Three days in
September 17, 2022
"The second line is really faint," I said. "Maybe I'm imagining it."
"I can see it," said one friend to whom I texted the image.
"It's like a pregnancy test," said another. "You can't be 'a little bit' Covid-positive."
"Take another home test," they suggested. I took another one, a different brand. This one too had the faintest of faint positive lines, if I squinted at it just right.
My kid had been diagnosed with Covid a few days prior. His symptoms were dramatic and immediate. I wore my best KN95 masks indoors, turned the air filter up to high, opened windows... but I knew there was a risk I might come down with it too. I went to the testing center and they swabbed my nose. When the call came, I was already resigned to what I didn't want to be true.
If one is a congregational rabbi, ten days before Rosh Hashanah is not a great time to come down with Covid. (No time is ideal, but this might be the worst time of year to be sick in this line of work.) A flurry of emails set Plan B and Plan C into motion in case they are needed. Plan A is still that I will co-lead services... and I have no way of knowing whether I'll be up to doing so.
"It's Schrödinger's Rosh Hashanah," I quipped to a friend. Either I'll be up to it, or I won't. Either I'll be recovered, or I won't. Maybe I'll be onsite for Rosh Hashanah, recovered. Maybe I'll be online, still symptomatic. Maybe I'll be in bed. There's no way to know. Dear God: I know that Mystery is a truth of the universe, but did You have to bring that home to me so palpably right now?
Because of my history of strokes and heart attack, my doctor got me in for an infusion of monoclonal antibodies. The infusion center reminded me of my mother. (Back in the early days of her mycobacterial lung infection, they tried treating it with infusions, and I went with her a few times.) A room full of recliner chairs. A television -- on, inevitably. At least it was playing food tv.
To my surprise, there was no IV. Instead a nurse pushed one syringe of the stuff into an IV port on my hand and flushed it with saline. Then they observed me for an hour, taking my vitals every fifteen minutes. I read more of Michael Twitty's new book Koshersoul, which is tremendous, as I expected it to be. Then they sent me home with instructions to rest and hydrate.
So far my experience of Covid is like a really nasty flu. Unpleasant, but not unlike illnesses I've had before. I know what fever and chills are, and body aches. I know how to get electrolytes into me, and microwave soup, and wrap up in a blanket. To nap when my body asks for sleep. To watch comforting, familiar television that isn't taxing to my tired brain. We all know this drill.
The difference with this one is that sometimes it lingers. And we won't know whether that's my path until it either is, or isn't. Multiple studies have shown that women are more likely than men to develop Long Covid. Some say that resting a lot, during the initial illness phase, helps to forestall it. Clearly rest is important once one has it, if one gets it. I don't want to get it.
I learned this summer that heart attacks often manifest differently in women than in men. Women are 5x more likely than men to have MINOCA, but some (male) doctors have been dismissive of my experience. How many (male) doctors dismiss Long Covid, too, because it impacts women more than it does men? I could rant about medical sexism, if I had the energy. (I don't.)
And, most likely I will be fine. It's a good opportunity to meditate on fragility and mortality. It's also no fun. I'm deeply grateful for vaccines, and boosters, and monoclonal antibodies: none of these was available when the pandemic started. And... I know that not everyone can get the antibodies. Not everyone can take days off from work to rest and heal. I know how lucky I am.