By Hala Mazin, MD
It was life as usual for me as a PGY-5 radiology resident living out my favorite residency year! I biked to work on Monday August 16 like I have been doing this whole summer. I got to work sneezing with mild congestion, which was nothing peculiar; after all, I biked by the lake and assumed it was environmental allergies. I also had a mild mid-day headache, which again was not unusual for me.
On Tuesday, I decided to drive to work because I felt too tired to bike, and I again had a runny nose and congestion, which was strange considering I had not been outside. Not long after, I started to feel very tired and my allergy symptoms were increasing, despite taking medication. This is when my red flag went up, and I ran to CVS to grab an at-home test. The test normally takes about 15 minutes to develop. Mine was ready within seconds after the probe touched the developer. I was more positive than the control line; something I did not know was possible. I immediately started to panic, ran out of the bathroom, grabbed my backpack, and drove home. I was scared, of course, but also disappointed because it meant I wouldn’t be able to participate in my best friend’s wedding. At-home tests are reportedly 86% accurate and even more so if you are symptomatic, but I still got a PCR test to double-check. To no one’s surprise, it was positive, so I started my 10-day quarantine.
The next few days, my symptoms included headaches, fatigue that varied in severity, and moderate to severe congestion. At one point, I tried an at-home yoga workout, but it caused shortness of breath, so I gave up on that very quickly. Unfortunately, I did not lose my taste or smell, and all I was doing was ordering delivery from my favorite restaurants and being a couch potato to pass the time.
“How did you get it?” “I thought you were vaccinated!?” “Were you wearing a mask?” were usually the first questions my friends and family asked. Yes, I am vaccinated. Yes, I wear a mask everywhere. I had no idea how and where I could have contracted it. In addition to the Delta variant being extremely contagious, my vaccination was pushing the eight month mark, which we now know is when it goes down to 66% in effectiveness, both of which could have played a role in my breakout infection.
I consider myself lucky, and I owe it all to being vaccinated. Even without the data we have, my personal experience tells me the vaccine is undeniably effective! Sure, you may still contract the virus like I did, but you might save yourself a visit to the hospital. I understand the hesitation early on when the vaccine was introduced in 2020, but with recent FDA approval, endless data showing its effectiveness, and booster shots coming along this month, it is hard for me to watch those who still refuse the vaccine.
I am a 31-year-old vaccinated woman with no relevant medical history who worked out every day and I still contracted COVID. I still have some people tell me my mild symptoms are likely due to a great immune system and being healthy rather than being vaccinated, but guess what? There are healthy unvaccinated people with abs I can only dream of in the ICU fighting for their lives today. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that COVID-19 does not discriminate. So, get vaccinated. Keep wearing your masks. Protect yourself and those around you.
Hala Mazin, MD, is a radiology resident at Advocate Illinois Masonic in Chicago and president of the Chicago Radiological Society Resident/Fellow Section. Her interests in radiology include breast imaging, diversity and inclusion, and mentorship. When she’s not in the reading room, you can find her eating her way through Chicago, then quickly regretting the decision. You can chat with Dr. Mazin on Twitter.