It started with a slightly scratchy throat after my typical Saturday morning of playing tennis.
Surely, I thought, this is just a minor cold. No need to worry about our upcoming trip to Tucson, Arizona, for a Cobler family reunion at Christmas.
When some congestion set in Sunday afternoon, I began to worry. The news was filled with stories about how fast the omicron variant was sweeping the country.
Fully vaccinated and boosted with Moderna, had I become too confident about avoiding COVID-19? Paula picked up a couple of home tests from Walgreens, and I took the first one Sunday night.
Out of an abundance of caution, as we say too often these days, I worked from home Monday and informed the Fort Worth Report staff. Later that day, I started to feel a little chilled, but I told myself that I’ve worked through much worse colds in the pre-pandemic past.
Monday night, I took the second home test.
What? Paula and I were supposed to fly Thursday night to see my elderly parents, my brother and two sisters, and most all the siblings’ children.
My attentive primary care physician called me back that same night and said he’d refer me to the Regional Infusion Center in Fort Worth for monoclonal antibody treatment. Fort Worth Report health reporter Alexis Allison wrote a brilliant explainer about the infusion center after the state opened it in August.
Another test Tuesday, this time at the Walgreens drive-thru, confirmed the positive test. By 4 p.m. that day, I was at the infusion center at 815 8th Ave. being helped by efficient and thoughtful health care workers. The infusions, if received early in the life of the virus, can decrease the likelihood of severe illness or death, the nurse told our assembled group.
The treatment normally costs $1,600, but the state of Texas is completely covering the expense, she said. “We can’t advertise, so you’re all our advertisement,” she said. “Tell your friends.”
The center requires a doctor’s referral, so contact a physician immediately if you test positive. The treatment is given only in the first several days after showing symptoms.
My doctor and the health care workers said they were seeing a lot of breakthrough cases in vaccinated patients because of the omicron variant spreading at a frightening rate. However, my doctor assured me, the odds of serious illness were “minuscule” because of the Moderna vaccine I had received.
The nurse told our group that the infusion treatments can make patients feel better within 24-48 hours. And, even better, if we’re symptom-free and receive a negative test in 72 hours, we can leave quarantine then, she said.
I stopped on that comment. Really? I asked her to say it all again. Yes, she said, it’s possible you could leave quarantine on Christmas Eve.
Happily, I followed the nurse to the infusion room, where I thanked Braden, a friendly EMT from Houston, who inserted the IV into my right hand. He told me almost everyone there was a contract worker brought in from around the state, working long hours to help as many people as possible.
I thanked him again and then the nurse who started my IV and monitored us during the 30-minute process and during a 45-minute observation afterward to make sure we didn’t have an allergic reaction. I felt no pain or discomfort.
While I waited, Paula texted me that her home test was negative. We had started quarantining from each other immediately after my first positive test, and somehow she’s symptom-free so far.
My Christmas wish is that she and the Fort Worth Report staff stay COVID-free. Since my positive result, the staff also has worked remotely and been tested. So far, all negative.
I don’t know if I’ll see the rest of my family for Christmas, but I’m grateful for their health and mine. The infusion I received might not work as well against the omicron variant as previous strains, according to The New York Times article I read while getting my treatment. Nonetheless, I’m impressed by the advances we’ve made since the pandemic began.
We’re all sick of the pandemic by now, but let’s make it a healthy and happy Christmas for everyone. Although the omicron variant is this year’s Grinch, I plan to listen to the singing of Cindy-Lou Who once more:
Welcome, Christmas! Fah who rahmus!
Welcome, Christmas! Dah who dahmus!
Christmas Day will always be!
Just as long as we have we!
Chris Cobler is the CEO and publisher of the Fort Worth Report. He may be reached at email@example.com.