Since the pandemic began I had been diligent about physical distancing, handwashing, mask wearing and avoiding crowded spaces. Partly because of the public health messaging but more specifically because as a Type 1 diabetic for over forty years, I would be regarded as a high risk category were I to be infected. This didn’t limit my travels however – last year during the height of the pandemic, before the vaccines arrived, I travelled to London; Barcelona and Venice through the deserted Dublin Airport. Taking all the advised safety precautions (except the big one to stay at home – which while sensible, is a far greater challenge to single people who live alone in a flat without a garden) I decided to live as normal a life as possible. The first half of this year was more low-key – travel was more strictly prohibited thanks to the mushrooming cases and numbers.
Then came the vaccinations. As a high risk category, I was fully vaccinated with the Dolly Parton funded Moderna vaccine by mid-May. The relief was palpable – I was out of the woods now? So I started plotting some new airplane excursions.
An easy but always rewarding destination is London. Less than an hour by plane from Dublin it offers fun, laughs and good-times on Ireland’s doorstep. A quick weekend away was booked. It was as wonderful as always – visiting the bars and cafes and restaurants with friends. Breathing in the excitement of a major city, where Covid-19 restrictions had been almost fully lifted.
It turns out that I also breathed in the coronavirus on my travels. I know the exact place and time I acquired it, and in hindsight the crowd in the venue should have been adequate warning. Hindsight is a wonderful thing however. In my naivete I thought my fully vaccinated status would protect me. Of course I knew that being vaccinated didn’t prevent transmission, but the risk was low.
A few days after my return home I was feeling slightly odd. A little bit off kilter. Did I have a fever? Maybe. But it was only mild. Why was I coughing? Well that was easy to explain – I used to smoke, and even now several years after quitting I occasionally get a reminder of my former habit in the guise of a cough. My nose was blocked. The symptoms were all fairly mild and I contemplated going for a test.
Then I received a text from a fellow traveler, who was fresh from a positive Covid-19 diagnosis. That settled it for me. I logged off work that very minute, and walled the forty minute distance to Lansdowne Road Simmonscourt to the walk-in test centre. My nostrils and throat were probed. Within 24 hours I received a text to tell me that I had tested positive for Covid-19.
Within an hour my phone was ringing. It was the department of health contact tracers looking for the names and digits of people I had been in contact with since infection. I live alone – the number was minute.
Afterwards was the wait. I had to self-isolate for a fortnight, and not leave the house. Being in possession of a type of dull, feral cunning, I had visited the supermarket before I received my test results to stock up on essential perishables before my lockdown began. Bread and milk were abundantly acquired. Meanwhile my addiction to yellow-stickered, discount items from Marks and Spencer, meant my main meals were as lovely as can be. I had read that symptoms tended to peak on day seven after first appearing, for most patients. As the countdown to that fateful day began, I waited in trepidation. Loss of breath was the most serious symptom and I watched for that with an almost hypochondriac zeal. Otherwise my symptoms resembled a bad cold.
The fear of ventilators and intensive care was a distant fear, but I reassured myself that as I was fully vaccinated it was unlikely that my symptoms would deteriorate to require that kind of treatment. Living alone, with Google as a doctor, lurking in the corner waiting to diagnose me with the most apocalyptic outcome possible, meant my nerves were fairly frayed.
That’s all over now. Once more I am free and single, and ready to mingle. A fortnight entirely on your own, is a punishment, not worth repeating.