Yes, I tested positive for COVID-19. I fell victim to this virus: a nasty, lingering virus that gave me the worst symptoms I’ve experienced to this day that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. My story is to warn you that this is not the common cold or a regular flu. This virus is serious.
My name is David, and I am an otherwise healthy 27-year-old male with no past medical history. I am a fourth-year medical student, who will soon be a doctor starting residency in June. I am a health freak, I work out five to six times a week, I have a six-pack on a good day, and I completely took my health for granted.
I thought I was INVINCIBLE—I thought I was immune to this coronavirus because I am healthy and young. But I was wrong.
In early March, reports of novel transmission of the coronavirus were just starting to appear in the United States. I had heard about the nursing home in Seattle, the synagogue in New Rochelle, New York. It was a precarious situation, but community transmission of the virus was not quite so widespread.
‘Sure, I’ll wash my hands,’ ‘I’ll social distance after that party,’ I thought. Looking back, there were too many opportunities for me to have caught this virus. I did not take my health seriously. I figured I could avoid the virus, but in the off-chance I were to get it, it would be like a mild flu or a bad cold. I flew home from a two-month global medicine elective in Africa, ventured on long flights home and around lots of people at Nairobi and JFK airport. I went to a beach party during my week stay in Florida and saw lots of friends before heading back to Indiana to finish up my last semester of medical school. I was not careful. I did not take the necessary precautions. I did not think it could happen to me.
The fact of the matter is – you NEVER know.
A day after arriving in Indiana, symptoms started to kick in. On Thursday, March 12, I woke up with fever, chills, fatigue, generalized muscle aches, and joint pain. Probably just a bad case of the flu, right? No cough, no shortness of breath, no difficulty breathing, no respiratory problems whatsoever. No nausea, no diarrhea. JUST Fever and chills.
Thinking ‘I’ll get over it soon,’ I took some Ibuprofen and Tylenol and stayed in bed most of the day. The next day, I had a routine doctor’s appointment. I was almost turned away because of my symptoms, but I fought to be seen. My oral temperature was 101 degrees Fahrenheit, and I was put in an isolation room for my appointment. My provider, thankfully wearing complete PPE, performed a quick flu test (Influenza A, B, and RSV), which resulted negative that same day. It would later reflex to COVID-19 because of the negative result and I then began the seven-day wait for results.
My symptoms, however, only continued to worsen. The fever was unrelenting. I had no appetite. I had lost about 10 pounds. I loaded up on my daily multivitamins and Emergen-C; I continued to use Ibuprofen and Tylenol every six hours because my body was asking for ANYTHING to take away the misery.
It was not until Day 6 that I decided to drop the Ibuprofen after reading some expert opinions that NSAIDs may actually alter the immune response against the virus. Admittedly, I did feel WAY better the next day after dropping Ibuprofen. My fever and chills—although still present—felt improved. I continued to use only Tylenol spaced out now in the morning and before bedtime. By Day 7, still feeling chills in the morning, I opted out of using any Tylenol and tried to help my body fight this virus on its own. I attempted a little home bodyweight workout and instantly got lightheaded and felt very nauseous. My body was still desperately fighting this thing.
Day 8: I woke up in the usual sweats from the night before, but felt no fever or chills during the day—I felt much improved. I told myself I would take it easy that day. I was begging and pleading to God for an end to all of this.
After waiting SEVEN ENTIRE DAYS in self-quarantine, I finally received my results: positive for COVID-19, continue self-quarantine for another seven days. Ironically, this arrived an hour before receiving my Match Day residency assignment for emergency medicine at the University of Miami. March 20th was certainly a big day of “results” for me.
By Day 13, I had not used any fever-reducing medicine in six days. For the last few days, my symptoms were mostly confined to nighttime-fatigue, sweats, chills, but by Day 13, all of my symptoms had completely gone away. I reintroduced exercise little by little and can now get through a whole hour workout without getting totally winded.
Why am I telling this story?
Because I encourage you to learn from my mistakes. Because I didn’t listen when numbers started climbing. And now they continue to climb. 55,000-plus patients diagnosed in our country, more than 1,000 people deceased.
Because this virus is REAL. And it SUCKS. To say it was almost two weeks before I was feeling like my normal self. Because I am a “healthy young adult,” but “mild” COVID-19 made my life a living hell.
Because people around the world are DYING from this virus—and doctors must make resource allocation decisions (e.g. in Italy) as to who should get that last ICU bed or that last ventilator because hospitals are at FULL CAPACITY. After returning from a two-month global medicine trip in Africa, I witnessed patients dying on a daily basis due to resource-allocation purposes. And now we are starting to see the same issues in New York City and other densely populated communities in the United States.
We NEED you to STAY HOME, because our health professionals are RUNNING out of masks for themselves and ventilators for patients. The CDC is so desperate that they recently issued new guidelines for health professionals to use bandanas and scarves as substitutes for N95 masks. We NEED you to STAY HOME because these health professionals are sacrificing their lives at the frontline to make sure those affected can stay alive.
I had the two biggest celebrations of my life canceled (Match Day and graduation) for the good of those around me and the rest of the country. Now is NOT the time to go to that party. Now is NOT the time to meet up friends at the bar, to go out to eat, to celebrate your spring break, to go to the beach or the park. I promise you, the celebration can wait.
So please, as a medical professional, as a young adult, I implore for all of you to STAY HOME. I firsthand can now see how this VIRUS takes LIVES. 1 out of 5 people hospitalized from COVID-19 are young adults aged 20-44; I was LUCKY to not be one of them.
As many as 10-20 percent of people show no symptoms, so you may be spreading this virus and injuring those you love without realizing it. We DON’T know who has it and who does not, and we do not have the resources to test everyone, so please STAY HOME. Social-distancing and self-quarantine is just as important for the ELDERLY as for the YOUTH.
We NEED you to do your part to FLATTEN the curve and prevent the growing spread to more and more people every day. If we all do our part, then this self-quarantine can eventually come to an end and we can soon resume what our lives used to be.
My name is David and I am NOT Invincible.
And neither are you.
Editor’s note: David Vega is a fourth-year medical student at IU School of Medicine. After traveling overseas and in Florida earlier this month, Vega returned to the IU School of Medicine—Indianapolis campus on March 11, and soon developed symptoms of COVID-19 the following day, March 12. He was tested for the virus on March 13, and received his positive test result on March 20. He informed all individuals with whom he had contact since his return to Indianapolis of his positive test.
"Staying home truly saves lives."
David Vega shares his advice after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Read more stories about medical student life at IU School of Medicine.