To stave off deconditioning after months of inactivity, I walked the grassy fields of Central Park at least three times a week. Sometimes I made it a mile, other times barely four blocks, followed by a two-hour nap. Exercise was welcome because it was a change of disposition. Since lockdown, my apartment had served as my home, a workplace and an infirmary.
July 9 started out like any other day in post-Covid life. My temperature was 98.3 in the morning and rose to 99.7 by 7 p.m. I didn’t think much about it when I called my brother; I was accustomed to the temperature fluctuations by then. But at about 11 p.m., as he and I commiserated over the state of California’s wildfires, I started to feel faint. Then, what felt like a warm ball gathered at the top of my shoulders and started to rise, until my whole head was engulfed in heat. I panicked and got off the phone, because I didn’t want to alarm my brother.
Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead. My hair was saturated at the roots with sweat. Within a few minutes, my whole body was sopping. The backs of my knees. My forearms and shins. Even the fold of skin where my hip and thigh met. It was as if my internal thermostat had gone berserk and every inch of my body was overheating at once. I took my temperature at midnight — it was 100.1 and rising — and I packed my head in ice to cool off. I lay down, hoping the fever would subside. When it didn’t, I called a close friend and asked her to text me in the morning. If I didn’t answer, she should call me. If I didn’t pick up, she should send for an ambulance. I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up. I took two Advil and crawled into bed.
In the morning, the fever was gone. But it had been replaced by a wave of convulsive chills that persisted for two hours. I took a tepid shower, and some more Advil and drank a quart of water, concerned I would be dehydrated. My temperature hovered at 99, and I was exhausted. I crawled back into bed and stayed there all day, drifting in and out of sleep while watching episodes of “Game of Thrones.” I was refreshed when I awoke, not surprising given that I had slept most of the past 24 hours. I took a walk. At 7 p.m., as I expected, my temperature rose again, only this time it was accompanied by chills and body heat. My face was flush and, as they did two nights earlier, beads of sweat covered my forehead.
No, no, no, I said to myself. This can’t be happening. Maybe through the force of my will, I could make my fever go away. I put ice packs on my back, mostly because it felt good, and called my friend again. Tonight was going to be rough, I told her. I drank water and crawled into bed, overcome with fatigue. There, I fell asleep at 11 p.m. and didn’t wake up until noon. As quickly as the chills, fever and fatigue appeared, they were gone. Like the movie “Groundhog Day,” I would relive the worst of Covid over and over until, one day, hopefully, I would not.
But dealing with the physical repercussions of Covid was only half the battle. I ached to see close friends, most of whom lived far away. Other friends projected their fears and concerns onto me at the same time I was dealing with my own. One friend recounted the story of an athlete, a longtime runner, who had contracted the virus and could barely walk a few blocks after five months. She had breathing problems. And she wasn’t getting better despite attentive medical care.
“Isn’t that awful?” my friend said.
Yes, it was. It scared me, too. I tried to change the subject, but my friend continued.