By Silvia Carli
Just because you’re healthy and exercise doesn’t mean you can get complacent about the COVID-19 virus. I never thought I would be in a position to have a COVID-19 story to share.
I am a 6’3” 185-pound ex-volleyball athlete who still trains every day. Not only do I exercise consistently, I am also a registered dietitian. I am knowledgeable about anti-inflammatory and antioxidant foods and their components. I teach health and how to boost the immune system with food. I wash my hands often and practice good hygiene: In my head, I feel like I should be invincible. But I’m not. Here’s my COVID-19 story.
Until March 12, 2020, I lived and worked at Wagner College in New York State. I enjoyed my position as a GA, but because of the COVID-19 lockdown, I was forced to leave. I ended up traveling all over the country, waiting and hoping for the word that I could return to work.
Initially, it was supposed to be a 2-week interruption before returning to work, but I ended up working remotely and had to travel from state to state to stay with friends. I was unable to return home to Italy because it just wasn’t safe. I was watching coronavirus updates constantly because Italy was being hit heavily by coronavirus effects. I was worried about my home and my family, and at the time they were on some very strict lockdown procedures.
I bounced around from city to city until I landed in Dallas, Texas where I got a new job. It was more than three months after I left New York, and I was starting to settle into a new routine. I had been safe and sound, exercising outdoors while observing social distancing. I did my best to eat well and maintain a balanced life despite the uncertainties and instabilities caused by the pandemic.
On Sunday, July 10th, 2020, I woke up with a weird headache. I shrugged it off, blaming a caffeine deficit, so I took a couple of ibuprofen and chased them with a five-shot latte before starting my day. I did a five-mile run as my headache got better, but I felt extremely tired afterward. I didn’t think much of it, as I knew my body was tired following a long week at work. I had also just moved apartments, settling in to my new place near Dallas.
Monday morning is when the ugly truth hit me. I woke up with a fever of 101 degrees. I was sick. I still did not want to think about the COVID-19 virus, and I blamed my fever on being tired from the previous week. Besides, most people who think they have COVID test negative, so what were the odds that my story would be any different?
Later in the day, I developed a mild dry cough, which is a telltale COVID-19 symptom. I started to get scared: “Me? No, come on! If anybody’s immune system should be kicking COVID from afar, it’s me! As a matter of fact, COVID should be scared of me!” This is what I tried to repeat myself until I went to urgent care the following day. My test results came back “POSITIVE for COVID-19.”
My world crumbled. I could not believe it. A wave of fear washed over me as I called my mom in Italy in tears. COVID was hitting my country very hard, and now it had me.
For four days I was completely wiped out. The fever did not give me breaks, and I grew weaker as my cough got worse. Until now I had never been interested in reading about the medications, best practices, doctor advice, or anything regarding COVID. I had been convinced I would never have to deal with it. Now I was confused, and I felt lost.
Everybody’s body and immune system reacts differently to COVID-19, so I had no idea what would happen to me. I bought a pulse oximeter because relatives from Italy told me I needed one. I switched from ibuprofen to acetaminophen because an article I read said ibuprofen was bad. The more I read, the more I needed to get sound medical advice as soon as possible.
I called my primary care doctor and he debunked the myth about ibuprofen. It was nice to get the truth, but it decreased my confidence in everything I thought I knew. I started taking Vitamin D and Vitamin C to boost my antioxidant defense in my body, and I added an expectorant medication to try and loosen any mucus that might be lurking.
On day five, I started feeling better during the day, but the fever would present itself again at night. This went on for another six days, but my respiratory system was significantly improving. To me, here was the scariest part. I could be feeling full of energy and completely healed during the day. But then, around 7 pm I was back to shivering with a huge headache and my temperature rising ominously.
On day six, I dared to try a home workout: bodyweight squats, lunges, banded arm exercises, some push-ups. My body did not like that. I could barely breathe and I was shaking after two sets. That night my fever spiked to 101.5℉.
I am very lucky and blessed to have had such a mild case. People my age and condition have a high coronavirus recovery rate, so it was much easier compared to what many people go through. The hardest part for me was accepting that I had actually contracted the disease. I’m not just a healthy person—I’m dedicated to healthy living and I took all the precautions. I’m actively engaged in making my body as strong and healthy as possible.
Getting COVID humbled me and forced me to realize that, contrary to what I thought, I am not immune or invincible in the face of serious illnesses.
Exactly 14 days following the beginning of my symptoms, I went back to the gym for the first time. If you are serious about sports, you can understand the high levels of performance I expect from my body. Even considering the possibility of not being able to perform at your peak ability is unacceptable. I felt like I had not been to the gym for a whole year.
COVID-19 completely wiped me out. It slowly dawned on me how much damage the virus had done to me physically. It was hard to breathe, and my usual warm-up turned into my entire workout routine. I couldn’t handle any more than that. I went home and took a three-hour nap and woke up really sore.
The next day I went on a run, being really careful to follow precautions on how to run during pandemic conditions. Even though I only went two miles, it felt like 10. Every breath was painful, and my muscles still felt tired from the previous day’s workout.
I am now on my fourth run and third workout since I restarted, and I am starting to feel slightly better. But I am still not myself. This experience taught me that I am not invincible and that I was not careful enough in following the preventive measures recommended by health authorities. This virus doesn’t discriminate based on race, sex, age, or training status. I am convinced that my healthy diet and exercise regimen are part of the reason why the side effects of the virus were mild for me. I’m also aware of how very blessed I am to not have any underlying health conditions like an autoimmune disease. I did not think I had to learn how to avoid coronavirus. I thought I was untouchable. But if athletes on Kevin Durrant’s level can get coronavirus, then I guess I can, too.
My best advice, and my invitation to everybody who reads my COVID-19 story, is to please, please be careful. We are all at risk and need to do everything in our power to protect ourselves and those we love.
One of the biggest problems I have heard about during the lockdown is insomnia. Getting a healthy amount of sleep is vital to a strong immune system, and insomnia is something we can fix. Many of the people I know and love are having trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up too early. They are understandably worried and anxious.
Medications for insomnia can be habit-forming or can ruin your next day. That’s why I recommend that you review good sleep hygiene practices and consider using a safe, trusted sleep supplement like the Evlution Nutrition Z Matrix.
It is important to learn how to strengthen your immune system and practice more self-care ideas. Getting enough sleep is just one of the surprising ways you can help fight coronavirus. Please also wear a mask, even if you don’t think it’s necessary. It shows others you care and are fully invested in winning this fight.
Consider reviewing your self-care ideas and see if you can improve something there, too. If you’re not able to get to the store for supplies, there are still steps you can take. Do-it-yourself hand sanitizer, changing or washing masks regularly, and cleaning high-traffic surfaces in your home are all little things you do that can add up to make a big difference.
It is important to remain calm and not overreact, but please educate yourself and take sensible precautions. Beating the pandemic doesn’t require a Herculean effort, but it will require cooperation, planning, and consistent effort. Please join me in this fight and do your part. Together, we can beat this pandemic.