Photo Courtesy of Britney Perez-Avila
In December, I tested positive for COVID-19.
I was shocked, devastated, and most of all, afraid.
For months, my family and I avoided meeting with friends or family. Our grocery trips were rushed and we always wore masks and gloves. Everything that was delivered or brought in was disinfected immediately. All of the extra cleaning exhausted us but we knew what we had to do to keep safe.
From March until December, we put our life on pause.
Much like other Orange County residents in California and the rest of the world, we were scared to catch the virus that was highly impacting our Santa Ana community. The number of confirmed cases, as well as deaths due to COVID-19, made me feel extremely unsettled and helpless. As of January 20th, the number of cases in Orange County is 225,983 with the highest number of cases (40,772) in our city of Santa Ana which has a high Latino population. The death toll for Orange Country is 2,768.
My dad was the first person to show symptoms that were linked to the coronavirus. He had a stubborn fever that would not calm down for days, a cough, and heavy fatigue. My family was entirely in denial, we Googled symptoms to see what else my dad could possibly have. We shortened the list of possibilities to food poisoning or the coronavirus.
Shortly after my dad got a fever, my one and a half year old little brother Adriel, got a fever of 102.
Since he can’t communicate with us, it was really difficult to figure out what he needed. But by the looks on his face, I could tell he was exhausted and just wanted to be held most of the time. My energetic and happy brother was solemn and cried often.
One night, I woke up with chills and grabbed a second blanket because I felt like my room was freezing. A few days later, I lost my sense of taste and smell and developed congestion and a runny nose. I also woke up with a terrible headache.
The same week we began showing symptoms, my older sister and I searched for locations where we could get tested. My dad paid $100 to get tested at the EqualTox Laboratory in Santa Ana and was told that the results would come back in 24 to 48 hours.
At around midnight, he received an email with his results. At the bottom of the PDF, the word “POSITIVE” was in a bold red font.
When my mom, Sandra Avila, found out about my dad’s results she was so sad.
“I felt like I was going to cry. All I could think about was how we could get really sick. Watching the news scared me into thinking that we could possibly get really sick, even hospitalized,” said Avila.
Getting a positive result didn’t tell us where we got sick. My dad does work outside the house but doesn’t have contact with other workers in his field.
The worst part of this whole experience is we don’t know where we got it from or if we could’ve done something more to prevent it.
My sister and I made appointments for my mom, brother, and ourselves to get tested at a Latino Health Access site in Santa Ana. Their organization in Orange County has free weekly locations to get tested for free. We found their ads that are shared on Instagram to get the word out about testing.
We chose to get tested at Valley High School in Santa Ana. It took us an hour and a half to move up the line, but it did not take as long as we expected it to.
To our surprise, my mom and brother tested negative, while my sister and I tested positive.
The most difficult part of getting sick was that we were not able to join the rest of my family during the holidays. We stayed isolated for the duration of Christmas break. It was really upsetting to not celebrate Christmas or New Years’ as we usually do.
My mom was glad to stay home.
“I didn’t want to get other family members, sick so they wouldn’t suffer or worry the way we did,” said Avila.
On Christmas Eve, my family dropped off some gifts they had purchased for us, as well as dinner they made, so we could feel the Christmas spirit a little bit. It did help.
We stayed up until midnight, passed around a baby Jesus and rocked him, and opened presents. My brother was excited about all of his new toys, and I was thankful that we were able to be together.
Christmas Day felt like any other day.
After we tested positive, we continued wearing masks around the house, eating in separate areas, and quarantined completely. Our family members and neighbors dropped off groceries and necessities on our doorstep, which I was extremely grateful for.
Now that my family and I have gone through the motions of recovering, we all still have lingering symptoms. I still have not recuperated my full senses. Some foods taste like gasoline and smell horrible to me, which makes it extremely hard to eat and I lose my appetite often.
My dad says that food doesn’t taste the same anymore, and my sister, Yoloczitlali, said that some food tastes fine while others taste horrible.
Something I wish I knew about this virus before I got sick was that 86% of people who get sick with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell and taste, and most people recover in about 6 months. I don’t think that anyone ever talks about how depressing it is to lose your sense of taste and smell when you rely on it every day.
My family and I are survivors. Over 425,000 people in the U.S have passed away due to COVID-19 complications. Although my family is still recovering, we are incredibly thankful that we didn’t get too sick.
We are some of the lucky ones.