Since the pandemic started, I’ve taken all the precautions, from social distancing to washing my hands. As time passed and my family and I grew weary of no travel and missing family members in other states and abroad like crazy, I went from thinking I’d take a wait-and-see approach to getting vaccinated to being first in line for it.
I had my first dose of Pfizer last March, and the second early in April. I still wore my mask indoors even when the CDC said we could take it off if we were vaccinated.
My first international and US trip after being vaccinated
In May I traveled from Florida, where I live, to Madrid, Spain, where I was born and where my dad lives. After practically saying our goodbyes before he went in for cancer surgery we didn’t know whether he’d wake up from due to his heart condition, I was more than eager to hug him in person.
There was a mask mandate in Spain, both indoors and outdoors. The plane both ways was practically empty, since only Spanish citizens were allowed in. I have both a Spanish and a US passport since birth so I was lucky to be able to travel to see my dad.
My next trip was inside the U.S. My youngest and I flew to Colorado to visit my eldest, who we hadn’t seen in nearly a year. Most people in Colorado were not wearing masks, but since most of our activities took place outdoors, I felt fine about it.
On our trip back, Denver airport was packed. My youngest and I removed our mask for as long as it takes to eat a slice of pizza. It was virtually impossible to practice any kind of social distancing. Once on the plane, I remember falling asleep. I didn’t remove my mask, I just lowered it a couple of times to drink water.
My first COVID-19 symptoms
Four days after arriving in Florida, I cleaned out my room and remember feeling as wiped out as when I’d hiked up the Incline in Colorado Springs. Except I’d only cleaned one room in the house. I chalked it up to travel fatigue, perhaps a little bit of jet lag.
The next morning I woke up with what felt like the beginning of a bad cold. Sniffles, a persistent cough, fatigue, and an overall rundown feeling.
Since I had been leading my normal life prior to being symptomatic: grocery shopping, getting a massage, having medical checkups, changing my car oil, on Tuesday I decided to get tested for COVID-19 just in case. I hadn’t lost my sense of taste or smell, and quite honestly I didn’t expect to test positive.
I didn’t get my results until two full days later. When I read “positive for COVID-19” I was shocked. There was something about having taken all the precautions for so long that made me think “this can’t be happening.”
Sharing my experience online
When I decided a couple of days later to share it online, many people seemed aghast that I was shocked at having tested positive.
“The vaccine won’t prevent you from getting COVID, but it will keep you out of the hospital,” they said. Others claimed I was proof that the vaccine did not work.
I made calls to every place I had been to in the past few days, letting them know I’d tested positive for COVID. I was so glad I’d at least worn a mask to every single location, even when the other party was not wearing a mask.
I’d been to two different doctor’s offices, and in both cases, their response was the same: “don’t worry, we’re all vaccinated.” When I replied,” yeah, me too!” in both cases they couldn’t hold back their surprise.
Dealing with breakthrough COVID-19
When I realized my cough and exhaustion wasn’t due to a cold but to COVID-19 I gave myself some grace. I isolated myself from the rest of the family and had the kids get tested. My husband was in Mexico and he also got tested, since we’d spent three days together from the day I arrived from Colorado until the day he left for Mexico.
My stepson and my husband both tested negative, and my youngest kid tested positive, without symptoms. My eldest daughter and her girlfriend back in Colorado also tested negative. That’s what makes me think we were exposed to COVID-19 at the airport, perhaps on the airplane.
I spent the next few days welcoming new symptoms such as a painful rash that was not shingles, a herpes simplex outbreak on my lips, and a burning sensation down my calves. The brain fog and the exhaustion, the kind that I recalled when going through bronchitis or pneumonia, were the hardest to contend with.
It took me a full month to finally feel like I was close to being myself. For someone used to an active lifestyle and using my brain for work, the loss of concentration and physical stamina was like a punch in the gut.
A month and a half later I still have days where I am exhausted as in bone tired. Like, I’m fine and the next minute I feel like I could fall asleep right then and there. Since I’m self-employed and work from home, I can often just walk over to bed and indulge in a nap.
Am I glad I was vaccinated? YES
Am I glad I was vaccinated? The answer is a resounding YES. From what the contact tracer from the Department of Health told me over the phone, the fact that my symptoms were so “mild” meant the vax was working. The vaccine is, in fact, effective in preventing hospitalizations and death.
It doesn’t necessarily make us immune as in we won’t get it for sure. In addition, because of my symptoms (no loss of taste or smell), they told me I most likely caught the Delta variant, which shows more cold-like symptoms, and is much more contagious.
I am so grateful that this happened here at home and not in Spain or Colorado. I can’t imagine having to quarantine away from home and then figuring out how to get a doctor’s clearance to travel home to the U.S. since you need a negative antigen test or PCR to come back.
What helped me get through it all
Resting was definitely the hardest but most necessary ingredient. I called off the yoga workshops I was supposed to teach and requested extended writing deadlines. When I realized what was going on I decided to allow my body and mind to rest and recover.
That said, I didn’t stay in bed all day. I did breathing exercises and some restorative yoga in my room. As soon as I was able to, I also went out to my backyard (I realize not everyone can do this) to be in nature.
I took the following supplements: Zinc, Vitamin B100, Vitamin C and Melatonin. I took acetaminophen for aches and pains.
I allowed myself to feel sad and disheartened by my lack of stamina – I still try to give myself grace. For someone who is pretty active, this is really hard.
And of course, practicing gratitude – realizing how lucky I am that I did not require hospitalization – helps to this day.
I’d love to hear if you or someone you know experienced breakthrough COVID-19 and how you dealt with it.