Addyman's CornerColumnists

A Bout with COVID-19 and Paint Chips

By John Addyman

It’s one thing to talk to yourself.

It’s quite something else to watch yourself talk to yourself.

Welcome to the world of COVID-19.

I got my shots — all of them. I couldn’t have been more boosted if I went through life in a highchair. I tried to stay away from crowds. I kept a mask in the car and often wore it. I had hand sanitizer in the car and went through several bottles. I’m a former nurse. I took all this hygiene stuff very seriously.

And yet, Mr. Covid came calling.

On a Friday, he knocked on the door in my skull at 4:34 in the morning.

Negative Covid-19 antigen test kit

I was dreaming about watching a debate. The two guys who were making arguments were me and…me. I had a pretty good seat for the conversation, lying in my bed. When the winner was clear, he turned to me and shook my hand.

And just that second, I realized I was lying in bed with my arm fully extended, shaking hands enthusiastically with myself while some other part of myself looked on.

“Whaaat?” I asked (from the bed) out loud. The other guys walked off at the sound of my voice.

Dream over.

Or so I thought.

I went to work that day and when I arrived, I noticed that the atmosphere was a funny shade of yellow. The sky was yellow. Everybody I talked to early that morning looked jaundiced. I kept checking: I didn’t have a fever. I had started coughing earlier in the week and thought I had bronchitis, saw the doctor, and got treated with antibiotics. Up until that morning, I’d felt a little better each day.

After work I got my allergy shots. I don’t remember much about that. I went home, went to bed and stayed there. I felt like someone else was using my body to test germ warfare.

Next morning, after coughing most of the night, I took my second COVID-19 test in several days. This time I was so positive the thing lit up and yelled at me. I called the doctor’s office so he could prescribe Paxlovid for me. It was a Saturday and he wasn’t in. I called his answering service who confusedly told me they had no way to contact him.


I called our local urgent care facility and told them I had tested positive and wanted to get a script for Paxlovid.

“No way, Jose,” the lady on the phone told me. “We don’t do that.”

So I went to the emergency room.

They put me in a low-pressure room when the air comes in but doesn’t go out. They took blood and much later told me it was to measure kidney function. They did their own COVID test after I showed them the one I brought from home.

And I waited seven hours.

In the emergency room, the TV screen was so small and the reception so fuzzy, I was watching a basketball game without being able to see the basketball. Try that sometime. Apparently the managers at the hospital aren’t basketball fans. Golf would have been worse.

Finally, I realized that if I did in fact have COVID-19 and if in fact they were going to prescribe Paxlovid, things would need to happen pretty fast — I knew what time my pharmacy closed and we were getting there. I rang the bell for assistance — something I really didn’t want to do. I knew they’re busy.

The doctor, who explained she was alone on the floor that day and had been busier than a long-tailed cat in a nursing home full of rocking chairs, finally came in, confirmed that I had tested positive for COVID-19 and handed me a release from work on Monday, and told me she had just called the pharmacy and I could get up and scoot out the door to pick up the medicine.

It turns out scooting wasn’t in the cards.

Bobbing and weaving were. I had flashbacks of my college roommate’s 21st birthday party in the dorm when we both drank a bottle of bourbon. I was a little unsteady, but I made it to the car and to the pharmacy. At least I think it was my car.

Once home, I got the Paxlovid down right away. I enjoyed the “evening dose” immensely. The next morning, I had gone from Mr. Covid ruling over me to that being shared with Ms. Paxlovid’s stern hand on me.

The antiviral drug was working. I was bone dry like I’d been walking in the desert and I had a really weird taste in my mouth.

“What’s it taste like?” my wife asked.

“Sometimes it’s like I’ve been chewing paint chips and others it’s like I’ve been sucking an old tire,” I told her.

Two days later, my head was clearer, I wasn’t wobbly anymore, my coughing had subsided a lot and I was feeling better. And I had a new taste in my mouth: discarded washcloth. Yummy.

Did I ever lose my sense of smell or taste? No, not so long as what I needed to smell was paint chips, old tire or stiff and grimy washcloth.

And do I appreciate the efforts of the folks at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital emergency room and the Pfizer folks who developed Paxlovid? I do indeed.

I know I was very lucky to have such a mild case — so far — of COVID. I’m glad I got all the shots and boosters. I’m grateful to my pharmacist friend, Stacey, at Wegmans for calling me to make sure I was keeping up with the vaccination protocol. Why? I am an asthmatic who is overweight and well past retirement age — I have the trifecta and lit the scoreboard up for COVID adverse effects. Yet I got away with a very light case…and a new respect for the taste of paint chips.