“NASHVILLE — I got sick in February on a trip to New York. Every time I stepped into an elevator, someone was coughing. On my last day in town, I found myself out of breath walking up a small hill, though I walk on hilly trails nearly every day. At home that night, I went straight to bed. I thought I was just tired.
The next morning, I woke to every symptom of Covid-19 I’d read about, plus some that hadn’t been reported yet: fever, headache, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches, nausea. At the walk-in clinic, my flu test was negative.
I was sick in bed for two weeks. Even after the fever finally broke, I was too weak to do much of anything. I’d take a shower and break out in a sweat as soon as I tried to step out of the tub. I coughed and coughed, and still it felt like an SUV was parked in my lungs. My primary care doctor ordered a chest X-ray, which showed pneumonia — a mild case, luckily. It was so early in the pandemic that Covid-19 tests were administered sparingly, and I didn’t meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria for testing. “I think it’s reasonable to assume this is Covid-19,” my doctor said. “We just can’t prove it.”
During the next few months, proving it became something of an obsession for me. At a time when so much was frightening and unpredictable, I just wanted to know one thing for sure. In April I volunteered for a study by the National Institutes of Health to determine the scope of the epidemic by testing for antibodies in people, like me, who believed they’d had an unconfirmed case of Covid-19. More than 400,000 people volunteered for 10,000 spots. I wasn’t accepted.”