This Is What It Feels Like To Be A Breakthrough COVID Case

I am vaccinated and got COVID-19.

As I sit here in a hotel room, I am left with many confusing and bewildering thoughts. Admittedly, I never thought this would happen—testing positive for COVID. Even at its onset, I thought it was an overblown media thing to “tighten the reins” on society. I guess a little of the conspiracy theory thinking in me was about not wanting to believe a virus could shut down the world. But compared to most, I put myself out there and resumed everyday life. Although schools shut down and my job as a teacher went virtual, I still went out regularly. I worked almost daily with personal training clients. Honestly, I did my best to keep social distancing, keep my hands clean, and take precautions. My greatest worry was that I would somehow bring it back to my wife and two children.

I know contracting a virus has nothing to do with luck or destiny. It is not personal, and most likely, by percentage, I put myself in a position to “catch” the coronavirus. I work with many people as a teacher, high school sports coach, and personal trainer.

After becoming vaccinated, I became a bit cavalier, as most people did. I stopped wearing a mask. I no longer worried about social distancing. My hands went back to being as dirty as they were before COVID. Life returned to normal. In a lot of ways, I felt like I dodged a bullet. Fortunately, some of the risks I took during the pre-vaccination stage of COVID-19 didn’t affect me.

How did I test positive while being vaccinated? I am not an idiot, nor am I overly versed in up-to-date media. By choice, I don’t peruse Facebook or Instagram too much. Instead, I look daily but in short spurts, mainly to see what is up with friends or specific topics like exercise and fitness.

After being exposed to an unvaccinated person who tested positive, at the urging of my wife, I went and got a rapid COVID test. Although I demonstrated symptoms, I only got tested to appease her concerns. I spent the previous six or seven days busy, in the 90+ heat for many hours of the day, very active, and had a few nights of poor sleep. Par for the course—you beat yourself down and there is a consequence. I figured I was feeling the effects of the previous week (really, the last six weeks). The entire summer has been filled with training clients and traveling around the east coast for club lacrosse tournaments. One thing to the next. I was getting up before 5 a.m. to train clients and outside most of the day in the Maryland humidity—it makes sense that I contracted COVID. I weakened my immune system to the point that the bastard just walked right into an open door.

I sat waiting in the office of the urgent care facility in my small town south of Annapolis, Maryland. A few minutes prior, a nurse shoved cotton sticks up my nose. It was far from pleasant, but it’s what needed to be done. It wasn’t my first test. I have had few since March of 2020. A couple of scares. People that I worked with were exposed to the virus. When I got my first test, I was scared shitless. Scared to tell my wife that I tested positive. Worried about looking like a social pariah. I put myself out there with little concern for the repercussions. “Negative!” Thank god!

I was tested again a couple of months later. Unlike the first time of having no symptoms, this time I was symptomatic. My stomach was torn up. I had diarrhea. Again, negative! Then I got my second Pfizer vaccination in March. As a result, my fears of COVID and passing it to my family went away. “I’m good!” I thought. “I can do what I want. I am safe.” A slight exaggeration, but generally how I felt.

The doctor came in and looked at me. He asked questions. “How have you been feeling? What are your symptoms? Did you come in contact with anyone who tested positive? You know, the vaccination is not 100%.”

My relaxed demeanor quickly changed to annoyance. “Okay, Doc, I am not a kid. Just tell me if I am negative or positive.” I felt like I was in the principal’s office being grilled for spending a few minutes longer in the bathroom than I should have. I was confident I was negative. I had brief concerns that I was positive, but it was more of a devil’s advocate type of thing.

“You tested positive for COVID,” the doctor said.

“Wait! What? How accurate is the rapid test?”

He explained that symptomatic rapid tests have over a 90% accuracy and proceeded to spit out facts and CDC stuff that I barely paid attention to.

“I want to get a PCR,” I said. I wasn’t arrogant. I was frustrated and really, still, didn’t believe it. That I tested positive after being vaccinated did not seem right. It had to be a mistake.

I walked out of the urgent care facility. My mind spun in circles. All the people I now had to let know that I tested positive for COVID. This wasn’t a few people. It was a lot. Many adults and even more children and teenagers that I trained and coached. My heart sank.

Fortunately, everyone I contacted was very kind and understanding. That doesn’t mean a person or two didn’t “F-bomb” me to their spouse or friends. I am sure they did. But it wasn’t as bad as I made it out in my mind. However, the ones I feared telling most were my wife and children. Did I expose them? What if my daughter has to sit out of field hockey, or my son can’t try out for a club lacrosse team because they are positive? Damn it, Kristel is going to be so pissed!

No one was home when I got home. I waited to tell them last, and now they all were out with friends doing fun things. At that point, my rationale was, “if they are positive, it’s too late. Might as well wait to tell them.” A pretty immature standpoint, I admit. I felt terrible and didn’t want to face the reality that I may have infected my entire family.

As expected, no one was happy when I dropped the bomb. I slept downstairs with a mask. In the morning, my wife and two children tried to get a rapid and PCR test. Nothing was available until the afternoon. They were all asymptomatic. But once you put the “bug” in someone’s ear that they may be infected, the mind starts running on the hamster wheel. “Is my throat sore? Do I have a headache? Does my body ache?” For most of that day, I stayed outside, as far away from my wife and kids as possible. It was 90 degrees and humid. Each time I walked inside for a reprieve, I was met with scornful looks from my wife. “Do you have two masks on? Why are you in here again?” All three got tested in the afternoon. All negative.

A sigh of relief was breathed by each of them. Mainly me. The PCR test will determine if they are out of the woods completely, but at that point, at least their anger towards me subsided and turned to pity. “Poor dad has COVID. That sucks. Glad it’s not me!” Okay, I made up the last one, but I’m pretty sure that is how they felt. They all came back with more pep in their step. For me, that meant I had to figure out how to exist and not infect anyone else. The next logical step was to leave the house. That is where I am as we speak—in a hotel room, writing about testing positive for COVID-19. Did I tell you I am vaccinated?

I have oscillated between being angry, feeling sorry for myself, and being somewhat relieved that I didn’t pass it on to anyone else. The CDC says if you get COVID when you are vaccinated, your symptoms are more minor. I don’t know the truth of it because I never—as far as I know—had COVID before. But I will say that they aren’t bad for me, at least. Similar to a common cold or minor flu. I am stuffy, a little tired, and my head feels like a sinus infection—foggy without clarity in my thinking. Before COVID, I would continue on my day feeling the way I do. I would be cautious not to spread to others but wouldn’t allow the “sniffles” to affect my day. Shit has changed. Maybe social pariah is extreme, but the past 18 months have made us very cautious and vigilant. As quick as that happened, normalcy returned. No more masks! No restricted social gatherings! And yet, I am quarantining in a hotel, wondering why the hell I tested positive.

I am one of 100,000+ vaccinated citizens in the U.S. that have been labeled “breakthroughs.” So, I am kind of a unicorn. Ha! .08% of vaccinated Americans have contracted COVID. I am doing my best to find the humor in that. 99% of the people vaccinated have remained free of the virus while going maskless, ignoring social distancing protocols, and have generally walked around like it doesn’t exist. I feel like the gag is on me. Or maybe it is karma for the many months that I gingerly walked the tightrope while others followed CDC and Federal Government guidelines.

My PCR test came back positive. I now wait out the 10 days needed to be non-contagious. I guess the good thing is that I have decided to be an informed citizen. I have read more about COVID in the last five days than I did the previous year. I know new strands are spawning that will continue to wreak havoc on our lifestyle. Alpha, beta, and the more recent, more contagious delta variant. The political division amongst the democrats and the republicans is getting wider. Positive tests are on the rise. Schools in Maryland are ordering students to return to school in masks. The past few months have been a teaser. Wishful thinking. More so, all of us hoped COVID was nearly behind us. For the time being, it appears the virus is here to stay.

About the author
I have a strong need to constantly push myself and I like a naps. Follow John on Instagram or read more articles from John on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related