A Professor’s Story

Emory Stauber

On November 4th, 2020, Allison did a voluntary COVID-19 test through the MUSC on campus clinics. A few days later, she received her results. She was positive for COVID-19. Luckily, the only symptoms she was having were headache, sore throat, and some chest pain. All of these “could be related to stress or allergies”. None of these symptoms caused her alarm for her to think she had COVID-19. The most alarming part of her testing positive was the possible exposure of COVID-19 to her parents. Allison’s parents live pretty close by, so she spends a good amount of time with them.

The night before she got tested was election day. Her parents always come over for dinner on election night (for good luck purposes!), but luckily her parents tested negative after she told them about her positive result. Even all of her friends and people she has had close contact with recently tested negative. Even with contact tracing, Allison still does not know who she contracted COVID-19 from. “I seem to be one of those really random cases where I just inhaled at the wrong place, wrong time.” “I had to stop myself from thinking about getting the virus, because I already have it.” This caused some anxiety and mental stress on Allison due to her knowing she had the virus but wanting to be extra careful and not accidentally pass it on to someone else.

Since Allison is a professor, she had a unique experience of switching her in person classes to online in the middle of the semester during the spring. This was not too much of an issue for her, since she has taught online classes before. With the flexibility of her job, she could continue teaching and making money to sustain herself during the peak of the pandemic. During the fall semester, she has a hybrid class but also purely online courses that she offered to students.

Allison’s age plays a part in how she has been handling the whole pandemic. She is in her 40s, taking her out of the ‘at risk’ age group, but her parents are in that >65 at-risk age group for contracting COVID-19. She mentions that even though her parents are at high risk if they contracted COVID-19, they are more reckless than she and her friends are. Basically the roles flipped from the parents telling the kids to go inside, to the kids telling the parents to go inside. Allison’s parents also specifically talked about not wanting to be around her since she’s in the classroom sometimes but they go out to lunch with their friends on a regular basis. Her parents do wear masks and try to social distance, but they are still continuing to put themselves at risk for exposure to the virus.

With Allison’s background in medical anthropology, she spent some time talking about the parallels between this pandemic and the 1918 flu pandemic. During the 1918 flu, masks were also highly pushed to the public. Except during that time, masks were pushed with a nationalist mindset; now, masks are seen as some freedom inhibitor. Masks have been made a political statement during this current pandemic. The other issue we see with pandemics across the board is ‘other’ countries get blamed for the viruses spreading. The 1918 flu was deemed the ‘Spanish’ flu and COVID-19 was deemed the ‘China virus’.

“COVID fatigue” is why many cases are rising right now. People are just getting tired of thinking about it and want to act like it doesn’t exist anymore. Which is dangerous and why cases and deaths are rising daily in the United States. “Even if people aren’t socially minded, they want to get back to normal, so they’ll be more willing to take the vaccine.” With the vaccine being released soon, Allison said she was more than willing to take it, because she is socially minded. She would do things like be vaccinated against viruses and wear masks to protect the greater society vs just protect herself. She has knowledge about what past pandemics have done, so she would want to do all that she can to stop the spread, at least for herself. While Allison agrees that it is valid to be hesitant towards the vaccine, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Having questions surrounding the effectiveness and risks of the vaccine are good, but the conspiracy theories surrounding it are damaging to society, especially when it comes to people who are vulnerable to these conspiracy theories.

Allison’s COVID-19 story is important in that she gives a unique perspective to this pandemic. According to Frank’s discussion of illness narratives, she definitely experienced what he describes as a restitution narrative during her positive COVID-19 experience. The restitution narrative is where someone becomes sick, they get treatment, and then fully recover (Frank). Since Allison had a mild case of COVID-19, she made a full recovery with just some time spent at home resting. Everyone’s COVID-19 story is different, whether they died from COVID-19 or just know someone who had it. This pandemic has impacted all of our lives greatly and I was glad to have the time to talk to Allison about hers.

Works Cited

Frank, A. W. (2013). The wounded storyteller: Body, illness, and ethics. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.