Synaptic, the Berlant-Stewart exchanges, base 100 writing, volleys dealt in increments (or multiples thereof). For the spring grad class, maybe 90s or within five words. An 84 word blurb is not a ninety. At 96, it must reach elastic band to 180. Or 175. A ninety can be one sentence. Or up to 90 sentences. It is meant to conduct a tiered practice. At once, measured habit, self-aware; at once, expressing questions as questions or connections as connections. Woe omicron variant whispers, though, What even is teaching now?
The worst of the past week’s viral blast has passed. First symptoms showed up last Tuesday, 9/14, and as of today the onslaught has dwindled to a cough. Now, with the deepest of deep inhalations possible, there comes an exertional tickle, what you’d imagine a balloon at its limits feels like could it feel anything at all. I’m in Michigan, and on Monday morning, I did try to set up a phone consultation with my doctor in Blacksburg, but the receptionist put me through to the scheduler, and the scheduler told me Doc was out sick and nobody else in the practice would be available to talk with me until at least Thursday. She wanted to make plain that she wasn’t a nurse but said, free advice being free, my best option was to monitor my O2 levels and to drive myself to a local Urgent Care if the fever roared back or if O2 levels went below 92. Saturation was 92 upon waking up Monday morning, but it hasn’t been that low again since. I just now checked it, and it was 99. On the mend is what I think that means.
Was it Covid? Was it not Covid? Omicron variant, maybe, or pi (n.b., this is me being playful; I really don’t know whether these are valid variants, and I have no reason to believe any specific variant was to blame). The PCR test administered on Thursday afternoon returned a negative reading by late Friday night. So what. I didn’t pursue another test. Here are a couple of things I learned (or wish to hold onto):
- The certification of illness as Covid or not Covid matters for mitigating transmission. Had I known definitively that it was Covid, I would have had slightly clearer protocols to follow insofar as isolation/quarantine. But I did that, anyway. There was no particular relevance otherwise in having validated whether this was a breakthrough case or not. I was vaccinated with Moderna in early April and early May. I was sick in a special and distinctively severe way in mid-September.
- In the midst of succumbing to this particular virus, the surest decision aids were 1) loved ones checking in with me regularly and reading back to me impressions of just how dilapidated I seemed to them, 2) a good thermometer, and 3) an oximeter. Loved ones could text and ask about my temp and O2 levels. And among the three decision aids, I could more or less lucidly make judgments about whether it was time to go to Urgent Care or an ER.
- The two scariest nights were when I did not yet have the oximeter and when I turned in nighty night having read among many accounts of Covid (breakthrough cases and regular cases) about how dark and long is the night. Raised doubts, small questions about seeing another day, and those questions can grow from one hour to the next. This was not quite an “oh shit, I might die” scenario, but it played out at a narrower edge of self-attentiveness than I’ve dwelt at in some time.
- About the symptoms: most were erratic, clutching and releasing from one hour to the next, then redoubling and doing the same with rangy intensity for the messiest 72 hours of the ordeal. Peak temp was 101.7F/38.72C. I don’t have a scale here in Michigan, but I’d guess I shed 5-8 lbs./2.3-3.6kg (from my usual weight of 213lbs/96.6kg). O2 was from Saturday through Monday between 92-95. One reading of O2 came in at 87 on Saturday. The morbilliform-like rash was the most unfamiliar and unpredictable symptom. In varied densities, it appeared everywhere except my hands and feet, with especially dense clusters on my torso. But it was only faintly uncomfortable; more like my skin reporting that something deserving of a fever was brewing on the inside.
I think that’s it, just about everything worth sharing.
I’ve been hosting a virus, posing as a walking symptoms checklist, and sicker than [vivid hyperbole] for now going on five days. Thought I’d get down a few notes about what it is, what it isn’t, and what’s ahead, offering as pretext that this is surely the sickest I’ve been in the past decade and perhaps in all of my adult life. Unless that’s just how we remember sickness: today’s blergh always outmeasures those blerghs who thrashed us but whose thrashings are only accessible through undocumented recall. Allowing for recency bias, I’ll say it anyway. This is a solid multiple more severe than the worst flus and about even with the walking pneumonia I hosted for a few weeks in my late 20s.
Here’s something of a timeline: Last Sunday, drive to Michigan, tired but steady. Monday, typical workday of email and meetings, all remote, but not feeling especially much like myself insofar as energy goes. Tuesday, had a shower and afterward noticed spots on my torso. I’m not prone to rashes, besides poison ivy, and this was very faint, not especially itchy. I made sense of it by imagining that Ph. had picked up some Dollar Store Gain knock off washing powder for soccer gear and used it to “clean” the towel I’d happened to use. Therein something didn’t agree with my delicate porcelain skin. (No, I was wrong; sorry for even thinking such a thing was possible, Ph.!). Went to Is.’s volleyball match at Northville, masked the entire time. On Wednesday, the rash had expanded, and I was beginning to feel symptomatic: sniffles, achiness, acute fatigue, intense headache, shortness of breath. There was more rash around my torso–stomach, kidneys, upper glutes–and appearing but somewhat lesser on my arms. I picked Is. up from school and learned there that volleyball practice was cancelled for 9th grade and varsity teams due to a positive Covid result for a player. JV (that’s Is.’s team), however, would have practice. As my own symptoms expanded and intensified, I decided to schedule a PCR test for Thursday afternoon; Is. already had one at approximately the same time, and although she was feeling pretty much fine and although she would be able to get an antigen test on Thursday, we had a plan. Based on my symptoms, including the rash, erratic fever, and muted/masked sensations of smell and taste, I anticipated a positive result from the test.
On Thursday, I had just one meeting, an interview with a colleague doing research, and I was able to show up for it and keep things on track. But outside of the meeting, I was increasingly waylaid by and concerned about intensifying headaches, deepening fatigue, an expanding rash (about 30% of my body by this time), and more trouble breathing. The breathing issues were all dry, for the most part, like lung capacity is being slowly drawn down until you are only able to fill what feels like half or one-third of normal capacity. There’s a parallel anxiety in this, right?, due to the known respiratory challenges faced by Covid hosts. Being vaccinated (Moderna, April 6 and May 6) and otherwise healthy leading up to the moment of infection, I was visited by thoughts (to say nothing of readily accessible news clips) about those who don’t make it through the night. I was also reading up on morbilliform rashes and hoping for a quick return on the PCR results.
On Friday, I also had just one meeting. Third day significantly symptomatic, with everything intensifying. Utterly unpleasant. I sat through the meeting and even spoke up a time or two but noticed that utterances were clipped and quakey due to irregular and unreliable lungwork. Sententia, don’t we know it, need wind or there’s no setting sail (aside: I think I remember Crowley and Hawhee noting that sentences as units of thought were also units of breath, the lengths of which were determined by lung capacity; up next for me, much shorter sentences). Nobody could tell because Zoom, but I was drenched with fever sweat by the end of the one hour call. Good times. I decided then that I’m taking some time in the week ahead just to find footing with whatever in hell is going on. On Friday night I couldn’t sleep because lungs were all kinds of unpredictable and unreliable and uncomfortable. At 12:45 a.m., the text arrived saying the PCR results were in. I checked the CVS portal: negative.
By this point in the week, the few people prone to worrying about me were really starting to be concerned. A. very graciously had sent via Instacart a bounty of deliverables that arrived on Saturday–Vernors, Gatorade, stuff for grilled cheese and soup, so much of what I needed. And in a second order, a Pulse Oximeter, which is a jimmy jammy whose function is to readout pulse and blood O2 levels. I was so far fogged by this point that I couldn’t even set the thing up because I couldn’t figure out how to get the batteries lined up in it. When I did, pulse was 83, O2 was 92. That’s low. Not quite rush-to-the-hospital low, but quite low. I timed the number of inhalations I was getting in one minute: 14. That was solidly where it should be, between 12-16 on average. And then I also called my primary care physician in Blacksburg and found the number then called the on-call physician at Carillion to ask a few questions: If this isn’t a breakthrough Covid case, what is it? And how compromised does my breathing need to be before I go in? The answers, with all due respect, were very textbook, along the lines of how I am in good health and how I am not at risk of dying, so it’s best to rest and hydrate and wait it out. Two telltale indicators backing this stance: 1) my fever only went as high as 101 F and it hadn’t locked in at that point for long, so there wasn’t a steady, prolonged, or especially alarming fever associated with this, and 2) I didn’t have any throat soreness, so although the cough and shortness of breath were serious, this didn’t sound like strep or measles or scarlet fever or Covid.
Today’s Sunday, Day Five of this round of symptoms. The rash is fading, but seriously, folks, let me tell you that if you’d seen the rash, it’s alarming. I took photos. I won’t post them here yet, not today. But I thought I should have them in case they prove relevant for anyone else trying to sleuth through whatever this is. Whatever this is. That’s the other significant issues weighing on me now: I don’t know what it is. Not even a family of possibly associated diseases. Cold? Flu? God help us all. Rubella? Measles? Doesn’t add up. I’ll call my doctor tomorrow to talk through this, but I don’t know that anyone will care because by then I will be more definitively on the mend. About the mend: for the past 48 hours, the worst of the symptoms are that I have coughing fits and related headaches. I can’t sleep at night because of this shortness of breath. I also can’t talk. Every utterance beyond four words is followed by a painfully intense coughing fit.
I have more to say about all of this and also a to be continued. I’ll try to return and write through more of this on Monday or Tuesday.
“An exteriorist topoanalysis would perhaps give added precision to this projective behavior by defining our daydreams of objects” (34).
Vote. Here voting.
Keep it cryptic. Filter. Ill-digested week; shit. Besides for those highlights. T. with belly giggles and mouthfuls of cheese. Damn!, chew, babygirl! Tins mailed to colleagues. Two addresses were wrong, but I figured one out and follow-up on the other. House of No has everyone’s address. Handwritten notes making me late for Thursday’s game. Is.’s volleyball matches, counting, counting, 1..3..5. Five matches. Three against the Rockets. Line-judged two of them on Friday afternoon. That day. New towels. An edited collection sent to copy editor. Filter. Shit week. Neighbor P. brought another garbage bag of vegetables. Some cutting then I converted it to a half gallon of pickled peppers. Grown in Detroit; fermented in Ypsi. Two eggplants, luminous purple. The skin of one started to wrinkle today so it was lunch. I’m grateful. I often think of all the family and friends P. told me she lost to COVID and how they had a mass service on Belle Isle.
Element needs brake work. That’ll be Tuesday first thing. Leave by 7:30. Already scheduled. No idea if I’ll be waiting at the shop for the call with the dean. Zoom gives 10-12 ways to connect. Why haven’t you used them all by now? Are you still watching “Schitt’s Creek”? Plus twelve email inbox. Plus four to-do list. Both are feral. Tired of working on weekends. Return to Virginia on the 12th. That’s Indigenous People’s Day. Filter. Keep it cryptic. Dirty ice cream bowls. The bowls were free. The ice cream was already in the freezer thanks to Ph. The bowls are thin, delicate. They were free. Not part of the June 2019 Kohlsploitation run. The scoop is cheap. Its handle is rubber coated, reasonably firm for gripping until the end where it bends because it is past the end of the metal handle it wraps around. The bowls would be shardy if broken. Cookies and cream. Is the cream supposed to be like sandwich cookie filling or like ice cream. Inconsistent so you never quite know what you’ll get. One of those to-dos is a manuscript review. I keep saying yes to manuscript reviews and then feeling fitful workload regret after they’ve been on the list for ten days.
I voted for Biden+Harris, of course.
Dystopoanalysis. Erasing Procreate lines. Clear layers (choose Layer, choose Clear). Already more drawing than I’d daydreamt was possible. Now a marshmallow-headed figure on a skewer blow-torching their own face. It melts. The heat is hot. But so what. I’d rather be writing (not x). I’d rather be reading (not y). I’d rather be drawing (not z). Going to do this s’more.