For over 2 years, I was completely COVID-19 free. I have to admit, I was proud of it too.
I was careful about who I went out with. Meeting new people, I also tried to limit my exposure to friends of friends, hoping this would keep me safe.
Then, at the end of June this year, I decided to take one of my best friends in Barcelona to Valencia for a long weekend away. That’s when the tables may have turned…
We arrived Thursday evening and she was feeling a little under the weather with a sniffle and sore throat. Friday we decided to have a relaxing day shopping in Valencia to find me a new summer dress and change up my style a bit.
I had my suspicions it might be COVID-19. However, my friend thought it might be bronchitis from the air conditioning. To me, that also seemed like it could be a viable diagnosis.
So, instead of heading over to the Oceanografic as planned on Saturday, we stayed in watching movies and joking around with nachos, Mexican wraps and fresh fruit all day. However, she only seemed to get worse. She definitely started to get a fever.
Not wanting to get stuck in Valencia, my friend told me she wanted to return back home and go to the doctor there in case she got signed off from work. So, as soon as her fever broke, we headed on to the next train back home.
I must admit, I wasn’t a huge fan of potentially infecting other passengers, but we did our best to stay away from crowds.
The next thing you know, the diagnosis comes back. COVID-19 positive…
Oh dear… did this mean game over for me too?
The hunt for a COVID-19 test in Barcelona
It turns out COVID-19 testing is surprisingly expensive, and somewhat difficult to do in Barcelona.
My friend called the 061 emergency helpline and was told to go to a testing centre for an appointment. However, when she arrived, they told her she didn’t have an appointment.
Tired, sick and unsurprisingly frustrated, she turned back home. Luckily her boyfriend was able to get her a COVID-19 rapid test from a pharmacy near their place though. The rapid test came back positive.
Hearing that COVID-19 tests were now available for 8€ at pharmacies, I was delighted. I supposed that meant I could easily get one downstairs too then.
Not so fast young lady!
This is Barcelona we’re talking about…
As I arrived at my neighbourhood pharmacist, feeling confident of my ability to get a test, I was instead met by a very frustrated pharmacist.
When I asked him if I could get a COVID-19 test, his face turned dark and he apologised.
“I’m sorry, I can’t sell you a test due to the law which says we cannot sell COVID-19 tests even though we do have them here. It’s a stupid law and it doesn’t make sense, but that’s the law”.
This answer was in fact the same response I had received from a pharmacist in Valencia too. So how exactly had my friend obtained a home kit?
To this day, I can only assume that some pharmacies are bending the rules and others aren’t.
No COVID-19 test from the pharmacy for me then…
Getting tested privately for COVID-19 in Barcelona
Since the Barcelona public health system is hopelessly overloaded right now due to COVID-19, a rule that has been established, is that public tests are only available to those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
In my case, this was not the case. I felt perfectly fine. A little tired due to the heat, but otherwise perfectly healthy. After not having any luck with the pharmacy though, and being ineligible to get a free public test, I decided to book a private COVID-19 PCR and antigen test instead.
It was definitely not cheap, at 140€. However, given that I was meant to start a new job several days later and would need to test negatively to go into the office, I figured I was better safe than sorry.
Having read that it takes 2-14 days for COVID-19 to develop, I decided to take the test as late as possible before my new job start (7 days after first exposure) and inform my new workplace that I had come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person.
Luckily they were pretty cool with it and just asked me to work from home the next 5 days and keep them updated on developments.
I also had my COVID-19 vaccine booked for the following Saturday and I knew I needed to test negatively in order to be eligible to take that too. So I was hoping my results would end up negative… which they did!
Getting the COVID-19 vaccine in Barcelona
Since my COVID-19 test had come back negative and my vaccine was right around the corner (3 days later), I was very much relieved.
I had dodged the COVID-19 bullet and would be able to get my vaccine. Hopefully that meant that all this anxiety about going out and getting COVID-19 could finally be over soon.
As I went to the Fira Barcelona to go for the vaccine appointment I had booked online, I felt happy. You could almost say excited too.
Soon I would be able to see my mom again! I would be able to travel again! The world would be my oyster again!
Unfortunately, the guidelines for what documentation to actually take were unclear. And to be honest I hadn’t really spent too much time checking.
As I arrived at the Fira in the morning, with my NIE at hand, I was sent straight home again to get my passport and my CatSalut application document (as my CatSalut card hadn’t arrived yet).
Feeling a little disheartened, I decided to go for lunch with my friend before making a second attempt to get my vaccine.
This time I took a taxi to get there – and interestingly found out that there are currently discounts for people taking taxis to get vaccinated. Instead of a 14€ charge, the chage was less than 5€ – cool!
Getting the vaccine itself was pretty uneventful. Although there was a significant line, I got through t within 10 minutes, got the vaccine in another 5 and then had to wait 15 minutes before leaving.
Having said that though, I did get lectured by several different staff members for not having a CatSalut card.
I can only assume them needing to check my CatSalut application papers to identify my CatSalut number, instead of just scanning the card, may have been messing with their efficiency metrics…
COVID-19 vaccine side effects
Feeling great about myself after getting negatively tested and then getting my vaccine, I decided to pop by my friend’s place for his birthday party.
There was an open space, great music, dancing and food to be had. What a wonderful day it would be!
At 10pm, around 7 hours after my vaccine though, my arm started hurting and I started feeling strangely ill. Deciding not to join the rest of the gang on their trip to get dinner and go dancing elsewhere, I decided to go home.
As I got home, I was feeling chills. How could I be feeling cold in this weather? It was so warm outside.
I didn’t immediately connect it with the COVID-19 vaccine. However, once my arm started hurting more and more, and the chills got worse, I thought to take my temperate.
38 degrees celsius. Definitely a fever. It seems the COVID-19 vaccine afterparty was just starting.
The COVID-19 diagnosis
Battling with a fever for a day or so, I decided to take some paracetamol 1g. The only thing that is apparently strong enough to battle a COVID-19 fever.
The following day, my fever was gone. Great – I suppose that was that then. COVID-19 vaccine done. Side effects battled and now I could go on my merry way… right?
Monday came along and I was feeling oddly tired. Not terribly sick, but also not terribly well. Then Tuesday I woke up with another fever. 37.9 degrees celsius. This was definitely not normal.
In the past 48 hours since the vaccine I had now experienced the following symptoms:
- 38 degree fever
- Temporary loss of smell and taste
- Aching arm
- Full body chills, aches and pains
- Dry coughs and pneumonia-like chest pain
- Extremely painful headaches
- Mood swings
- Full body weakness
Why was the fever coming back?
I hadn’t heard of this happening after the vaccine. So, I called the 061 emergency helpline at 6:30am and before work was going to start. They scheduled me in for a COVID-19 rapid test immediately and signed me off for the day.
By 18:30 that evening I had the diagnosis… COVID-19 positive.
4 days into my new job I was put on sick leave for the next 10 days… uh oh.
The COVID-19 battle
At the point of writing, I have been battling COVID-19 for the past 19 days. I thought I would be over the hill in 10 days. It seems that was not the case.
The funny thing with this COVID-19 virus is that the list of symptoms keeps getting longer.
You can also literally feel it in your body.
It’s like you can feel the virus moving through the different parts of your body as it attacks. Tingling in the arms, the legs, the head, the chest… as it moves, the tingling moves too.
It definitely did a number on my body and immune system too. When they say COVID-19 is like the flu… it was definitely not like the flu. It was worse.
The 10 days assigned initially for sick leave were enough to get rid of the intermittent fever that kept coming back every day. It took around 9 days to leave my body completely.
However, what was left after that was an exhaustion I have never felt before. Sleeping 12 hours a day and feeling like my body was limp, heavy and unable to move much despite frequent naps.
I could barely stay awake. My focus was completely off. If I tried to read something, the headaches would just keep coming back. Just talking to someone on the phone for 10 minutes was enough to make me need another nap.
Exercise? Stretching? Forget it.
3 minutes into trying, I would feel exhausted.
I baked a cake around 15 days into my confinement – and even that got me out of breath!
Along with the tiredness though, you could tell my body was fighting.
A whole list of other symptoms came up that they don’t necessarily tell you about:
- Hair and skin went dry, rough and wiry
- Nails started to break
- Face started spreading extreme acne like wildfire (something I haven’t had in years!)
- Tongue swelled up
- Cold sore made an appearance
- Legs and arms were itching non-stop
- Tonsils and throat were flaming up randomly every couple of days
- Depression started flaring up
COVID-19 is not fun.
What I learned about COVID-19
I will be returning back to work next Monday and I can say that I am more-or-less ready. However, I can’t say that COVID-19 has totally left my body. It’s absolutely left a mark.
Having talked to others who had COVID-19 during my confinement, and after reading a number of articles, I learned a lot.
COVID-19 affects everyone differently. I will have been off work for about 20 days by the time I finish. Others were back at work within 10-15 days.
Some of my friends (in their 20s/30s) ended up in hospital due to respiratory issues and fever not going down too. Luckily, I was not one of them.
Those with super mild symptoms seem to be able to return to sports pretty quickly. Others like myself and my friend are still battling daily exhaustion, coughs and having a slow return to fitness.
My biggest lesson has been though that no matter how careful you are this virus can get to you. It’s not comfortable, friendly or fair. It plays with your physical and mental health and the after effects can stay with you for a long time.
After 20 days I am still coughing, having chest pains and feeling tired.
So, that being said, I hope that if it does get to you one day, you take the time you need to recuperate – because you’re likely going to need it.
(Oh and if you do get COVID-19 and have pets – keep them away from you. They can get it too!)
Stay healthy my dears!