Day 1. I spent Thursday, my day off, golfing. Friday, I was scheduled to see patients and do surgery on the non-English-speaking mother of a patient I delivered a long time ago (who I didn’t really remember). She remembered me, though, and brought her mother from an hour away to see me. But as I coughed and felt slightly feverish, I realized that I had not felt well yesterday either. I thought I better do a COVID test. When the antigen test turned positive right away, I knew it would be a complicated next several days.
I called my office and asked them to notify all my Friday patients that we would need to reschedule them. I filled out the requisite forms online for my health care organization and was told in no uncertain terms that I was to be under isolation for five or ten days. Five or ten days? They said, “In five days, you can leave isolation, masked for another five days. If you continue to test positive, you cannot see patients until day ten or until you test negative.”
As I notified everyone, including my golf friends and my family, I realized that I would be a pariah for a while. I was supposed to pick my daughter up from the airport. She can Uber. Check. She and my husband are leaving in seven days for a long-delayed 2020 dive trip to Fiji. They cannot get infected. Hotel arranged. Check.
I quickly threw enough stuff in a bag to last me four days. I packed up my personal computer and my work computer, some books, and my iPad. As I settled into my hotel room, which had a mini-fridge and a microwave, I tried to find the positive. I would have time to do my MOC articles, read, and catch up on good shows. Except, I was so tired. I couldn’t do anything. I microwaved some food I brought from home and fell asleep with the TV on.
Day 2. Friday, day one after the positive test, but the second day after symptom onset. This will get me to day five quicker, right? I tested again, and it was positive within minutes. Not good, I think. Come on, immune system, help me out here!
I guiltily asked my partner to do a pre-op exam and sign a surgical consent on a patient, and I Zoomed in for the discussion. The husband had a million questions. I’m exhausted. I turned on the TV and realized I could sign into my Netflix account on the hotel room TV. Dinnertime comes around, and I call down to the restaurant to order food. I have to go pick it up and bring it to my room. I feel very self-conscious as I walk around the hotel in my mask. Do people know? Can they tell I have COVID? Am I going to spread it, even though I’m wearing a mask? I am not supposed to be walking around. I am a rule-follower, and I am breaking the rules. I eat a luke-warm hamburger with a soggy bun and realize the seriousness of my situation—no good food. I watch a few Netflix episodes and go to sleep.
Day 3. Saturday, the holiday weekend! I have Memorial Day off. Oh wait, I’m in isolation. At least I don’t have to cancel patients on Monday. So what am I going to do? My fever is gone, but I am congested and have started sneezing. Seems like allergies at this point. The day goes by in a blur. I addressed and stamped graduation announcements that I had been waiting to send until my son actually graduated. Is that where I got this virus? Last week at the graduation? What is the incubation period? I looked it up: two to fourteen days. Why didn’t my husband get it too if I got it there?
Day 4. Sunday. I’m feeling a little stir crazy. I do an online workout but take it easy. It felt good to move my body. I realized I needed a longer stay than the three-night reservation and extended my stay. My husband was still testing negative: such a relief. I imagine my guilt if he turned positive and could not go on the Fiji trip. I visit Facebook and LinkedIn on my computer, buy an online course, do four MOC articles, and watch some golf videos. I sit by the pool for a while, then head back to my room. People get in the elevator without masks. I cringe.
Day 5. Monday. While the family is gone from the house, I stock up for another night at the hotel. I clean the kitchen, water the plants, and give the dog his heartworm medication (a few days early, but no one else knows that it’s due). He proceeds to pee all over. He is a 15-year-old Border Terrier named Rascal. I shoo him outside and clean up after him. I gather up some clothes and snacks and return to the hotel. I text my office manager to tell her of my still-positive status, and we discuss rescheduling my Wednesday patients and surgeries. Heavy sigh.
So, I write this still in isolation. I have mixed emotions. To be vaccinated and double-boosted and still get this virus sucks. But honestly, I was waiting for it to happen. I think everyone will eventually get one variant or another, especially as people let their guard down, and have more in-person, unmasked events. I think about the millions of people who have died and acknowledge that my pain-in-the-ass five or ten-day isolation is a drop in the bucket compared to the sea of illness and death the world has seen. And it hasn’t been so bad.
Beverly Joyce is an obstetrician-gynecologist and physician coach. She can be reached at DrJoyCoaching.
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