The COVID Diaries: A first-hand account of contracting the virus in Jackson Hole

Editor’s Note: This is a first-hand account of the symptoms and experience of a positive COVID-19 case, written by Buckrail reporter Jacob Gore while quarantining with the virus.

JACKSON, Wyo. — So I have COVID, and it stinks. This is the sickest I have been in years.

Since March I have worn my mask, I have kept my distance in social settings, and I’ve used hand sanitizer regularly. But, I also didn’t believe that I would be one of the growing numbers in Teton County to actually get sick from the virus. I took it seriously…or so I thought. All it took was one night of grilling with my roommate and a friend of his who had just returned from traveling for that to change.

At first, I didn’t feel sick at all. I just felt slightly off and lacked energy. I found myself staring at my computer screen, unable to work. I blamed it on a lack of sleep.

Three days after I had been exposed, I still hadn’t felt any tell-tale signs that I was sick. But on the morning of the fourth day, I woke up from a text my roommate had sent me.

“Staying home from work today, think I have a cold but they said to play it safe,” he said.

Right then and there it clicked. I knew I had some kind of bug, and only hoped it wasn’t COVID. Sure enough, that same night, my symptoms started to appear and we learned that our “traveling friend” had just tested positive.

The symptoms

As I mentioned, I (somewhat ignorantly) never thought I’d contract COVID. I am a very active adult in my mid 20’s, with a strong immune system, and no pre-existing conditions. So the level to which I experienced the symptoms came as somewhat of a shock:

The following symptoms hit me on the fourth night after I had been exposed:

  • I’ve had a constant headache. My eyes are so sensitive to light and even looking at something bright causes pain.
  • Constant fever. I wake up 20+ times in the night, in a puddle of sweat. I’m so hot that I take my blankets off and immediately start freezing. If I take a sip of water, it will make me shiver. I have to keep my heater on and basically turn my room into a sauna to feel comfortable.
  • No appetite/energy. It’s tough to even find the motivation to go to the kitchen. It feels like so much effort to get out of bed, and it’s tough to eat when I have no appetite.
  • Lungs hurt. I have this weird feeling in my lungs, like a stomachache in my lungs. I’m constantly short of breath but not enough to go to the hospital. If I breathe out too quickly, I feel a sharp pain in my lungs. I get winded from doing simple tasks like taking out the trash.
  • Soreness. This is by far the sorest I have ever been. The way I describe it is it feels like I was snowboarding and ran straight into a tree. The soreness is nonstop and ibuprofen only does so much. I can’t sit still without the soreness taking over my body.
  • I can’t concentrate on anything. My mind feels cloudy and it’s hard to even watch a tv show without zoning out.
  • Probably the strangest symptom is not being able to smell or taste anything. Food is boring and bland now. It feels like a nuisance to eat anything, and all I experience are textures. I can’t smell coffee, candles, spices, or food. I can’t taste mint gum, candy, or anything typically flavorful. The experience is so strange and makes it very difficult to have an appetite.
  • Dry cough, sore throat, and runny nose. These aren’t as bad as the other symptoms but are still present.
  • Mental health. It’s been almost two full weeks since I’ve left my apartment. Even if I could leave, I would be nervous to do so for fear of my fever returning. I also feel too winded to walk.

It has been over two weeks since I was initially exposed. Despite an improvement in the fever and soreness, I am still experiencing all of these symptoms.

There’s help all around

So here I was, feeling like I got hit by a START Bus, and unable to get out of my bed.  Since Buckrail has been covering COVID for the better part of 9 months, I knew to visit the St. John’s Health COVID page for some answers on what to do next.

I called the St. John’s Health COVID hotline and they asked about my symptoms. Shortly after, they recommended that I order a Vault Test, which is free to any resident of Wyoming thanks to the CARES Act. They said that I didn’t need to go to the hospital immediately, but to monitor my breathing in the case that it got worse.

Lastly, my roommate and I called Teton County Health Department so they could add us to the rising number of COVID cases in the county, and begin contact tracing.

I had made one trip to the store the day after I was exposed and before I felt any symptoms. Fortunately, I wore my mask and had kept my social distance per usual, and that was the only venture I took outside of my apartment after contracting the virus. Had I continued to hang out with friends, or visit public areas, the contact tracing in my case would have been much more serious.

The takeaway

It’s very true that the virus affects everyone differently. My roommate was COVID positive too and was only sick for about a day. But after what I went through, and am still experiencing, I can confidently say that no one would enjoy this feeling.

I know there’s a lot of debate about wearing a mask. I know they aren’t the most comfortable and a departure from our old way of life. But I also know that if I could avoid going through these symptoms again, I would wear a hazmat suit every day if I had to. There were several times when I woke up in the middle of the night and thought a worst-case scenario wasn’t far away; waking up and not being able to breathe and having to go to the hospital.

Who knows…this virus is still in me and I am uncertain of the lasting implications it will play on my health. I fear that my lungs will never feel the same again and that this virus has somehow left a lifelong impact on my overall health.

The Teton County Health Department has said that a majority of cases spreading in Teton County are young adults, 20-something years old, hanging out in small gatherings (similar to my case). This brought to light that casually mingling between households is enough to spread the virus far and wide. The whole process has made me much more aware of how my daily brief interactions with peers can result in a positive case.

Despite how cruddy I feel right now, I’m not looking for sympathy. I just hope this helps anyone seeking answers about the virus to understand a bit more from a personal perspective. I hope it reminds the community to be as vigilant as possible. And last but not least, I hope it encourages you to wear a mask and reconsider plans to assemble with friends and family in the weeks and months ahead.

If you have questions or comments regarding Jacob’s first-hand account of COVID-19, please reach out to [email protected].

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