That night I woke up in the middle of the night with chills, vomiting, and shortness of breath. By Monday, I could barely speak more than a few words without feeling like I was gasping for air. I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without panting as if I’d run a mile. On Monday evening, I tried to eat, but found I couldn’t get enough oxygen while doing so. Any task that was at all anxiety-producing — even resetting my MyChart password to communicate with my doctor — left me desperate for oxygen.

There were many reasons that I didn’t want to go to the hospital. When I’d called 311 earlier in the weekend to inquire about a test, I was told people with Covid-19 symptoms must stay home. I’d read this same advice elsewhere, and wanted to do everything possible to prevent spreading the virus if I had it. I also was wary of taking doctors’ attention and hospital resources away from more vulnerable populations who might need them. Finally, I feared that if this wasn’t Covid-19, going to the hospital could expose me to the virus. Ultimately, even with my serious trouble breathing, a part of me believed I would be fine, since I was young and otherwise healthy.

While I was shocked at the development of my symptoms and my ultimate hospitalization, the doctors and nurses were not at all surprised. After I was admitted, I was told that there was a 30-year-old in the next room who was also otherwise healthy, but who had also experienced serious trouble breathing. The hospital staff told me that more and more patients my age were showing up at the E.R. I am thankful to my partner for calling the hospital when my breathing worsened, and to the doctor who insisted we come in. As soon as I received an oxygen tube, I began to feel slight relief. I was lucky to get to the hospital early in the crisis, and receive very attentive care.