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Four weeks ago, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. It came on like a head cold, creeping in with aches, stuffiness and fatigue. I wanted to believe it was 'just a cold,' but I went for a rapid test right away, and BAM, I was positive.
The thing you don’t realize before you get the news is that the moment you’re swabbed, you’re on lockdown. There’s no stopping at the supermarket on your way home from the test. No 'grabbing a few things' at the drugstore before quarantine. As soon as you suspect you have COVID, you’re out of the population. And so is everyone you’ve been in contact with.
Why does this matter? First, because I felt terrible about having possibly infected my loved ones. And second, selfishly, because I wasn’t prepared to be inside for a minimum of 10 days (more if symptoms persisted). And the people I could send on errands—my best friends, my boyfriend, my grown kids—were on lockdown too. They needed to quarantine because they’d been exposed to me.
Which is to say, there was no one who could go to the store for me. Spoiler alert, Walmart+ ended up saving the day—not just this day, but the next 10 days.
Grabbing a lifeline
Stepping into my little house after my positive test, I feel like a prisoner. A very unprepared prisoner. Back at the beginning of the pandemic I had meant to stock up on just-in-case supplies—a good thermometer, a pulse oximeter—but I was too busy hoarding toilet paper and Lysol wipes to follow through. And honestly, back then we all thought this thing was gonna blow over in a couple of weeks (remember?).
I’m achy and hungry. The cupboards are bare. But then I realized that I had signed up for Walmart's delivery service and now would be the perfect time to use it. It's called Walmart+, and it’s kind of like Amazon Prime. For a small flat fee—$13 a month or $98 a year—you can place as many orders as you want. You get your stuff fast—overnight, or in some cases, the very same day. There are no added fees. The most amazing part (for my situation) is that you can even get fresh groceries. The signup was easy—a risk-free trial gives you 15 days, but a quick three-question survey will tack on two more weeks.
I sign on and place an order. Chicken soup with dumplings is the first thing in the basket—it tastes like being taken care of. I also restock pasta, rice and veggies. Click, click, click. Then I go to check my medicine cabinet.
I admit that my medicine cabinet is like a museum of ancient fossilized products. A fun game would be to try to guess the expiration date on the meds in there. Am I the only one who still has Balmex from when the kids were little? In any case, I quickly realize what I need.
For my stuffiness, I order saline drops. In case a fever is coming, I grab some ibuprofen. But most important, I click around for a decent thermometer. Every time I’ve had a COVID scare over the course of this long year, I would use my rickety old thermometer and make a note (on a Post-it, which I’d lose) to buy a digital no-touch model. I find a great one on sale for $35 with more than 1,000 positive reviews: the Mobi Non-contact Forehead Thermometer, and I feel a bit better already, or at least less anxious.
Last thing, before I nap: a pulse oximeter. As you probably know, this little gadget slips onto your fingertip and detects the oxygen saturation of your blood. Back in March 2020, pulse oximeters were harder to find than a bag of magic beans. What a difference a year makes. I have my pick, and I choose this ChoiceMMed model because 1) it looks like a perfect pick for a technophobe, 2) reviewers love it and 3) it's only $23.
The first few days are like a standard cold. My head is heavy. My bones kind of hurt. But I'm lucky so far: It's nothing too scary. Once my supplies arrive and I can confirm that my blood oxygen is normal, I feel calmer. The pulse oximeter is super-simple to use, and a nice bright color, so it’s easy to spot in my aforementioned crazy medicine cabinet. I forgot but was thrilled to discover I had also treated myself to a weighted blanket, because it’s freezing in my house. I had given the Tranquility Blanket to my sister for Christmas and she said it was great (as do more than 1,500 reviewers). She isn’t kidding.
My energy is low and I’m sleeping a lot (under my awesome blanket). I take my temperature a few times a day with my new forehead thermometer and check my blood-oxygen at the same time. So far, I’m okay. Just very stuffy.
But on Day 5 something happens. Around 3pm I feel very depleted and realize I haven’t eaten anything. So I pour myself a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. I take a spoonful and begin to chew and feel like someone is playing a practical joke on me. Not only is there no enjoyment in eating this—one of my favorite foods—but it’s actually unpleasant. Can you guess why? It takes me a minute to understand: I have lost my sense of taste. And when I say lost, I mean LOST. It is gone.
Where are my senses?
I run around the kitchen popping my usual foods into my mouth. Arugula is flavorless, with a sharp unpleasant burn. Jarlsberg cheese tastes like candle wax. Hard-boiled egg is unbearable—I spit it into the sink. My cat jumps up on the counter, because she smells the cheese and that’s when I realize…I can’t smell anything either.
I shove my nose into a candle, try to sniff the countertop I’d cleaned with bleach spray, open a bag of coffee. Nada. I can’t even smell anything coming from the litter box when I go to scoop it (silver lining? No, it’s just upsetting.).
With the loss of my senses went my appetite. I have no desire to eat. It feels like a spooky disconnect between my body and brain. The next day I again feel weak and wonder why, then realize it’s because I need food. Time for another Walmart+ delivery.
I order a case of Mott’s applesauce and several bags of my go-to extra dark pretzels. I round out my grocery order with some essentials like paper towels, some treats like a cucumber face mask (the other kind of face mask—the fun kind) and Mallomars (I have a good feeling about these).
On the mend
By Day 8 I’m feeling a lot better. Gradually, my powers of taste return. And now, four weeks out, as my sense of smell tiptoes back in, I’m back to craving my favorite foods and the clean, crisp scent of that cucumber face mask, which my winter skin desperately needs.
Sure, I can put on real pants, get in the car, and schlep over to the store. But it’s cold out there, I’m tired, and I’m in my late-afternoon pj’s. Is it lingering COVID symptoms? Pandemic fatigue? Middle age? Doesn’t really matter. I can stay here and spoil myself, and still get exactly what I need. Walmart+, I love you.
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