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OPINION | BRENDA LOOPER: Down, not out

by Brenda Looper | January 18, 2023 at 3:31 a.m.
Brenda Looper


That one-two punch really knocked me for a loop, and during my birthday week.

I had started feeling ill the previous week, starting with a headache and nausea. I had thought it was just a migraine, so had taken my medication and retreated to a dark room. Over the next several days, coughing, brain fog, chills, exhaustion and body aches set in, so by Monday, friend Sarah suggested a covid test might be in order.

Monday morning it was negative. Tuesday morning, though, it was a faint positive. After contacting my doctor's office, a telehealth visit was set up and the diagnosis confirmed.

After nearly three years, my super-dodger status was gone. The last woman standing in my little group of lunch/dinner friends was standing no more. She was, quite honestly, too fatigued to do so.

I settled in for days of Mucinex, lots of water and orange juice, and whatever food I could manage. Heck, I'm pretty sure I've lost a few pounds from this.

And then Wednesday came, and a call from my insurance adjuster. There would be no resurrecting my car Izzy. When my old car, Gertie, started really struggling in the cold weather nine years ago, Mama took it upon herself to come down to help me find a newer car, and when we did, we named her Izzy after one of my remaining great-aunts. It was a tangible connection to my mom, who died in 2019.

Izzy was paid off, and I had planned to drive her as long as possible since a monthly car payment wasn't really feasible, but that wasn't to be. Now I have to try to find a newer vehicle again, and I dread it.

Now when the nausea hits, I'm not sure if that's the covid or stress ... or both, and I'm sure that the stress is slowing my recovery.

Because of covid, I was unable to go back home, so have been at Sarah's house far longer than intended, though hopefully I'm home or heading there by the time you read this. It meant we were able to celebrate our birthday together, to a point (I couldn't go out to dinner with her and another friend as planned), and that I'd get to spend more time with fur-nephew Charlie, who was recuperating from a not-fun medical emergency.

But had I not been vaccinated, I might not be typing this right now. I'm overweight and had a stroke in 2015, so I was higher-risk than many. Having lost my unvaccinated brother to this virus, I wasn't going to take any chances, and the benefits of vaccination outweighed the risks.

Sure, I hear some of my trolls right now, now that they've finished griping about my use of "fur-nephew" (and probably annoyed that I named my car), shouting that I'm just a hack for Big Pharma. If I were, I wouldn't be worried about having to buy a car right now.

I'm just in touch with reality, and know that with a novel virus, we've been seeing scientific research happen in real time. Newer, better vaccines are ahead, but it takes time and more data. Mistakes have been made, but the vaccines (like all medications) are under constant monitoring for unforeseen effects. The big difference between now and past pandemics is that we didn't have social media misinformation/disinformation running rampant before.

But the vaccines we have now do work. Nonprofit health-care information foundation KFF noted in November, "Covid-19 vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness and death, but they are not perfect, so deaths among vaccinated people will still occur." I'm happy to settle for not perfect for now because it decreased the chances of me having to be hospitalized.

My symptoms, while annoying, have been mostly mild. The headaches, brain fog and exhaustion haven't been fun, but they've been manageable. I've been able to keep working remotely, though I've cut days short when needed. And the odds of me having long covid have also been greatly reduced.

Bloomberg's Kristen V. Brown spoke to Jessica Justman, an infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist at Columbia University, who told her, in answer to a super-dodger reader's question of whether vaccination and boosters can prevent long covid or if it's just a "roll of the dice": "Yes, vaccinations and boosters help prevent long covid, and yes, it's also a roll of the dice."

Preventative measures like vaccination (which is never 100 percent for any illness), masking, hand-washing and social distancing reduce the chances of getting sick, but if you do get sick, the severity will most likely be much less than that of someone who hasn't taken those precautions, Justman said, and there's still much work to be done to understand covid. "This is where the roll of the dice comes into play," said Justman, stressing that limiting exposure to the disease (this or any other) is important.

I can't be sure where I picked up the bug, but the fact that I made it nearly three years without being infected is amazing.

It was inevitable that I would get it at some point, despite that I'm vaccinated and almost always wear a mask in public (no, they're not comfortable to wear for long periods of time, but wearing a mask to protect myself and others is the very least I can do).

I'll recover, though. Too many people can't say that.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at blooper@adgnewsroom.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.


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