My Turn

So here I was, thinking for so long that I was somehow immune. Other people – out there – were contracting COVID during that recent, historic, horrific pandemic, but not me. I thought I must be doing something right, or maybe I had a stronger constitution. I popped lots of vitamins (especially C), took sufficient precautions, got the vaccinations, and reveled in my Taurus-the-bull stubborn, sturdy strength.

Two rounds of COVID, and I remained unscathed. Talk of a new variant in the wind, and I didn’t give it much thought. I’d read somewhere about a new, free vaccination drive here in San Miguel de Allende, like the ones held for the previous COVID iterations, which I’d taken advantage of; but I failed to make a note of this one.

Then this week I got a surprise. This week it was my turn to experience COVID first-hand.

For those who haven’t gone through it yet – and, in the interest of science (not to elicit pity; no sympathy notes, please) — I’ll share my still-raw experience. I understand the symptoms and severity vary from person to person, but this is my story:

First, this new COVID variant comes at you out of nowhere and thwacks you on the side of the head as if with a two-by-four, sending you reeling, then splat, flat. Everything – every bone, every tooth, every cell, every pore, every hair follicle – hurts. Especially your head; I had to hold mine in both hands to keep it from exploding.

It’s like the worst flu you’ve ever experienced because this thing has sharper teeth. You go to bed with a heating pad and spend a long, dark night of the soul shaking with fever and praying to die. Then when you wake and realize your prayers weren’t answered, you take action.

I asked my upstairs neighbor to try to find a COVID test for me somewhere in town. (My pounding head couldn’t pinpoint where.) He succeeded. The test’s instructions were in none of the languages I’m familiar with, so I couldn’t read them; plus my eyes hurt so much I didn’t try. I suspected COVID, but I wanted to have proof.

When my muy amable (very kind) landlord, Gabriel (“Angel Gabriel” to me), who lives next door, came home and learned that I was ill, he arranged for a doctor to come and see me here at home right away to examine me and  administer the test. Sure enough, within minutes, the test registered positive. The doctor prescribed several medications – Amoxicilina, Antiflu-Des, Ibuprofeno, and Histiacil (cough syrup) — which Gabriel then ran and got for me at a pharmacy in town.

(FYI: This young Mexican family-doctor’s house call cost only $600 pesos, or roughly $33 USD. All together, the prescriptions came to $410 pesos, or about $25 USD.)

I’ve been taking the medicine for the COVID symptoms (there is no specific COVID medication yet, I learned) every eight hours since, and I’m thankful to report I’m slowly on the mend. No more killer headaches or body aches, no more death wishes. But I still have some residual weakness and dizziness – and, of course, a scratchy throat and some coughing. I’m now in quarantine and will remain at home in my apartment until the end of next week. (For this introvert, having to stay home is not a hardship.)

So the question for me now is: How did this happen? Answer: I really don’t know. If a quasi-recluse like me can come down with COVID out of the blue, anybody can. And this new variant appears to be stealthy.

A writer friend wrote to me the other day when she learned I’d contracted COVID and told me, “After skirting it for 3-plus years, I tested positive in late August. It seems everyone I know who escaped it previously has not been so lucky this past season.”

Another friend, who’d recently returned to San Miguel after visiting her daughter and baby granddaughter in California, reported that on her return flight there were many people – all headed for Guanajuato – who were coughing and sneezing. “Only one other passenger besides myself was wearing a mask,” she told me. “Listening to all of the coughers and sneezers, I began to feel very sad for San Miguel. That’s why I’m still walking about heavily masked.”

Frida in a mask

The moral of this story, of course, is that we must actively seek out the latest COVID vaccine and, in the meantime, dig out those face masks we used to wear when they were mandatory and wear them again in public places voluntarily.

I’ve learned that none of us is immune to life’s unforeseen wallops.

I’ve learned that this new COVID variant is truly out there, lurking.

I’ve also learned (again) that I am very lucky: to be here in this apartment, which I love profoundly (despite the never-ending demolition/construction noise next door); to have a landlord who genuinely cares about my welfare; to have a large circle of friends, both Mexican and gringo, who’ve offered whatever assistance I need; to be the beneficiary of Mexican health care, which is excellent – and affordable for me.

I’m still weak and woozy, but I’ll be all right soon. Please take care of yourselves. Get your shots. Wear those masks.