I didn’t take the coronavirus seriously… until I caught it.

…at least I think I caught it.

Let me explain. I live an active lifestyle, with a healthy diet. I go to the gym six days a week, without hesitation. I take my blood pressure regularly and the results are always so low that the joke is that people aren’t even sure I’m still alive.

Me too No to get sick. I get sick so rarely that I remember the two The last few times I was sick: in March 2016, I got the flu and it was so bad I couldn’t stand it, and in September 2013, with a strange cold.

I’m also a bit of a germaphobe. I’m not Adrian Monk or anything, but I’m saying. My gym offers antibacterial wipes and towels, and I use them…liberally. I don’t touch my face unless I’m applying skincare, I use a brush to wash my hands and nails, both the nail bed and under the nail, and I’m weird and obsessive about keeping my reusable water bottle clean.

All that being said, this January I had a cough so dry it felt like my mouth was a desert. It was so intense that my abs hurt the next day and every day after. And since I don’t get sick, I didn’t take any adult medications. I didn’t think much of it, assuming I had simply overdone it at the gym and was dehydrated, so I drank a little more water and took some children’s cough medicine.

My nose started running randomly. It felt like someone was taking two thumbs and sticking them into my sinuses, much like what happens when spring pollen season begins. I was not surprised that I couldn’t smell (or, by extension, taste) anything.. I vowed to step up my allergy routine and kept going.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, dry heaving and eventually a full-on cough, drenched in sweat. I could feel myself sweating randomly at inappropriate times, but I attributed it to being overdressed or underdressed, so I took my temperature.

99.8. Hmm, that’s not right. I took a children’s fever reducer, got it under control, but kept going. And since I was waking up at all hours of the night due to coughing, it was no surprise that I spent the day completely exhausted.

The real problem, for me, was my blood pressure.

I am surrounded by people with some form of heart disease and have spent years writing about heart health and how we can be more aware of ourselves. I don’t play games when it comes to my blood pressure or heart rate. I know how my heart is supposed to feel and behave in my chest. I know when my heart rate is normal and when it is elevated. I took my blood pressure and, for the first time in over a decade, it was considered “elevated.”

One particular day, I was at the gym mid-workout and felt my heart rate rise, as did my blood pressure. My heart was beating so loud I felt like I could hear it. The dizziness was overwhelming. I stopped my training, immediately stepped aside and waited until the sensation finally subsided. Attributing it to perhaps a side effect of too much espresso in my coffee, I vowed to drink less and decided to stay home and get some rest until all this went away.

Every Wednesday on my Instagram account, I host a Q&A Wednesday where readers ask me questions about fitness, weight loss, and nutrition. In the early days of the outbreak, people asked me if I intended to continue going to the gym. All things considered, at least with the information we had at the time, there was no reason to worry. Given the language used to discuss it, it still seemed like such a far-off conclusion that it would ever explode like it finally did in America anyway.

But then we started receiving data about COVID-19, the term for the disease caused by exposure to the new coronavirus, and I realized how clearly my own experiences aligned with the list of symptoms. It was very possible that what he had experienced was, in fact, COVID-19.

Coronaviruses already existed; They are simply a type of virus that can cause diseases in living beings. Scientists refer to this latest iteration as a novel coronavirus in the sense that it is “new” or “novel.” This new coronavirus is causing what we know is coRonsawRussia ddisease or COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), include “pain and discomfort, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.” But, for every 6 people who are infected, one person becomes seriously ill and is at greater risk of succumbing to the disease.

However, it’s the other part of this that scares me.

The WHO also states that “older people and those with underlying medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illnesses,” but that’s not all. COVID-19 is a virus, something that takes a healthy immune system to combat. Our immune system is affected by many things: certain types of medications have side effects that negatively affect your immunity. People receiving chemotherapy, people who smoke, and people living with HIV may be at higher risk.

That is, honestly, the in bulk of American society. If it’s not us specifically, it’s someone we know.

A woefully unstable, unaffordable and inaccessible healthcare system already makes people afraid to go to the hospital for something as routine as a check-up. Imagine being so afraid of the bill you would receive for COVID-19 care that you decide to forgo a hospital visit altogether. Imagine living in a place where there is no hospital nearby. We do not have the health care system that can support the large number of cases we have seen here. Imagine what the situation will be like in rural communities. (And, for perspective, let’s imagine being subjected to… whatever is happening to our healthcare professionals. in this link here.)

Imagine being a Black woman, knowing how this system treats us, in the era of COVID-19, and trusting this system to save our lives en masse. To date two people I know have died at the hands of this pandemic. I’m afraid of losing more.

I will never know if everything I experienced was really caused by the coronavirus. We didn’t get tested then and we didn’t even know enough to care enough, so I can’t say for sure. But I know how that collection of symptoms, all experienced at the same time, can overwhelm a person’s body. I also know how quick and easy it was for me to ignore everything, have an excuse for it, squash whatever symptoms were causing me pain, and move on. I consider my survival a blow of luck—A type of luck that was not accessible to approximately 35,000 people around the world, 2,800 Americans. One-third of the people we’ve lost to date have come from New York, my home.

Everything I felt, I very possibly would have ended up with the next person. They may not succeed. Hell, I could catch him again and my luck could be over. We just don’t know enough, so every protective measure makes a difference. Take warnings and instructions seriously. Practice social distancing. Wash your hands. Reduce your non-essential trips. We would be losing people we know and love because we failed to understand the severity of what is happening, and we simply cannot allow it.

For more reliable, science basedand current information about COVID-19:

Photo credit: Flickr /andynash

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