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The Stinky Cheese Test (My COVID Odyssey)

Let's face was inevitable. Frankly, I'm surprised I dodged the Covid bullet for as long as I did. I had only been working at the long term care facility for a couple of weeks before it all went down the crapper. Before the ink was dry on my tax forms, I was part of a group of guinea pigs working on the new isolation hall. They took an empty patient room on that hall and turned it into a makeshift nursing station, Once we got on the hall for our shift, we didn't leave. Food and supplies were brought to us. Actually, it was more like a dump and run. Anything we needed was dropped off outside the "nurse's station" as we watched the delivery person sprint in the other direction. We had to leave via a separate exit. Every week, and sometimes twice a week, we were nasally assaulted to make sure no one snuck the virus into the building in their nursing bag.

This went on for over a year. It was very isolating, but we figured it out, and managed to keep the beast out of the building until that September. Ironically, the outbreak happened on a hall on the opposite side of the building, so that became the Covid unit.

I would still be there had I not injured my back, but things happen, and I realized I just couldn't do bedside nursing anymore. After an exhaustive search on Indeed (and in my soul), I found a great job as Director of Nursing for a Home Care and Skilled staffing agency. I mean, if I'm being honest, I'm better at giving orders than I am taking them. It's a great place to work, a smaller organization (which I like), with normal hours, no holidays, no weekends, and better pay!

Now, let's get one thing straight. I will never ask my staff to do something I would not be willing to do myself, and that's the TRUTH. So if there's a client who needs to be covered and none of the staff nurses are available, yours truly is not above hauling her happy ass wherever help is needed. It's not without its challenges, though. The more slack I pick up, the less I'm able to do the job I was hired to do, and the more run down I'm likely to get. Which is exactly where I found myself three weeks in, driving an hour each way to cover a client whose nurse came down with Covid. This went on for a week and a half. Come Monday, client turns up positive. She and I are both vaccinated, so she's hanging in there, no fever, no real symptoms.

I like to play it safe, though, so I keep seeing her but do the rest of my work from home and don't see any other clients. I'm feeling run down but okay, but I get tested on Tuesday just to err on the side of caution. That brings us to Wednesday morning. I woke up feeling like I had been run over by a Sara Lee truck. Thankfully, my couch opens up to a bed (albeit an odd sized one), so I hauled out the extra sheets, took the pillows and blanket off the bed, and that is where I've been parked for the last week and a half.

Ironically, the first test came back negative that evening, right about the same time I lost all sense of taste or smell. I had no issues throughout the day, but right about dinner time I realized I couldn't taste the Tootsie Roll I was eating. Since Tootsie Rolls have never set the bar for culinary excellence, I decided not to trust that. I grab some lavender body spray off the coffee table. Nothing. Then I grab the lavender lotion and slather it on my arm. Nope. Next thing you know, I've got my head stuck in the refrigerator looking for the smelliest stuff I can find. I happen to be one of those people who just loves the "stinky cheese". The stinkier the better, in this case, a container of crumbled Gorgonzola. I give it a sniff, get a little closer, sniff again, then bury my nose in there like I was going to snort it. Nothing. I picked up a few pieces and popped them in my mouth. That's when I knew. I knew I had finally come down with the 'Rona.

I got tested again the next day, and sure enough, it was positive. Even with the vaccine, this thing ain't no joke! The hacking cough is bad enough, but the fatigue and overall lack of energy kicked me in the butt! Not being able to taste or smell anything was truly bizarre. I can't imagine what my neighbors must have thought when they saw me holding a bag full of my dog's poop up to my nose. I guess you could say that was one positive, not gagging every time I pick up after the dog.

Friends kept offering to make me soup and bring it over, but I couldn't in good conscience put them to all that trouble when I wasn't going to be able to taste it. I knew I had to eat, though, but didn't have the energy to cook. Which reminds me, that's another reason it's tough living alone. I was totally isolated. Yes, I had the dog and the cat, but somehow it's just not the same. I still had to walk the dog several times a day, despite feeling like I was going to fall over every time I stood up. Friends dropped off groceries, mainly cereal and milk, but they didn't come in, and I wouldn't want them to. But it was tough, I'm not gonna lie.

So every day I got up and performed the Stinky Cheese test, smelled nothing, then laid myself on the makeshift bed in front of the tv and that's where I stayed until it was time to go to bed. The following Tuesday, I got up as usual, stuck my stuffy nose in the stinky cheese and, lo and behold, I think I might be in the early part of the beginning stages of starting to be able to smell again!

I eat my Lucky Charms, and I taste just a hint of marshmallow. Still can't smell the poop, which I'm not complaining about. By Friday, I still can't smell everything, but I can smell enough to know that the litter box is in desperate need of changing. So I figure it's time to retire my makeshift bed and restore my living room to it's previous state.

That was two days ago. Have I regretted putting everything back the way it was? Yes. SEVERAL times. I changed the sheets on my bed Friday and felt like I had just summitted Everest. I drove out to do an infusion on a client this morning, because I'm no longer contagious, and came home and had to nap for 2 hours. But life goes on, and I know it could have been much much worse. I'll be going back to the office tomorrow, and if I make it the whole day without wearing out, I'll consider it a success.

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