I Had a Breakthrough COVID Infection, and It Made Me Even More Grateful For the Vaccine

·4 min read
Cropped shot of an attractive young woman sitting alone on her sofa at home and feeling sick
Cropped shot of an attractive young woman sitting alone on her sofa at home and feeling sick

When COVID-19 first emerged as a threat in my area, I shut it down - and by that I mean my family of six closed up shop. No more trips to the store or get-togethers with friends. Our children shifted to online learning and my husband's job became remote. For the next 18 months, we lived as buttoned up as possible, especially because I was pregnant. My husband, my teenager, and I got vaccinated as soon as the shots were available to us. We masked anytime we needed to go out, which mainly consisted of visiting doctor's offices for essential appointments.

Then, in August of 2021, our kids went back to school because no online option was offered this year. Within a few weeks - bam! - my daughter, who had masked every day, came home from school with the sniffles, and two days later, she tested positive for COVID. Although we isolated her, the infection spread throughout the house, with three more of our children testing positive, including our new baby, and then, finally, me.

I wasn't even remotely surprised to test positive even though I was vaxxed. I'd heard about cases of breakthrough infections happening, and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention reported this was possible. I'd been caring for sick kids for days. Plus, I'd been feeling slightly congested. Interestingly, I'd used a home test to confirm my COVID status about every other day since our first family member tested positive. Even with symptoms, I got a negative result two days before I tested positive.

The night I tested positive, I honestly felt OK and thought, Maybe this won't be so bad. But when I woke up the next morning, it felt as if all of my energy had been drained from my body. My morning yoga ritual consisted of me sitting on a cushion with a blanket draped over my shoulders, lightly stretching, with my eyes closed. That first day, however, I mostly just felt tired. Even then, I wasn't too worried about getting sick. But flash forward 24 hours, and you could find me crumpled up in a ball on the floor of our family room while life whizzed on around me.

Related: For COVID Long Haulers, It Can Feel Like the Pandemic Will Never End

At that point, I felt like an elephant was sitting on my face I was experiencing so much sinus pressure. The worst part was how exhausted I felt - no other illness had ever leveled me this way. Then lunchtime came around, and I started bawling because I couldn't taste my salad at all. It was the oddest thing - by the end of that day, I was eating peaches dipped in ketchup just to make my kids laugh. The entire experience of consuming food for the next 10 days revolved around texture. If I'd been eating an onion or an apple, I would not have been able to tell.

I felt so sick that it scares me to think how much worse it might have been if I hadn't gotten the shots.

I also lost my sense of smell. Showering was an odd experiment, as I couldn't smell my soap or shampoo. Later that week, my husband burned a pizza in the oven, and I couldn't smell the overwhelming aroma of burnt crust everyone else was complaining about. There were two full days that I was completely useless. I could barely keep my eyes open as I lie on the couch, falling in and out of sleep. One night, I experienced body aches so debilitating, I remember whispering to my husband that I felt like something inside of me was trying to take me down.

The good news is that pretty much just as quickly as I unraveled, I regained my will to do anything other than exist. I'd like to say that after my 10-day quarantine, I was as good as new, but the truth is that I felt tired for days after. There were also some persistent symptoms that cropped up during the week or two after no longer being infectious, including random body aches and extreme tiredness. It's been about a month since I tested positive, and I feel totally fine now. Ultimately, I'm eternally grateful for the vaccine. I felt so sick that it scares me to think how much worse it might have been if I hadn't gotten the shots. Would I have ended up in the hospital, or worse?

The one silver lining to having gotten through COVID is that I should have immunity both from the vaccine and natural infection. I'm slightly less afraid to go out into the world and do things, but not much. There's a touch of anxiety plaguing my thoughts for now. Will a new strain wipe out our family for weeks down the road? Will my vaccine wane in potency over time? I have a lot of questions, but my takeaway is a renewed commitment to do everything I can to keep me and my family safe as this pandemic rages on. COVID is not something to be taken lightly.