of smell, but also loss of hearing and sight, all kinds of bizarre psychological and neurological problems), and how long you might be sick, all add a harrowing layer of surreal unpredictability.
Think of it this way. Much like in gambling, you just don’t know what cards you’ll be dealt. Many of the cards are pretty much “get out of jail free”, basically a few sniffles and you’re done. But other cards, out of nowhere, are harsh beyond comprehension for something that we call a “cold”.
Anyway, in a nutshell: Covid is freaking scary, and the worst part, aside from the possibility of dying, is not knowing if you’ll experience a very mild version of it, or if you’ll be one of the people who might end up with chronic fatigue and permanent damage, to lungs or other organs. That’s not a bet anyone should be indifferent to. Covid is no joke.