False Negatives

A Strange and Crazy Trip


Last November I felt totally out-of-it when I noticed my reflection in the bathroom mirror; a veil of darkness had washed over my face. Eye sockets were black, and not just the usual dark circles I inherited from my beautiful mother in heaven. Tear ducts, upper and lower eyelids, the entire orbital area of my eyes – black holes of death. In the middle of the night, as if it were the witching hour, I stood there staring, searching for signs of life.

I knew I was in trouble, yet so fatigued and exhausted I did not care. I was unknowingly in the middle of a COVID-19 strange and crazy trip, a weird and creepy mental paralysis. Researchers have learned in the last year, when the full-on pandemic began, that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely first affects the brain.

The next morning in my fog I managed to make an appointment at a drive-in only COVID-19 testing site. With increasing headaches and low-grade fever, mental fatigue, physical exhaustion, and dizziness, I could not remember how to drive, and let me tell you, it was a wild ride. The thinking part of my brain was ‘temporarily out of order.’ Thoughts were scattered and incomplete. Too much pressure on the gas pedal, not enough on the brakes. Oversteering. Understeering. I was weaving all over the road like a student-driver but with forty years of experience. I am surprised I made it to the clinic at all.

When it was my turn to be tested, the nurse phoned my cell to verify the make, model and color of my vehicle, but with heavy brain fog, I could not do it. There I sat, in my dark gray Jeep Grand Cherokee I have owned for years, completely dumbfounded. Even with the big shiny chrome letters on the steering wheel spelling out J-E-E-P, I was clueless.

I must have been able to mutter something to the nurse since she eventually found me, and she was locked and loaded with every sanitizer known to man, long nasal swabs, countless COVID-19 test kits, a face shield, and coverings from head to toe resembling a space suit, and who could blame her.

Two nasal tests (rapid and PCR) and days later, both tests’ results stated SARS-CoV-2: NOT DETECTED, and a month after that I requested an antibody blood test from my doctor to determine whether I had a past infection from the virus. It was POSITIVE.

In 2022 studies will continue globally, with funding by the Alzheimer’s Association, for more research into the neurological effects of the novel coronavirus. Scientists have already determined that the virus travels through the nose, reaches the olfactory bulb in the brain, and leads almost straight to the hippocampus – a brain area involved in short-term memory.
It does not come as a surprise that a headache, reduced sense of taste and smell, often occur before the onset of respiratory symptoms. Afterall, the brain controls everything.

Of those of us who have had the illness, it is terrifying to imagine how COVID may affect us in the future. Since last November, my memory has improved and I can complete sentences, but I am not operating at full capacity, and I know there are people just like me, wondering if life will ever get back to “normal.”
Time will tell.

Disclaimer: When it comes to infectious diseases, I am no expert. My limited knowledge of the global pandemic is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is derived from my personal experience with the disease and my own research from Medical News Today and John Hopkins Medicine. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association Sars-CoV-2 Global Brain Study and Research, please visit ALZ.org

photography by Nathan Ham, Nathan Ham Photography | art direction, make-up and costume by Jean Doherty Trupp

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