Matt King poses for a picture at a gas station in New Mexico, taken on the way home from his grandfather's funeral in Mississippi.

Hello there. My name is Matt King. I’m 19 years old, and I have COVID-19.

I’ve been writing about music and the arts for the Independent for a year and a half now, but this piece is not about either of those topics. Instead, it’s about how I managed to get this terrible disease, despite an excess of caution.

Here’s how it all started … I think: My grandfather passed away shortly after my 19th birthday, and I was left with one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever faced: Should I travel to Mississippi for his services, despite the pandemic?

I chose to go. My brother and I decided we would feel safer driving rather than enduring the compressed-air experience of flying—but it’s a long way from Coachella to Mississippi, so the funeral trip turned into a weeklong excursion. From mountains to miles of sand, from heat to snow, from six hours of driving through Texas to another six hours of driving through Texas, my brother and I saw it all—and we made sure we sanitized every bathroom, hotel room and gas pump we stopped at along the way. It was a great trip for my brother and me, and was certainly one of the highlights of my 2020.

The funeral allowed me to say goodbye to my grandfather, who showed me nothing but love and compassion throughout my life. My mask was on constantly—but I can’t say the same about others there. I kept my distance and then some, and I tried to be both respectful and sanitary. It was nice to see family members I had not seen a while—while remaining socially distant.

My brother and I made it home a few days after the funeral, and all seemed well. My entire family got tested the day after we got back—all quarantining at home until we got our negative results—before returning to what passes for the “normal” world now.

On Friday the 13th, I went to work; I took my girlfriend to work; I went back to work; and I ran some errands that night. It was on the way home from those errands that my throat began hurting. After I got home, my sinuses and head started throbbing. I hoped it all was just a result of having a busy day after two chill days, which came after a stressful week. I took some medicine and went to bed.

The next morning, Saturday the 14th, I felt awful. I had a fever, and weird dreams woke me up all night. I felt really weak; everything I did, even turning my head, was painful. I texted back and forth with my girlfriend, and she suggested I get tested again. I managed to book an appointment for a test in Indio just 30 minutes later.

It’s hard to function when you have a fever. The streets of Indio were like a maze, and I’m surprised I made it to the testing center. I must have turned the air conditioner on and off about 10 times while waiting in line. This was my fourth COVID test—the first came after a potential exposure at work, while the second was just out of curiosity—and I soon learned that COVID tests suck so much more when you are sick. As the nurse stuck the swab in my nose, she told me to breathe through my mouth. That was easier said than done.

Another quarantine period began. While I was concerned, I really thought there was a good chance this was “just” the flu. After all, I’ve been taking this thing very seriously. I have asthma, a condition that makes people more susceptible to COVID-19, and I have been taking every precaution necessary while working, shopping, etc. I owe it to myself and to my family to keep myself safe. I also have seen the unpredictable nature of this virus—how it can turn the healthy into the dead.

I woke up on Tuesday the 17th, still feeling terrible, to an email with my results: I had tested positive for COVID-19. I printed them out via Bluetooth, so my mom, in the other room, would see them.

In the week since, it’s been all masks, all the time, with her or other family members. They all got tested again, and so far, all the results have been negative. Everyone has continued feeling well, other than my dad, who has felt a little unwell at times, although it’s been nothing serious. My mother has been such a saint: She has cleaned every surface I’ve touched while risking her own well-being to check up on me, bring me medicine and food, and make sure I’m not going insane while being stuck in my room.

The most baffling thing to me, although I am grateful for it, is the fact that my brother has continued to be healthy and test negative. We were together for our entire trip; we had our masks on and off at the same time—and I got it, but he apparently didn’t. Yet another mystery of the virus.

I am also grateful for the fact that Alyssa, my girlfriend, has continued to be healthy and test negative, after that car ride together just before I started feeling sick.

Thankfully, I have so far retained my sense of smell and taste. However, my other symptoms have been dreadful and shitty—a revolving door of sickness. I am weak and constantly out of breath. Anytime I get up for more than a few minutes, I feel as if I’ve just ran a mile. One day, I will have a headache; the next day, my sinuses will ache. As I’m writing this, I’ve been coughing like a smoker all day. Everything just hurts. However, the worst feeling comes from knowing that at any moment, I could pass this onto a family member. Sure, we’re all taking precautions, but precautions didn’t keep me from getting sick.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about how this pandemic may spark an artistic renaissance. Well, despite not feeling well, I’ve been able to create a lot of music and art, and do a lot of work, while confined to my room all day. (Just don’t try to sing with COVID … that was a really bad idea.)

I’ve learned a lot, too. My doctor told me that my first test after my trip was taken too quickly—because it can take up to two weeks, or even longer, after exposure to the coronavirus for symptoms to show up.

Many people have misconceptions about this virus—including one that people my age aren’t at risk. I am here to tell you that’s wrong. I did everything right, and yet I haven’t been out of bed for more than 15 minutes at a time in more than a week.

Please wear your mask. I have no idea how I contracted the virus, but I do know one thing: Masks help.

Thank you to everyone who has checked up on me, cared for me, and loved me during this time. I love you so much, Mom; thank you for all that you do, and all that you continue to do for me. Thank you, Alyssa, for keeping me company over the phone, and playing video games with me online. I love you a lot, and I can’t wait to see you again. A special thanks to my editor, who has checked in every day, and has recommended some things to help me get through this time—like writing this article. I hold my family, friends and my girlfriend very close to my heart. I can’t wait to get through this and get back to life again.

Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...

2 replies on “Pandemic Stories: Hi. My Name Is Matt. I’m 19—and COVID Is Kicking My Ass”

  1. Thank you Matt for writing this; I absolutely do not want to be a statistic and this hits home I plan to have thanksgiving ( a racist holiday anyway) with my partner and nobody else!

    I say racist because the native Americans helped the pilgrims to celebrate with food the pilgrims did NOT have nor knew how to grow.
    Thad DeGroot

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