When the news of the coronavirus first hit, it’s safe to say we were all confused and unprepared—no thanks to the lack of global leadership coming from every direction. As the word of quarantine spread, that uncertainty grew and continues to do so but hearing about the virus first-hand is the best way to wrap our heads around it and understand.
My friend Henrik Tidefjärd who lives and works in Berlin; 44 years old, healthy, and thriving with his incredible company Berlinagenten, was diagnosed with the coronavirus. And yes, he survived. His story of quarantine, recovery, and the truth that it can still remain in your system is one all of us should hear. And I’m grateful to him for allowing me to share an in-depth Q+A with him.
More than it being just his story, its one that represents many of us who won’t see COVID19 coming, but the reality is: we will all have it at some point if we haven’t already, and we WILL be just fine.
Before delving into my questions, he offered a bit of insight to answer questions it seems everyone had. He was officially diagnosed more than two weeks ago.[separator type=”thin”]
HENRIK’S TIPS + INSIGHT
My reflections about having what was thankfully a harmless case.
I got a light fever, body aches and I felt very fatigued for two days. My symptoms process was mild and short.
Where did I get it?
It could be from anywhere, but most likely from my long weekend in the Alps in Ischgl where the world was coming together for skiing and partying. I was in two countries, different remote mountain regions, and one city (Zürich) which was not really on the coronavirus radar.
I felt super safe, but that was so wrong because you cant see a pandemic coming—it is all around us, and it’s invisible. When my doc called after I tested positive for COVID19, I had to review everything I had done and, when I starting listing all the places I went to, it was very clear how massive and quick CV (coronavirus) spreads! I took trains, subways, flights, visited airports, restaurants; I went skiing and lifting, went to a theatre show premiere, and business meetings once I returned to Berlin. Over the span of of 3-4 days, without knowing or feeling any symptoms, I managed to catch AND spread the CV to friends, quick encounters and business associates at meetings.
How long did it take from being infected to getting the symptom?
I can not say exactly but if I contracted the virus on a Friday or Saturday, it took approximately three days until the first sign of symptoms appeared. I woke up on Tuesday with a light fever.
How many days was I sick?
Just two days and then much like after having the flu, I was a bit knackered.
When did I do the CV check?
The day after I had signs of what I thought was the flu. My doctor told me to check because I had been exposed to lots of places and international people. I can tell you this: Do not wait if you feel even the smallest symptom because you can avoid spreading it quickly if you know your status. And follow your gut. You know when you are sick and this time, it felt a bit different because it was not a cold and it was not a real flu.
How to behave if you get it?
Just think positive and don’t panic if you get it. You will likely end up just staying home like when you have normal cold or flu.
Q + A
When did you first feel symptoms?
From day 0 to having symptoms, it was approximately 3 days.
What were your symptoms ?
My symptoms were pretty mild: fever, body aches and fatigue.
When did you get tested?
Day 0-3: NO symptoms
Day 4: First symptoms. I stayed home just to see how the symptoms developed.
Day 5: Still had symptoms so I went to do a test in the morning. Late that same evening I got the result that I was positive.
How easy was it to find somewhere to be tested for the coronavirus?
I asked my doctor what to do first on the phone and she gave me two hotline numbers where I could get more information of what to do. They didn’t answer of course or the line was busy every time I tried calling. So then I checked on where the official coronavirus test centers in my neighborhood were, but when I googled it all of the articles I came across showed that people were waiting up to 10 hours for a test. I didn’t want to stand in a line or wait in a waiting hall where people cough or where I actually could catch coronavirus before knowing if I had it!
I called my doctor to explain the situation and then she told me to come to her office, pass through the back door in order to avoid infecting healthy patients. In general it was easy, just a 15-minute walk from my home to my doctor.
How long did it take for symptoms to start going away?
My symptoms stayed approximately three days, not more, but I was a bit knackered some days like always after a light flu. I was lucky that I didn’t have more severe symptoms.
How long were you self-quarantined?
The rule in Berlin is two weeks so I stayed two weeks at home in self-isolation.
When did you realize your symptoms were gone?
You just feel or know when the symptoms are gone, you feel fit. Suddenly you’re energetic and you have energy to cook, clean, work (in my home office), etcetera.
When did you get re-tested?
I did a test on the day my quarantine ended. It took 24 hours to get the results.
Did the doctors or nurses tell you why you were still showing signs of the virus?
The test showed positive. I am still a risk. I could still be contagious—BUT as there are no tests yet on the market to test the antibodies they can’t confirm that if I am or am not infecting or spreading the virus anymore. In this case they had to order me to stay in quarantine again for another two weeks.
There is little information and research about the virus at this stage.
It is very questionable if the two weeks quarantine is enough time for eliminating the virus in your body. I stayed home 14 days and I had been symptom free approximately 11 days in my quarantine, but still I was tested positive for the virus. What does that indicate in reality? The standard rule in medicine is that you are not contagious anymore 48 hours after you’ve had your last symptom. But who knows with the coronavirus really? And that’s the unknown.
How challenging was it to go through the emotions of being diagnosed with the coronavirus?
It was not a challenge for me really to be diagnosed with coronavirus. I felt relieved because I didn’t have a hard time struggling with fever or breathing. By the time I got the first results I had already passed two days of symptoms and I thought—if if didn’t get worse than this, then coronavirus is much less painful than the flu.
Remember that the majority of people will go through an easy symptom period, best case scenario, but that’s not true for everyone. Very few will land in the hospital but yes, mostly older people (60+) and people with pre-existing illnesses will be among them. But this varies from country to country depending on the demography and many other factors are present.
What was your experience like and how is it different than the information we’re being told by government and the media?
The experience was not that horrible at all like the pictures you see in social media and on TV. You get very psychologically stressed by the visual impact of the things they’re showing in the media. They cover mostly horrible news and dramatic visuals in an effort to affect you. It’s like there’s a media war going on.
We often associate the coronavirus to death because the news of the death rate remains in your memory.
Concerning the difference to what the politicians say? I think they are under a lot of pressure but when you have coronavirus and hear them talk or even worse, listen to so-called national coronavirus experts, you shrug your shoulders because they don’t know what each individual experience is like. We all have our own story and perceptions of COVID19. Listen to your own sanity and reason and try to avoid overwhelming yourself with the news.
How many cases are in Berlin?
As of March 31st, Berlin confirmed at least 2.777 infections and 15 deaths.
Now that you know you’re still contagious, what do you do?
First of all I don’t know really if I am contagious. The second test showed positive after two weeks recovery but the question is if I am still contagious. I have no symptoms and haven’t had for almost 18 days. I have been in quarantine for over three weeks now. However, I will take my responsibility seriously and stay isolated one additional week as the health department requires me to do so (in total 4 weeks).
Are you frustrated?
I always see the best in a situation. I must admit that I felt better with the first positive result as opposed to the second but I just have to be flexible and look forward. I pretty much had a fun two weeks alone so I must create another fun two weeks. I was just frustrated when my second test proved that two weeks quarantine is probably not enough. That’s problematic because without confirming if you still have it, most people just stop the quarantine without doing any additional tests. If I would have not done the second test (the health department´s regulations don’t oblige you to test again) then I would be a free man! I did the extra test in order to find out the truth and I also wanted to take precautions in case I still had the virus so I didn’t pass it on to the people I had planned to meet post-quarantine.
How has this impacted your company?
The pandemic is an Armageddon for most of us around the globe, and I work in the luxury travel industry so my industry is completely dead for the next months for sure. The difference from the finance crisis in 2008 is that the rich people and jetsetters always travel, no matter if they lose a million dollars or not, BUT no money in the world can buy health and feeling safe. That is why the pandemic is very different from a financial crisis.
I will use this time to be creative, rethink my business strategies, and deal with internal issues you never have time to think of when you are operating normally.
How are you feeling now? Tired? Fine? Uncertain?
I am feeling good and calm. I am tired for sure because it is very tiring to not be able to walk, jog, run, dance, socialize. When you are constantly active you are less tired because you keep on moving. So far I haven’t thought too much about the future. It is too depressive. My goal is to pass this second quarantine and go from there!
Using your experience to try to better educate others, what do you want people to understand about having the virus?
– If it hits you, and it is probably gonna hit you or the people close to you sooner or later, then no need to panic if you and the friends around you are healthy and fit. It is no worse to carry or deal with the virus than a typical flu.
– Do not wait to check if you have it if you get even the smallest symptom. You can avoid spreading it quickly if you know your status. And follow your instincts. The symptoms are a weird mix and they come and go as well, and do so often. If you are sneezing and the nose is running you don’t have CV. Those symptoms are extremely rare for coronavirus.
The three most common symptoms are 1) fever 2) coughing 3) fatigue – if you have one or two of these and maybe add headache, body aches and/or diarrhea then you are more likely to have caught it.
– NO NEED TO PANIC! We are always afraid of the unknown, so was I a bit, but I passed into the unknown (diagnosed CV) and I am totally fine. Stop watching fake social media posts and false sources. Take a break from listening and watching the media and you will feel better.
What are you missing most right now?
Socializing, proximity/closeness (just a small hug), and traveling.
What has helped the most while you stay home?
It is a true challenge and a kind of therapy to learn to be physically alone. If you manage two or three weeks in isolation, you will definitely be a stronger independent person, not scared to be single or afraid of having nothing to do. You will have some breakdowns and feel sad but that will pass.
When I got the first positive result I decided if I was going to be stuck alone, I’d at least entertain myself so in order to cheer me up, I pretended that the virus was a character. I created daily activities for my invisible coronavirus being to entertain “it”. Let’s just say that she’s now the big bitch refusing to divorce me! (It’s been entertaining…)
Three weeks ago I tested positive for the coronavirus and the good news is—I’m not gonna die, but I will walk out from the quarantine with lots of new experiences, new friends (social media), new routines and hopefully be immune for a while.[separator type=”thin”]
A HUGE thank you to Henrik. I can assure you his bright spirit and candor is what makes you adore him all the more. The most important takeaway from this article is don’t live in fear of getting the virus. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to be prepared when you do get it. It’s very likely we will all get it at some point, but the majority of us will recover.
Follow your local, state, and national safety and health advisories. They will save your life and those of the lives of the people you love.[separator type=”thin”]
Final thoughts from Henrik
It is VERY Important to convey is that no one is guilty or to blame. This is a pandemic! It can happen to anyone at any time. We have the instinct to look for victims and scams, asking who passed it on to me? NO!! Don’t even think about it. This is a pandemic. People have to change their way of thinking completely and take their own responsibility to stay safe and healthy.
Traveling has the snow ball effect, due to our global mobility. As a result, the virus spreads faster than you can believe. At the same time I think we should not completely stop living, because most of us will get the CV anyway before the end of the year (before a vaccine appears). I don’t think it makes sense to put the breaks on completely and let the world stand still.
Most countries have pulled the breaks to slow down the spread, but a pandemic means it will hit up to 70% of the population (according to scientists and Mrs. Merkel). We touch so many things all the time, have so many encounters with people, but just one wrong touch and you are infected.
7.5 billion people will never be in full isolation. We tire quickly of a situation, we don’t give a fuck at the end so just take precautions and listen to the official announcements of those who know more than all of us: the scientists.
The media is the real virus because they only talk about death rates. We associate coronavirus with death rates subconsciously. Why have I not seen more reports or interviews with survivors or people who recovered quickly? People like me. I am totally fine and happy. I am even relieved that I caught it so early so I don’t have to walk around on egg shells until a vaccine appears (if it appears?!). The truth is most will survive the CV or won’t even notice they have it (depends where you live).
The western world rules the most of the global media coverage. So when the outbreak hit us in western society, we didn’t know what to do. We lived under the veil that we are untouchable thanks to access to western medicine, medical treatments and the latest technology. But this virus is something that is unknown and as a people, we feel helpless.
I am here and can calm you. NO NEED TO PANIC!
My last week of quarantine will be yet another mental challenge but I’ll get creative, and I’ll just keep doing my one-man “Fake Big Brother” show I made up. All I need is to put up a few mirrors, play different rolls and hopefully I won’t feel alone. But hey, you’re welcome to be a part of my show by reaching out to me on Instagram @berlinagenten
Stay safe all of you and lets fight the coronavirus quickly to get our normal lives back soon. The coronavirus may be knocking on our doors, just don’t live in fear of it.[separator type=”thin”]
When life is back to normal and you want to experience Berlin?
Few people can give you the cultural experience of a lifetime like Henrik Tidefjärd, owner of Berlinagarten, a tour agency specializing in unique cultural, culinary, art, and entertainment experiences.
“We are not sauerkraut,” says Tidefjärd. “That means we’re not a bland tour guide company providing you with stodgy German meals or generic low-budget programs. If you’re looking for a traditional tour or a standard itinerary, then you’re in the wrong place. Authentic Berlin lives in dark alleyways, hidden courtyards, along canals, in graffiti-covered buildings, open-all-weekend clubs, hidden bars and dining rooms, in artist and designer studios, which are spread out all over culturally diverse neighborhoods … you’ve just got to know where to find them! That’s where we come in.”
- Urban Architecture
- Urban Insider
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- Berlin by Night
- Start-Up: Meet the creators
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Book a tour with Henrik, and you’ll always remember the beautiful and often undiscovered underbelly of Berlin.