I’ve been pretty lucky at avoiding COVID during most of 2020. What at first seemed to be a distant thing, like the SARS epidemic of the 2000’s, turned out later on to become a very real threat.
Today, we’re getting a bit personal here on the blog. After all, those who follow me for a long time know that most of my technical content is now at www.techunplugged.io/blog
Sports & Nature
The spring wave and the harsh lockdown drove me and my family to connect more with nature. Whenever my wife could, she would take our kids for long walks in the forest, much to her delight – and to their despair.
On my side, at the instigation of my 10-year old son, we went for a first bike trip. It developed from an innocuous ride on my cheapo mountain bike to installing Strava, riding several times a week and developing into an habit that made me go from zero to 1,240+ km (770+ miles) over the course of six months, of which 1,011 km (628+ miles) logged into Conqueror Events.
This healthy habit led me to go from a clumsy, heavy and impractical bike to an awesome Cube ACID 29″ bike, I also got SPD pedals and much to my wonder managed to get used to them immediately without ever falling.
For those who know Fantozzi, over the course of two months I turned into Mega Director Cobram, happily enlisting my wife and kids into great bike adventures.
The Old Normal
As life returned to normal during summer, optimism also returned, but also old habits of being busier, being stuck with work, and as everybody was predicting it, COVID hit again. We did our best to preserve ourselves, but sport practice dwindled due to my yearly bane: the common cold.
It was September by then, I managed to get back on tracks and soon after we also had the luxury and privilege to enjoy a short weekend on the Prosecco Hills and in Venezia in Italy with my wife.
By mid-September, it was clear that the health situation in the Czech Republic was steadily degrading, in part due to too much optimism from citizens (after all, Czech Republic was one of the best-in-class countries during the first wave), in part due to a blend of optimism, a lax attitude and reluctance to appear unpopular from the authorities.
Deeper Into Autumn
Furthermore, elections were happening at that time and this will have undoubtedly play a role – a role that would cost us all a lot. Reality hit hard in October, with several lockdown measures, restrictions, all sorts of miscommunications and gaffes from the government. One of the strongest measures was closing all schools, which locked us here for nearly two months with our kids (they resumed school today, on 30th November 2020 as I write those lines).
For us, October went on quite busy, so busy in fact that I’d hardly go out anywhere. I’ve been working from home for several years now, sporadically stopping by at the corporate office of a long-term customer when the need arises.
Despite a workshop in Basel just before the COVID outbreak, I’ve in fact been to the office only once in 2020, to pick up a new laptop. But back to busy, we were busy, and quite a lot. Going from being alone with my cats to having my wife and kids here, plus the burden of home schooling wasn’t easy. We nevertheless coped, trying to live normally while maintaining safety.
The Cold Hits Again
By end of October, I was able to get a break and go out for a bike hike with my kids and their cousin. The week before, I had been visiting a doctor for some shoulder pain issues, all seemed good. It was a bit cold, but I was properly covered. The day after, I was visiting my physiotherapist to follow up on the shoulder pain and get relief.
Then I started coughing, dry cough. All OK, just cough, I had seen it all already. Fast forward to the weekend (Saturday 31st October), we had a phenomenal day picking up a ton of beautiful mushrooms in the forest with my family.
Cough was still there, but I had awesome tea to take care of my throat. As I said before, cold, flu and other seasonal stuff of this kind are old friends – enemies – of mine. I was feeling very tired and sweaty but all good, right?
Something’s Not Quite Alright
As we got home, I took a bit of rest and was feeling suddenly very tired, with the shivers, and a big headache, even some bone pain. Damn it, it wasn’t a cold, but the flu. Got the usual stuff, helped the family sort out mounds of mushrooms / porcini until late in the evening.
All was business as usual until my son made me notice about how strong was the mushroom scent, but I couldn’t sense anything. That’s where I started having doubts. Did I catch COVID? All seemed to suddenly align? But where from? I had been wearing a mask all the time, I was hardly going out. Was it someone from my family? My wife? My kids?
Identification and Quarantine
The day after (Sunday), it was clear that my senses of smell and taste were gone. I was feeling tired, headache was still around, had common cold symptoms but else felt relatively OK, if we except my strong hypochondriac feelings (a.k.a. “we’re all gonna die”).
On Monday 1st November morning I called my doctor, who gave me the proper procedure, booked an appointment (2 hours later), passed the test and by evening I had my results – I was positive. I quickly filled the electronic questionnaire with all of the necessary information, placing myself into quarantine, was called the day after and at the same time asked for my entire family to be tested.
They also went in quarantine with me, as by Monday the kids had started developing some cold symptoms, and by Tuesday my wife was also showing different signs (headaches with intense muscle and bone aches). In our bad luck, we were at least lucky to hold in this together.
It was then two very long weeks of doubt, hoping, thinking what would happen to us, and I do recall a few sleepless nights with sometimes dark thoughts about our future. It was definitely not a good place to be, but we were at least thankful to have mild symptoms, and the show had to go on anyways. I was working, home schooling my kids while my wife was continuing her ICF coach studies in parallel.
In parallel, I learned that my friend and business partner Arjan Timmerman – with whom we managed and run TECHunplugged – was also impacted by COVID. More or less at the same time, hundreds of kilometers away, with his family also impacted.
Talking with Arjan every day during those heavy times was a big relief, especially because we were going through the same hurdles at more or less the same time, with a bit of an offset. I’m so grateful that both our families had mild effects, thankfully.
It took two long weeks to get back to normal (in fact, almost three weeks) to start smelling things again and feel the taste of food. Kids had it gone relatively fast, so while they were positive they could still feel the taste of things, and much to my relief their feedback on their favorite food was positive.
From a work perspective, it was unfortunately quite different, handling daily activities was quite intensive, with the added tiredness, so it was a long pause on the TECHunplugged side, and for one of my long-term customers I also had to alleviate the work load during this period, but thankfully all ended well.
I am still dealing with some apparent after effects of COVID. I feel more tired than before, and doing some activities feels much more exhausting – for example crouching and raising back. I strongly hope this will fade away. I had a sore throat even after stopping being infectious, but it is gone now, however I am still coughing from time to time.
Perhaps the most scary thing, as I described to my friends Pietro Piutti and Stephen Foskett (and also confirmed by Arjan, by the way) is how this is nowhere near anything you have known. It feels like a cold, but it is kind of strange in that different symptoms appear at different moments, without any known pattern.
When you have the flu, you feel tired, you sneeze, and when you sneeze you feel all your bones hurting. With COVID, it’s like a flipper going multi-ball: it’s hitting you from different places and you don’t have a clue at all.
Being hypochondriac, the next step will be to go to the doctor for a full diagnosis and see if all is in shape. I am truly relieved at the fact that vaccines are being widely available, and hope to get vaccinated soon, as well as my families. I’ve no idea if there are or will be long-term effects, and what those will be.
We’ve been among the people who took COVID seriously, and even if we did what we could to avoid it, to this day we have no idea how we caught it. It could have been through someone asymptomatic, through a contaminated surface, being too close to someone infected for a minute, we’ll never know.
In our bad luck, we’ve been incredibly lucky to get through safely, with mild symptoms. Many have not had this chance. We hope to live up to great things, because we feel in some way like we’ve been given something akin to an extra life. And going through this together as a family also reinforced our already strong bonds.
As a closing word, please stay safe, avoid crowds, wear a mask and do the right thing. For you, your families, your friends and for our communities.