Does she, or doesn't she?

Anyone over 50 will recall the answer to this question from a commercial for hair dye: “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

My hair hasn’t seen dye for several decades; it is a question that is currently in the forefront of my mind. Here is my cautionary tale of a “near-COVID experience.”

Did I have COVID-19, or didn’t I? Mask wearing, hand washing and sanitizing little old me was surprised at the symptoms experienced.

Let me preface my remarks with this gem of truth: “I ain’t skeered o’ nothin’.” Truly, I’m not.

From the get-go, I have been cautious and determined not to get hit by the virus. Too many underlying health issues and age place me firmly in the high-risk category. About a month ago, feeling pretty overwhelmed and exhausted from life itself, allergy season hit hard, with the full brunt of its force. Never have seasonal allergies affected me, or so many acquaintances, so badly as 2021. Many folks who have never been bothered got hit with a pretty good dose of the common symptoms.

Of course, like everything else, I have an opinion about that. Personally, I believe all the mask wearing has weakened immune systems — but that’s an entirely different conversation. Please remember these are my opinions. There is no need to agree or disagree. Simply allow me to express mine, as I allow you the same courtesy.

On top of the usual allergic symptoms, one side of my neck and face became swollen and tender from inflamed and sensitive lymph nodes. Lack of energy and motivation increased. A moderate headache never went away — typical for allergy season, right?

The next thing I knew, I couldn’t smell anything. Not even the dog poop that accidentally got smeared all over my pant leg! Muttering during cleanup, it dawned on me that I hadn’t smelled anything for nearly a week — no food, laundry, air freshener, wet dog — nothing.

If that didn’t signal something awry, my appetite decreased — obviously, it requires something dire to result in that symptom.

Stunned, I pondered the events of the past week and realized that I could taste salt and acidic foods, but that was about it. Hmm. The clues were mounting.

Since a routine followup with my primary care physician was only a couple of days away, I grew anxious to see her.

She confessed she and her family had COVID-19 earlier. Her symptoms, with the exception of the swollen glands, were identical to mine. We are both blood Type O, so that helped verify that those were not as susceptible to the effects of the virus as other blood types are. Also, more than 30 years of taking vitamin D3 daily created another deterrent.

There was no point in testing for the virus because only a negative result would be found that far into the illness. There was no danger of contagion at that point, either. Instead, we waited a couple more weeks to test for antibodies, which should show up in that time frame.

Imagine my surprise when that test was negative. There were no antibodies in my blood samples. Hmmm. Things became curiouser and curiouser.

My comment to the nurse was, “Well, I guess I didn’t have COVID after all.”

Her reply was “Not necessarily. Most people’s immune systems create antibodies.”

What did that mean? There are some folks whose immune system doesn’t create them? Apparently, it’s not impossible. My immune system is compromised so now my thinker is working overtime to figure this out.

Did I, or did I not have COVID? A lack of antibodies typically indicates I had not had it; yet, I still cannot smell, have an altered sense of taste and not much appetite. My lymph nodes are almost back to normal.

There are still masks to be worn, and continued hand-washing and sanitizing are in my future.

Another thought from early on in the pandemic is that in December 2019, just before the virus was found here, I was really sick with a respiratory-type illness. It was not the flu, but much worse than the typical bout with bronchitis and sinusitis that is my annual gift.

Could I have had COVID at that early date? They didn’t even have a test for antibodies then, and even if they did, we were told they were only present for about three months.

I’ve always loved a good mystery, and it will gnaw at me until a hopeful resolution. So. Did I or didn’t I?

If only her hairdresser knows for sure, I may have been barking up the wrong tree this whole time. Now, what did I do with her number?

— A coal miner’s daughter born in Appalachia and schooled in Michigan, she currently lives in rural Athens. Hill describes herself as a cook and cookbook author, jack of all trades and master of none, a Christian wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She shares her home with her husband, Bob, and their spoiled-beyond-belief dog, Molly.

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