Everything but COVID-19 was on my mind last Thursday morning as I awoke to what felt like a fall head cold nagging at my immune system. My scratchy throat, stuffy head and nasal congestion directed me straight to the coffee maker, which like I usually do as a coffee-loving mom and newspaper woman, prepare the night before so I just have to “push the button” in the midst of my morning grogginess. 

My thoughts were on an especially busy day that, after getting my fourth-grader JR off to school, consisted of a South Dakota Newspaper Association board meeting via Zoom, several customer photo shoots for ads, plus a few in-person and phone interviews for upcoming newspaper stories. I was even so bold to think I could squeeze in a hair appointment before an early birthday supper with girlfriends at Sweet Grass. 

As I waited for the coffee to brew I became keenly aware of a shoulder-neck-headache announcing its presence and rapidly increasing in intensity. How could this be? I had just gotten over what I thought was a cold —  or was it allergies —  one of those mild, yet still-annoying nasal drip buggers that seem to come on as the weather changes. 

Finally, a cup’s worth of stout coffee filled the carafe so I stole it away from the basket mid-drip, pouring the steaming hot liquid into my floral, ceramic mug. While the coffee immediately soothed my raw throat, I quickly became aware of something that wasn’t quite right. 

I took another sip and realized I must not have put enough coffee grounds in the basket of the coffee maker. It tasted just like the brew made by my weak-coffee-loving coworkers from previous jobs — glorified hot water. I laughed at the fact that despite all my nighttime preparation for the next day, I forgot to put coffee in the maker.

Upon checking the basket, I found plenty of coffee in the filter. Weird. 

Was it a bad bag of coffee? I looked at the rich, dark liquid in my cup and took another sip, really focusing in on the taste. 

So strange. Nothing. I dipped my nose below the rim and inhaled deeply. Nothing.

Suddenly alarm bells went off in my thoroughly-congested head and the term “loss of taste and smell” saturated my consciousness. 

Oh no. 

I went to the fruit basket and cut a lemon in half, burying my nose into the juicy, freshly cut flesh of the lemon. Nothing. 

I ran to the bathroom and grabbed my perfume out of the medicine cabinet, spraying it in the air directly in front of my face. Nothing.

By that time, JR had woken up, sleepily rummaging through the pantry for Honey Nut Cheerios. I grabbed the lemon half, held it up to him and asked him if he could smell it. With a  perplexed and slightly annoyed look, he obliged and gingerly sniffed the citrus, quickly pulling his face away while saying, “mom that smells sour!”

I called our local clinic, Jerauld County Community Health Center, and rattled off my symptoms: sore throat, headache, congestion, loss of taste and smell and body aches.   

The friendly voice on the other end of the line told me I should wait at least 24 hours from when my symptoms presented but I needed to make an appointment for a Covid test. I made an appointment for the next morning and as a safety precaution, kept JR home to remote learn. 

Thankful we had already moved our in-person meeting from Pierre to Zoom due to another board member having been exposed to Covid, I linked in to my SDNA board meeting for the rest of the morning while sending texts and emails to customers and story subjects, rescheduling meetings and canceling the early birthday supper.   

My headache and congestion symptoms worsened as the day wore on, with unpleasant digestion issues and fatigue sneaking their way in to the mix.  

Not too surprised because of my telltale symptoms, Friday morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. 

The positive test result once again reminded me that in this year of “rolling with the punches,” despite loathing the damage this virus has caused across the globe, there is always opportunity to look at the other side of the coin. 

Throughout this global health crisis, Covid has taught me to be patient, to be flexible in the face of constant change.     

So far, my day-to-day symptoms have swung from mild to quite uncomfortable and everywhere in between. Congestion, headache and body aches vary throughout each day depending on how much rest I’m able to get. The stomach upset I experienced in the first three days has tapered off but on days four and five, chest tightness, cough and fatigue seem to be ramping up. I know not everyone is blessed with these mild symptoms and I am deeply grateful this is the extent of what I’ve experienced having Covid so far. 

The virus has also reminded me how grateful I am to be surrounded by folks who truly care about the well-being of their family, friends and neighbors. Between grocery and care package drop offs, flower deliveries, check-ins, and of course my mom Delia, Cam and Cathy keeping things running at the True Dakotan, I feel so taken care of. I am thankful to my customers who have been understanding about delays and work-arounds. I can’t say enough about JR’s stellar teachers who are helping make the remote learning process as seamless, productive and enjoyable as possible.     

Above all this year, Covid has taught me to treat life with more care, and to appreciate everything — good, bad or tasteless — that it throws at me.