CHICAGO -- After returning home to Chicago from a ski trip to Austria on March 9, Todd Favakeh felt terrible.
What seemed like the worst cold of his life wiped him out: His head was so congested it felt like a bowling ball; his ears ached and his throat was killing him; he had to lie down every hour.
He asked for a coronavirus test at a NorthShore University HealthSystem urgent care center, but since he initially did not know he had been exposed to the virus, he was denied. Only after a Norwegian skiing companion sent an alert that he had tested positive for the virus was Favakeh allowed to get the test.
Medical workers wearing protective suits stuck a swab into Favakeh's throat, and jammed other swabs uncomfortably far up both nostrils to take the samples. They told him to isolate himself at home while he waited for results, which came three days later: He had the virus.
So Favakeh joined the thousands people worldwide who've been diagnosed with the virus. The disease, COVID-19, has been blamed for thousands of deaths -- but most people, like Favakeh, get a sometimes nasty but manageable sickness.
"The last week and a half have been kind of hell," Favakeh said. "I was totally exhausted. I feel mentally and physically drained."
Doctors told Favakeh to stay home, stay away from others, use Tylenol, Mucinex and VapoRub, drink tea and gargle salt water. There was no cure, just some drug store and home remedies to treat the symptoms.
Favakeh was told he would only be admitted to a hospital if the disease severely restricted his ability to breathe. He was so congested that sometimes he woke up at night choking briefly, which frightened him, though he admits he may have been a little paranoid from the worldwide pandemic and nonstop news reports.
"It's scary as hell while you're in it," he said. "There's nothing you can do but grind it out, unfortunately."
Family and friends dropped off food and supplies for him on the porch of his home in the Irving Park neighborhood. They were careful not to touch his door handle or go near him.
He finally started feeling better Thursday and Friday, so hoped he was turning the corner.
"You quickly realize what's important in life," he said. "It's very true, there's nothing more important than your family and loved ones, and it's taken this to help me realize that."
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