My family’s Covid start to 2021 proves things can only get better

Séamas O’Reilly
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo</span>
Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

The boy was the first to be sick. He greeted Wednesday evening with a confetti spray of vomit that should have set off alarm bells. In fairness, it did – a torrent of toddler sick is never exactly taken in stride – but we presumed it was nothing more than a little bug, even though we knew its other, equally likely cause.

Following a day of changing his nappies, sheets and pyjamas, I realised I didn’t feel too clever myself. I spent Thursday night in bed and the next six days barely able to move. Tests for us both revealed what we’d feared – we’d kicked off 2021 by succumbing to Covid.

My son’s bout lasted a couple of days and was never as bad as the first puke-strewn evening. Frankly, Covid seemed in a rush to be done with him. Not so my own dose, which was more of a leisurely sort, working its way through me at the gentle pace my dad sports when he’s going down the central aisle of Lidl, deliberating over whether he needs wellies, a telescope, or a half-sized inflatable jetski. Covid had much the same idea, idly flipping through symptoms it wanted to unload on me over the course of an arduous browse through my nervous system, selecting them one by one.

I never got a cough, but I was beset by deadening aches and crippling fatigue, and soon had sharp, jabbing headaches and excruciating joint pain. As a bit of light relief, I’d then become fidgety and feverish, vacillating from extreme cold to waves of overheating and pooling sweat.

In my febrile state, there was a lot of Sturm und Drang over how this had happened to me. I toyed with the idea of kicking my son out of the family for allowing the virus into our midst, but held my tongue when I realised it would probably have a negative effect on my career as a parenting journalist. The impulse to feel hard done by was real. We’d barely left the house in the preceding few weeks, but somehow a trip to the local park or a five-minute jaunt to the cornershop had been sufficient for transmission.

There is, of course, a stupefying vanity to this way of thinking – as if Covid waits round corners with a stopwatch and step counter, making sure it only infects those who meet some specific criterion of irresponsibility – and, moreover, a specific criterion of irresponsibility, which always seems to be just slightly less responsible than your own.

The fact is we had been extremely careful, but something had slipped through. We were luckier than so many to have suffered just a dicky tummy (him), a week of aches and pains (me) and the horror of looking after the world’s two worst patients at the same time (my darling wife). Then, just in time for my recovery, she tested positive herself, so at least I get to repay her kindness, in kind. If 2021 is to be an improvement on 2020, it’s had a bad start. But the only way from here is up…

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