My 52nd Birthday

March 4, 2020 was my 52nd birthday.

A virus called COVID-19 had been infecting the population in China and other countries, and the US was starting to express concerns. We hadn’t had any definitively confirmed cases yet in Michigan, but within two weeks, schools would be shut down as a precaution.

March 12 was the last time I would see students for months. But on March 4, the disease was still a lurking specter for most of the US. Something we didn’t know much about, something that people weren’t getting.

On March 4, I received a lackluster observation from my principal. It wasn’t the worst I’d gotten, it wasn’t the best. It was… blah.

I was out to dinner when I got the email. It was my birthday. Huzzah!

That email crushed me. It brought on a huge panic attack. So bad, in fact, that I spent the night literally feverish. I couldn’t sleep. The next day, it was all I could do to keep from begging my principal to give me one more chance. Or least to let me resign with some level of dignity.

There was no objective reason for this reaction. But, since my anxiety attack had started about the time I’d gotten the email, with the fever coming not long after, that had to be it, right?

A few days later, my wife lost her sense of taste and smell. Just for a day. It was “weird”, but COVID-19 was not on our minds at all. There had been, to that date, no confirmed cases in Michigan.

The same day my wife lost her sense of taste and smell, our child had a fever similar to mine. He was absolutely burning up. But, like me, just for the night.

We ignored the taste-and-smell thing and figured that maybe the child and I had had a raging fever that happened to be coincidental to my panic attack. which I still attributed to my evaluation.

On March 10, Michigan had its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19. However, by this time, there had been literally hundreds of people quarantining in the state. The first three people were tested in late January. March 10 was just the first positive test result in the state.

As news of the symptoms, including raging fever and lose of taste and smell, emerged, I began to wonder: Had we had COVID-19?

For a long time, I was ashamed: If I HAD had it, I had come to school, been in close contact with teachers and students, endangered others. A long time later, I would share this concern with some of the people I’d been talking to in the hallway during passing time that day, and I was assured: It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t know.

During my next annual physical, late in the year, I mentioned this to my doctor. He agreed that my experience was consistent with a mild case of COVID, and I was tested for antibodies. But it had been so long, a “negative” test wouldn’t mean anything. A “positive” test would mean I had had it, but a “negative” test wouldn’t discount the possibility, especially if the case had been mild.

It was negative. So I still don’t know for sure, but… I’m pretty sure that my panic attack had nothing to do with my evaluation; it was just poorly timed. A bit of blah news that got interpreted by the virus raging through my brain as cataclysmically awful.


“Michigan Coronavirus Timeline” (Click On Detroit)

“Coronavirus in Michigan” (Detroit Free Press)

“Depression, Anxiety May Be Signs That COVID-19 Is Attacking Brain” (Practice Update)

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