The encore no one asked for

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Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the airport, it isn’t. My husband Tom went on a quick business trip to New York last month, and instead of bringing back one of those “I heart NY” t-shirts, he brought back Covid.

Thankfully, my immune system said “Been there, done that. I’ll pass.” But his was not so lucky. It surprised me because I thought he was one of those people who had an invisible bubble of protection around him. Thanks in large part to two vaccines and two boosters, he’d managed to dodge the virus for more than two years. Back in January when I, our daughter, and my mom got it, Tom cooked our eggs and brought us tissues, Advil and ginger ale. We figured if that deluge of household germs didn’t get him then, perhaps he just wasn’t going to get it at all.

But the newest twist on the Omicron variant had other ideas. And truth be told, Tom got overly confident about his lucky streak. After he returned home from New York and the sneezing and headache began, he knew what had gone wrong. He remembered watching throngs of people surge through the airport. And he’d heard a guy on his flight with a dry, nagging cough. The thought had gone through his head: “I should probably be wearing a mask.” But he didn’t because, well, he just didn’t. Like so many of us, he was ready for this whole thing to be over.

At the first sign of trouble, he insisted it was just allergies, which is what 99 percent of people with Covid try to tell ourselves in the beginning. I did it, too. But allergies don’t usually involve covid home testsbody aches and chills, so Tom took a home test. The first one was negative, but when he woke up the next morning feeling worse, he drove himself to a walk-in clinic for another test, which was positive.

We prepared yet another quarantine bedroom and put him in it. He was fortunate because his symptoms never got too severe. No hospitalization necessary. By the 4th day, he was mostly feeling better but still testing positive.

He kept testing positive for 12 days, which meant he spent a lot of time alone fighting the Covid boredom that comes with the territory. One night we watched TV together via speakerphone from two different rooms, just to keep him company.

After nearly two weeks, he tested negative. Oh, happy day! We ventured back into the world to celebrate. We ate at our favorite spots. We shopped. We watched Tom Cruise fly fighter jets at the movies. The freedom was glorious.

But then three days later, Tom woke up with symptoms – again. Those symptoms felt way too familiar, so he took yet another Covid home test and it was quickly and prominently positive. Our doctor said it was a case of “rebound Covid,” which can sometimes happen after you’ve been treated with anti-viral medication.

The same type of relapse recently happened to comedians Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel, who also had Covid twice within a matter of weeks. I told Tom his misery had celebrity company, but he wasn’t impressed. He just wanted the virus to vamoose. It was the encore nobody asked for.

The good news is that his Covid rebound lasted only three additional days before he felt better and tested negative again. We’re hoping this time his recovery sticks. Because as far as sequels go, the Top Gun movie is a winner, but two-time Covid is definitely two thumbs down.

Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click hereTo check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

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