Kaitlin Lembo is a NYPA Award-winning writer. In addition to serving Spotlight Newspapers as a reporter, she’s also our engagement coordinator. Several weeks ago she contracted COVID-19. She wanted to share the experience with our readers.
My name is Kaitlin Lembo. I am 25 years old. I fought COVID-19.
It started with a cough. Nothing too aggressive; if I took too deep of a breath, I hacked a bit. A feather did a little dance in my throat. I had three positive coronavirus cases in my home when I started showing symptoms. I lasted 10 days before I got it; I was the last to contract it. Wearing masks in my house and disinfecting everything daily was no match for the coronavirus.
Soon, my body began to deteriorate from the inside. Aches ripped me apart from invisible seams. Food became a vehicle with which my body would expel in every way it could. Water turned my stomach into stormy seas. The softness of my bed, my only refuge; head buried in a pillow and legs tucked to my chest yielded the only comfort I would have for two weeks.
Each day, something changed for the worst. My normal temperature is 98.1 degrees. Imagine my fear when the thermometer hit 100.7. Imagine my fear when I started hallucinating from being so warm. Imagine my fear when I couldn’t get the air conditioner cool enough. The walls close in way too quickly when you’re confined in them. Your mind begins to play tricks on you. My car laughs at me from right outside the door, mocking how I can’t leave. I can’t go to the doctor. I can’t even leave the property. In a haze, I kept asking myself why people were driving by the house all day. Can’t anyone see what’s going on? How is the world still spinning when I can’t even hold my head up? How are people feeling well when I can’t remember what well even feels like?
My sheets were their own form of wavebed and I supplied the moisture. I was doing laundry like a professional athlete, except the sweat wasn’t coming from my latest triathlon. I’m sweating out COVID-19. I’m puking out a pandemic. I’m oozing what’s killed 2020 for so many people. It’s now on my doorstep, holding on to my chest like a cat. I can feel its nails, but I can’t get them off. There’s nowhere to grab except my soaked shirt. My stubby, bitten nails are sore and broken from clutching my headboard. Somewhere along the way, I’ve mastered the breathing exercises they teach you in therapy. Inhale health. Exhale the virus. How is this considered mild? I think I’m dying.
Hours are lost to sleep and odd dreams. I’m six hours between life and death. In those six hours, I have to find a way to write stories my job so desperately needs for this week’s paper. That’s right; I worked during COVID-19. My team is counting on me, even when they ask me to stop working and get some sleep. I have to find a way to take a shower. Oh, hot water is amazing. I can’t get it hot enough.
The sun begins rising again. I haven’t had a fever for a week. I’m still so, so weak. I’m still confined to my house. By day, my body is raw and bruised with each unnecessary movement. By night, the fibers begin to connect. Day by day, my strength multiplies. Eight hours of consciousness becomes 10, then 11, then 12.5. Before I know it, naps are less frequent. I can feel my throat again. The feather is a mere memory. The walls are opening up. Air fills the places that once felt full.
My name is Kaitlin Lembo. I am 25 years old. I beat COVID-19. I hope you never have to experience it.