We had been doing everything right. We don’t eat in restaurants. We order take out and eat at home. We don’t go shopping. I order food, or I go into the grocery store alone. No play dates. No hanging out with friends. We always wear a masks or two.
The girls have been in person learning since August. The school has taken terrific precautions and have a full time nurse who makes sure things are enforced and if someone has or is suspected to have Covid, they are sent home and contact tracing begins. Maggie, my tenth grader, has been sent home three times because she was considered a close contact. We had her tested three times and each time she was negative. The test is nasty. By now, most people I know have had the test multiple times, but if you haven’t…it is gross. The longest q-tip in the world scrapes deep into your nostrils. It burns a little and the sensation lasts awhile, but you get used to it. I have been tested 6 times. I had it prior to my surgeries and every time Maggie came home with it too.
Then my priest was turning 50. I decided to celebrate him all week. We had a different cake every night. Decorations were literally dripping from every surface of our home. As a treat, I booked a weekend getaway to the beach. The hotel was at half capacity. We had all of our meals with room service. We rented bikes that were zero contact. They had them outside labeled with our names. We walked the beach alone. The point is, we had no contact with people. We arrived there Friday night. In the car, on the way to the beach, my priest was coughing. He said he thought he had allergies. It was the end of January, nothing was blooming. I told him he was nuts. The rest of the weekend, he had cold like symptoms. On the drive home, I said he needed to get tested for Covid. I never really thought he had it, but it seemed irresponsible to be sick and not get checked out.
On Sunday, the rest of us felt fine. As a precaution, I made him sleep in the spare room. Basically, I shut the barn door after the cows got out. We had been together in one room and car for the whole weekend. My priest went first thing Monday morning for the rapid test. They claim the rapid test isn’t as sensitive unless you have a high viral load, well my priest had a high viral load because he called me frantically with, “I am positive. Go pick up the girls from school now.” I rushed to school and the kids were shocked. They were deeply upset because we have known so many people who have got the virus and so many people who have died. It is very real to us and very scary. I isolated everyone. We wore masks inside the house and kept 6 feet apart with the windows open. My priest stayed in the spare bedroom and didn’t leave. He cried night and day. He kept repeating, “I can’t believe I gave my family a deadly virus.” Then he spent days trying to figure out who gave it to him. He never did.
By Monday night, Maggie and I were sick. I scheduled to get us tested the next morning. The rapid test confirmed I was positive, but Maggie was negative at that time. We knew she was sick, so we just continued to treat her like she had Covid. Then the calls starting coming from the South Carolina Department of Health (DHEC). They gave me advice and rules. They suggested that Pippa should be treated as positive too and to not wear masks in the house. I told them she was healthy and we were trying to keep her that way. They wanted me to test both kids on Friday (it was Tuesday). I scheduled their appointments. Poor Pippa was completely alone. She ate alone. We wouldn’t let her near any of us. At one point, she was so sad she asked if she could stand in the shower and we could kiss each other through the glass. We did that often and then I would have to disinfect the glass.
Maggie and I started to get worse. Each one of us experienced different symptoms. This virus is not easily explained. My priest was beyond exhausted but couldn’t sleep. He had brain fog (my brother claimed I had that the day I married my priest) that has persisted now for months.
Maggie had exhaustion, dizziness, stomach upset, headaches, muscle cramps. At one point, she thought she was having a heart attack. She started sleeping with me because she was so scared she was dying. I had insomnia, headaches, tightness in my chest, shortness of breath. Overall, we all felt like garbage. Then just when we thought we were in the clear, we lost our sense of taste and smell. Gone…completely. That was awful.
The people at DHEC called daily to track our symptoms. I told them how in January of 2020, we returned from a trip to the UK and my family was sick. I told them I was diagnosed with pneumonia. I detailed having a high fever of 103 for 19 days and not being able to stand up or leave my room from exhaustion. She wanted to know more. I told her everything, including that my doctors in the spring thought I had had Covid back in January of 2020. My priest was told he had bronchitis. Pippa had a lung infection and Maggie the flu. We were all treated with antibiotics and all stayed home a few days. I was the most sick and it truly took me months to recover. By the time the antibody test came out it was almost 4 months after I had been sick. It said I had no antibodies, so I figured I didn’t have Covid. DHEC figured I did. They had been hearing anecdotally for months, before the real outbreak, of weird flu like symptoms, that were not the flu. If DHEC is right, my family got Covid twice.
I took the girls to get tested on Friday. Maggie was positive, Pippa was negative. Pippa was about to celebrate her 11th birthday completely alone. It was heartbreaking. The rest of us were still feeling sick. Maggie was scaring me. My priest and I had been put on steroids for our lungs and some antibiotics, but Maggie was on nothing. The clinic didn’t expect her to get that sick. As a parent, watching your kid suffer is a nightmare.
We all slowly started to improve. After a week or so, I could taste a little and smell a little, my priest could too. It took weeks and weeks for that to return for Maggie. She was so scared we moved a twin bed into our room. She was certain she was dying.
I get really frustrated and upset when I see or read about people who just don’t take this virus seriously. At this point, I have no idea what the long term consequences will be on the health of my family. Maggie’s joints still randomly swell, making even walking painful. This is a healthy 15 year old with NO pre-existing conditions. Yes, your child might get a mild case and then again, they might not. This is not a risk any parent should take.
I know it sucks to take all of the precautions. I know it sucks to not have social events or gatherings…but you want to know what else sucks….dying. You know what also sucks….feeling sick and scared for months. We are all being stalked by an invisible bad guy. I say do what you can to keep you and your family safe.
We have been offered the vaccine, but on the advice of our doctor we are waiting three months from when we tested positive with Covid. We don’t want our immune system to go into overdrive thinking we are sick again. I just pray all of my people are safe and vaccinated soon. I long to hug my family….this is the longest time I haven’t seen them in my whole life.