How the COVID-19 Pandemic forced me to travel home, found me on the way and threatened my family

By Charles Butler

cbutle41@mail.ccsf.edu

 

By the second week of April, the pandemic had taken both of my jobs, social life, health insurance and the ability to see my therapist. My work, education and daily existence were not just drastically different but largely eliminated. OK, I’m a dramatic person so let me rephrase. Like everyone else in the country, my life had been put on hold.

 

The changes to everyday life brought on more questions than anything else. I was reading more news articles than I ever had in my life. And every conversation I had with family, friends, and coworkers was about living with the pandemic.

People had lost their income, freedom, joy, confidence, and much more — even their lives. But what I kept harping on was that no one I knew had been exposed to coronavirus. The biggest question in my mind, and the minds of everyone who I had been talking to, was “How bad is it?”

 

Then on May 11, after being home for about 9 days, I tested positive. I’d been feeling under the weather for two days before the test. My symptoms included constant chills, mild cough, insomnia, loss of appetite, loss of smell and taste, and, most importantly, constant fear for my health. It took about nine days before I felt healthy again and the lack of taste and smell lasted about two weeks. My symptoms would be considered a mild reaction to the virus. Severe symptoms would include pneumonia, fever, sore throat, extreme cough, and finally death.

What hurts the most and worried me daily was that I was going to have to isolate myself and not see my family for two weeks and worry that there was a chance I had put them in danger. I couldn’t afford to rent a hotel room so that was not an option. I had already been with my mom since the symptoms started, so at that point, I knew she was going to have to ride this out with me.

Charles Butler hangs out by his home in the Sunset District of San Francisco, CA. Oct. 14, 2020. Photo by Kevin Kelleher/Special to The Guardsman.

My mom is 52 and in good health, but as far as what the news says, she’s at high risk. So every day I wore my mask and just worried, what am I going to do when I wake up and she’s very sick? But thank god, she wound up not coming down with any symptoms during those two weeks, or after. Not only did she not develop any symptoms but no one else in my family did either. My brother in law Kyle did have to get tested, and take two sick days off work until the test came back. He is around people everyday, working for the city. Thankfully it came back negative, so he was able to continue working. My sister and her kids never developed any symptoms and have been doing great.

So I’m left with a huge question. How do multiple people that I’m living with and in close quarters with while having the coronavirus not get sick as well? I have since read that there are people who have contracted the virus for a second time. So all I can do is stay healthy. Wear my mask and do everything that the CDC suggests and hope that I and my loved ones don’t have to go through that. 

I am still out of work and living from day to day. I have been healthy since my bout with COVID-19, and I hope it stays that way. I wake up everyday and try to be grateful for the people I have in my life and my health. I still live in a bit of fear but I am trying to overcome that. I look forward to when we can find a cure or vaccine but until then I will continue to live and do my part as a social distancing citizen. 

 

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