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To say I took more than a passing interest in Manitoba’s daily COVID-19 report on Sunday would be a gigantic understatement.

Thirty-six new members of the pandemic club were revealed that day — I was one of them.

After receiving what has since been identified as a false-negative result precisely a week earlier, a second test last Wednesday, deemed necessary after the onset of a medley of miserable symptoms, came back positive. News of the diagnosis from a public health nurse Sunday morning literally doubled me over, despite only minutes before feeling like I was back to about 75 per cent after being felled by a "bug" for the better part of four days.

The soft, compassionate voice on the other end of the phone asked me to repeat back to her what I’d just been told, and I did. Then, she apologized for having to be the bearer of bad news, explained that another nurse would call to begin contact tracing (alerting people I might have exposed to the coronavirus) and expressed remorse one final time about my illness.

Hanging up, I yelled up to my wife, Allyson, and shared the startling information. Since our second nasal swab Sept. 30, she’s been living with the dog on the main floor, while I’ve been relegated to the finished basement. I get my meals delivered to the top of the stairs and sit on the deck alone a few times a day.

Jason Bell learned he tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES

Jason Bell learned he tested positive for the coronavirus on Sunday.

On Monday, Allyson was advised she, too, is positive, as was our strong suspicion. She continues to experience a burning sensation in her sinuses, a loss of her sense of smell and has been uncharacteristically lethargic.

We’ve quarantined from the rest of the world, including our two grown children and our aging parents, since that first test Sept. 24 — split between our cabin in the woods in eastern Manitoba and our home in East Kildonan — and will continue living in isolation until the coming Thanksgiving weekend.

Once our quarantine period is over and we rejoin civilization, we’ll continue to mask in public as we've done since early in the summer.

I would describe my physical fitness level as low and my current appearance as Trump-like (look what happened to him!), but with better hair. And I’m bald.

At the worst of it last week, I had a persistent, hacking cough, extreme body aches, sinus congestion and a slight fever.

News of the diagnosis from a public health nurse Sunday morning literally doubled me over, despite only minutes before feeling like I was back to about 75 per cent after being felled by a "bug" for the better part of four days.

Strong and resilient, Allyson eluded the symptoms that had bulldozed me, leaving me incapable of suffering in silence as anyone of the male species will surely understand. Thankfully, she is the far superior physical specimen. When we bike together, for instance, I usually release her from the shackles of my plodding pace after 15 minutes and she bursts ahead, completes the duration of the trek and then rejoins me for what I ensure is a leisurely ride home.

Our first COVID-19 test was administered at the Pine Falls drive-thru site. We were the second vehicle in line and received service with a smile — a long Q-tip poked deep into our nasal cavities — before being waved on our way. The second "brain tickler" was done at the Selkirk drive-thru site after three frustrating hours in a lineup of vehicles along the shoulder.

Days later, the aggravation of two-hour wait times during a couple of calls to Manitoba Health Links for results was all but forgotten once the word "positive" went in one ear and took root without moving to the other.

There’s no need to go into the details of how the virus was contracted, other than to say it was a combination of a rare lapse in judgment and some bad luck amid the very best of intentions. Basically, a long-overdue Sunday supper with close friends in late September came with a regrettable side dish.

There will come a time when we will all laugh about it. But we’re not there, yet.

After getting my results, I went on Twitter and looked at the day’s numbers, including the sombre addition of one death to the provincial count, raising it to 23. The man from the Winnipeg area was in his 50s.

Jason and his wife quarantined from the rest of the world since a test Sept. 24

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / FREE PRESS FILES

Jason and his wife quarantined from the rest of the world since a test Sept. 24

As determined as I am to ignore my advancing age, that pesky driver’s licence in my wallet substantiates the fact a 55th birthday is just around the corner. Chronically aching knees, the ease with which I nod off in front of the TV most evenings and a startling abundance of hair sprouting from my ears only reinforce what I know to be true.

That man’s passing was certainly no more or less tragic than the other lives lost to this invisible enemy. But learning about it on the very day of my own revelation caused a visceral response, a mixture of deep sadness, unnerving fear, immense gratitude (neither my parents nor my kids were compromised) and a resolve to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

I, like my Free Press co-workers, have been writing about coronavirus for months, in my case sharing stories of athletes whose lives have been disrupted during the pandemic. Olympic dreams postponed, championships cancelled, entire seasons erased.

Most memorably, I spoke with two NHLers, Ottawa Senators forward and Roblin product Jayce Hawryluk (a one-on-one interview) and Winnipeg defenceman Anthony Bitetto (media availability during the Jets' pre-playoff training camp) about their seemingly inconceivable diagnoses.

Both fellows mentioned the jarring impact of being stricken with the same virus — albeit in its tempered form — that continues to claim thousands of lives each day around the world.

A sobering sentiment, indeed, but one I now understand.

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

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