Skylar Walder: Tested. My Battle with COVID-19.

When COVID-19 hit in March 2020, we were all tested. The world shut down and now in 2021, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I entered college in the fall of 2020 and the entire school year was uncertain. We were not sure if our school would send us home, if practices would be canceled, or if COVID cases would affect us by the end of the year. I was lucky that my school had chosen the “hybrid” option to give students the choice between in-person and online teaching. I made the most of it, and despite having to wear a mask, not being able to go home, or the constant awareness while I was around others; it ended up being a great year. 

Let’s take it back a few months: April 2021, cases were going down, I was wrapping up my tennis season, vaccinations were getting out, and I was one more dose away from feeling like a weight would be lifted off my shoulders. I woke up the morning after my last match of the season and I did not feel well. Of course, during a pandemic, my first thought was that I might have COVID. I went into the health center and a nurse came in and informed me I tested positive. I broke down inside, I did not understand how I got it. The worst part was that I had to tell my team and friends because of contact tracing. I did not understand why it happened, how it happened; I kept blaming myself and I had a gut-wrenching feeling the whole day. 

Isolation was nothing but weird. I had the majority of the symptoms; it felt like my body had shut down and was falling apart, piece by piece. My school made great accommodations, however, it was one of those experiences I would not want to do again. It was the worst week for me to get sick: I missed two key events of my semester, it was the last week before the final stretch for finals, and I had a pile of assignments. The only positive thing was that my regular season had concluded. I still do not know how I got it. I was careful, more than most, but I eventually came to the realization that the best part was that nobody I came in contact with got sick and I was able to recover in the ten-day period. 

My first day out of isolation was exhilarating; like many people, I missed social interaction, so what did I do? I went to an event held by my university. I got to see so many faces and I forgot about COVID, at least for that night. After the weekend, I began my return to play protocol with my sports medicine team. They knew me quite well already from my numerous trips to the training room during the season, however, I was excited to get back to physical activity. Everything was going well until I began having chest pain during my treadmill run. They sent me to the health center and eventually, I ended up at a cardiologist in town. My EKG came back abnormal, and from there, I had a number of tests ordered. Again, I was stuck not being able to participate in any activity for another few weeks. I just felt like I was on a merry-go-round that would not stop spinning. 

My mental health was definitely tested. As an athlete, the worst thing in the world is to be away from your sport or any type of exercise for a month. I was in a different world. I would have days where I would not do anything and still be in pain because my body was so used to being active. Days began to feel like years, and I was so worried that I would not recover. I was a piece of “Work in Progress.” The tables finally turned when I was cleared by my cardiologist and I restarted my return to play protocol. Day seven came around and I was full of joy when my trainer cleared me without any restrictions. Despite the positive news, there was a lingering voice in my head that was stressing me out about my recovery. After my limited days of activity, I did not see the progress I wanted, but it was the steps I had to take. 

I am still not fully back to where I want to be, but with the support system I have, it will be a comeback like no other. Since being cleared, it has been a battle: it’s harder to run, it seems like I haven’t picked up a racquet in years, my body is not used to the sudden activity. But, it’s progress. Being an athlete is part of my life, and I never expected to be away from that for so long. I was tested mentally, physically, and even now, I have to test how much I can take after having a viral infection and weeks on weeks away from my sport. I have to take baby steps right now and continue to fight through the trials and tribulations, but soon I will be back in “full swing” like I was before fifty-four days of being sidelined. 

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