Lessons Learned from Surviving COVID-19

By Daniel Meyer

I’m a survivor.

I don’t write that in jest or say it without recognizing there are countless people reading this who have survived far more serious personal health challenges.

But I do proudly state that after contracting COVID-19 last month and coping with nearly two weeks of discomfort and frustration I was able to overcome a vicious virus that has claimed well more than one million U.S. lives.

Faithful readers of this publication will recall that the April 2022 edition included a commentary by yours truly reflecting on the lessons we all learned over the past two years of living through the coronavirus global pandemic. Little did I know then that just a few weeks after writing that piece I would become infected and soon undergo my first battle with something that over the past 24 months claimed the lives of some of my family members, friends and colleagues.

I’m proud of my body’s ability to overcome the virus and gladly share with you this month some specific details about my experience contracting, battling and overcoming coronavirus. The following are some reflections, recollections and recommendations of what I dealt with and what I advise others to do should you unfortunately become infected sometime in the future:

• Sickness, symptoms and sympathy
I was sick for 12 days and ended up quarantining and having to miss eight days of work. While I didn’t need to be prescribed specific medications, be placed on oxygen or have to spend any time inside of a hospital, it was a serious personal health battle that includes stretches of uncertainty and concern.

My symptoms varied throughout the nearly two weeks I was ill. They included but were not limited to head and chest congestion, body chills, severe exhaustion, general soreness, extremely achy joints and muscles, a sore throat and a persistent nagging cough.

Family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers showed plenty of sympathy and true compassion in the form of supportive telephone conversations, text messages and emails. The special (and socially distanced) deliveries of chicken noodle soup, bottled water, Gatorade and other items were tremendous gestures — all the items were immediately consumed. The constant communication helped keep me motivated to get healthy and specific advice from some acquaintances who had previously dealt with the same unfortunate COVID-19 diagnosis and quarantine period was greatly appreciated.

• Prior protection provided hope and promise for a full recovery
I am vaccinated and boosted (three shots total) and was told by three different doctors and medical professionals that certainly made a difference in helping to limit the severity of my symptoms. I firmly believe that level of protection helped keep me from having to be hospitalized and avoid serious health complications.

I learned that everyone reacts differently to the virus. From what I have been able to gather and have now personally experienced there are no proven reasons or explanations as to why one person has more of a negative reaction than someone else after contracting COVID-19. I believe I was fortunate to have been able to recover and have a deeper appreciation for anyone who has tested positive for the virus.

If my symptoms were more severe, I’m not sure what condition I would have been in given there have been so many victims I know personally who lost their battle with coronavirus, including three people I knew since childhood who all died and were younger than 50 at the time of their death.

• Recovery involved rest and refusing to give up
The key to my recovery was maintaining a regular routine of taking specific over-the-counter medications, participating in daily exercise activities outdoors, continued consumption of fluids, and a basic focus on my mental health.

I did plenty of resting, but I was also cautious to not get too comfortable not moving. I was advised to get outside, move and breathe in fresh air whenever possible. So that’s what I did. After the initial first few days of feeling extremely exhausted, I make a commitment to taking walks at least twice if not three times a day.

I also refused to give up. The motivating factor of remaining optimistic and being constantly aware of my mental health status surely helped push myself past a few really frustrating and at times depressing days knowing that soon I’d be on the other side of the battle.

• Avoiding illness is always the goal, but sometimes it happens
I don’t want to lecture anyone on vaccinations and boosters. Receiving the shots may not be for everyone and I am aware there are some people with legit health reasons that prevent them from getting vaccinated and/or boosted. But I will say that I am glad I was able to limit my coronavirus battle and not have to be hospitalized. I have no doubt that vaccines work in preventing serious illness and helping to avoid hospitalization.

Regardless of efficacy against infection, vaccination in most instances with most people does limit severe illness and hospitalizations. Keeping sick people from clogging our hospitals is a valid reason for promoting COVID-19 vaccines since vaccination is as much as preventing harm to others as it is about protecting yourself from the virus.

Vaccines work. Public health data shows us that unvaccinated individuals had the highest rates of hospitalizations during the Omicron wave of the global pandemic. I urge everyone reading this if you are eligible to get your first, second, third and fourth vaccine dose as soon as you can.

COVID-19 has had a major impact on our entire society, especially for anyone who became ill from the virus. I am just one person who survived. I hope to be a better person because of that and vow to help spread compassion and empathy for anyone who has to experience the same thing in the future.

Daniel Meyer is a lifelong resident of Western New York. He is the former editor of the Hamburg Sun newspaper and is currently the deputy press secretary for numerous departments that comprise the government of Erie County.