It’s a diary of how the coronavirus is influencing people’s lives. A doctor in Dublin suspects Amelia McConville, a 27-year-old Ph.D. student, of having two coronavirus variant infections in two months, as told in this essay. Aymann Ismail modified it for clarity and transcribed it.
Mid-July 2021 was the first time in Ireland that people aged 18 to 34 could get one-shot vaccinations. I got the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Notably, among the young, there was a stampede for vaccinations. Ireland has one of the highest vaccination uptake rates in Europe, if not globally. Even though I like Ireland, I was astonished to learn that fact.
For a few months, everything was well. A few journeys within Ireland were made, still wearing masks, washing hands, etc. We traveled to the AVA Festival in Belfast, Northern Ireland, at the end of September as a huge bunch of us. Escapism was high because it was many of us’ first music events in years. For me, it’s been almost two weeks. We were all giddy.
We shared a home. It was a legal outdoor festival at the time. It was mostly outside in tents. By the end of it, several of us were exhausted. After so much separation and isolation, I believe the immune system has been weakened. Those who were ill had PCRs or antigen testing performed. Except for my flatmate, who is a fragile person, we were all alright. Her Pfizer vaccine was in May. She had COVID. Symptoms were minimal. But she wasn’t completely obliterated. Fortunately, I never did.
After all, I had a close call with a family member. I also started reading about how the Johnson vaccine’s immunity could wane in as little as three months, which was around the same time. In other words, I started to sense the shadow of COVID re-emerging. And it seemed inevitable that it would happen eventually.
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I got sick in late November. Initially, I was naive. Unbeknownst to me at the time, these were early-onset COVID symptoms of what I think to be the Delta variation, such as feeling lousy for several days before the other more common COVID symptoms. I started to feel tired, achy, and unwell.
I awoke one morning feeling ill and decided to take a sick day. I thought I got sick. I went to the drugstore for a precautionary antigen test. I didn’t even do it right away. I was eating. “Oh no,” I thought as I ate some supermarket-discount grapes. That’s why they were sn They’re boring. My COVID symptoms were “I can’t taste them” and “I can’t taste them”. Then I conducted my antigen test, which came back positive right away. It has a significant red line in the test. I got 2 lines.
Because indoor performances were no longer prohibited in Ireland, I attended a few concerts. They were indoor crowds and not seated so I’d assume I picked up the illness at one of those. We were back in a mob. Maybe, but I doubt it. In the same timeframe, several of my friends who had also attended the same performances tested positive. In our COVID detective hats, we trace everything back to that week of performances. With that, it’s a bit pricy.
I started feeling a little weird about the 20th or 21st of December.
I had lost my sense of taste and smell and was extremely tired. I coughed and felt tired. I lost some hearing due to one of my ears being blocked for a week or two. This was a bad dose. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs. Then I’d get out of breath while talking on the phone or sending a voice message. Breathing became difficult. A lot of things were fine, but I had to be extremely cautious. It went away after a week or so, I believe.
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I am blessed to be young and healthy. In fact, I’ve never had the proper flu in my life and have no underlying conditions. As such, it was a wake-up call. It confirmed COVID after I had my PCR test done by the HSE (Ireland’s national health service). So I isolated myself for about ten days, as per protocol.
My isolation ended on December 3rd. Friday night. I returned to life. Following my release from isolation, I returned to yoga and cycling. I noticed some mental fog. It was difficult for me as a Ph.D. student to return to that mode of thinking, writing, and analyzing, but it got easier each day. My supervisor was very supportive as I took my time. Comparatively, it was great compared to some of the horror stories I was hearing from colleagues, friends, and random writers about long COVID and long-term effects
Then we’re only two weeks later, I suppose. From December 3rd to the 20th or 21st, I felt a little off. We were all exhausted by the end of term, and the pandemic fatigue set in. I thought it was just general exhaustion due to the weather in Ireland at the time.
So I had sinusitis on Tuesday, November 21st. That made me feel a little paranoid that it was like having COVID again. That night, I slept through my fears and awoke sick. Interestingly, my antigen test came back negative. “OK, I’m fine,” I thought. So it was a regular day. I did Yoga. I went in and finished my term. I was then seeing a friend who said he wasn’t feeling well. Since my university, Trinity College Dublin has so many international students, they gave each student a packet of antigen tests free of charge. He tested negative for antigens. Then I spent the evening with him. That’s normal.
So I slept in and awoke tired and ill. At noon I tested again. It was a no. “It must be fine,” I thought. I was preparing to return home for Christmas to spend with my parents at that point. I was packing my bags but was exhausted. I arrived at my parents’ house at 9 p.m. and slept for about 12 hours before returning home. I awoke with a weird feeling. My antigen test came back positive on Christmas Eve morning. On the morning of Christmas Eve, my friend who I saw on Wednesday felt ill and had an antigen test.
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So it was a double whammy on Christmas Eve and my father’s birthday. “I just returned a positive antigen, so I’m going to stay in my room,” I told my family. I’ll make sure you all get antigen tests.” So we were all testing daily for antigens. However, it felt like I was alone in my childhood bedroom, with my parents. Even though my family was nice enough to bring me dinner and talk to me through the door, we’re experiencing a huge spike in Dublin, and it’s spreading across Ireland. My conversations with strangers revealed that almost everyone I met had COVID or was experiencing similar symptoms. Christmas in Ireland this year was marked by lockdown and isolation. It’s odd.
It was Christmas Eve when I called my doctor to tell her about my positive antigen test. “Look, after two days of negative antigens when I was sick, I’m still sick and I just got a positive antigen, and a friend I was with during the week has also tested positive on antigen and he has symptoms,” I explained. “If you have mild symptoms and a positive antigen, I will send you for a PCR,” my GP said. “You had COVID, didn’t you?” she asked, looking at my record.
‘Yeah, I’m only three weeks recovered.’ Was I reinfected, or are my antigens showing up like previous infections? We only have two weeks of data because Omicron is new. I’m afraid I can’t say. That said, I’ve talked to a few people who have had similar experiences with reinfection rates or cases. I don’t believe Omicron protects against Delta antibodies like previous variants. Unfortunately, it is possible. PCR test positive, she sent me for a few days later. So she thought. My symptoms are pretty consistent with both, so I can’t prove it was Delta then Omicron.
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My infections differed. The second one, which my doctor and I believe was Omicron, was much milder. My throat ached. Not as flattened as I had been with Delta, where I had to stay in bed for a week, but still achy, sniffly, and tired She said I was unlucky to catch Omicron, which had just become dominant and set a record for new cases in Ireland when I fell ill. The reinfection rate appears to be much lower than anticipated. However, I believe the doctor networks in Ireland are reporting higher than expected reinfection rates.
When the boost came, I was ready to take it. Currently, they’re approaching my age. If you have COVID, you have to wait three months before getting a booster. I’m 27. So, after recovering from Delta, I had planned to get my booster around February time. But now I think March is because of Omicron. But I’ll definitely get my booster when I’m eligible.
My second dose was mild and manageable, which is a blessing in disguise. Her antigens test positive on Christmas Day, and her PCR just confirmed her COVID. I don’t think there’s any way around it.