It started as a cough. At first, we thought nothing of it except that it was our 15-year old son’s normal fall cold. He gets a bad cold every single year and it always starts with a cough and then a stuffy nose. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that this cold was about a month earlier.

Besides the cough, our son was fine and continued to get up to do his online school. Over the weekend, we hosted our usual small “bubble” of friends at our house, one of my daughter’s friends and our neighbor, the small group who we have been hanging out with since the pandemic began. We told them about Max’s cough but honestly thought nothing of it. We live in a city of a million people and out of everyone we knew, only one person in our circle of friends had tested positive for COVID. It still felt like something we only read about every day in the newspaper but that hadn’t truly reached us.

Like most of my family and friends, we have spent the past eight months following all the Covid rules and living a pretty boring, isolated life. We wear masks everywhere (thankfully it is a state mandate), my husband works from home, we don’t go out to eat indoors at a restaurant, have not flown anywhere, don’t go to the gym or do anything considered risky. We have hardly socialized with friends except for outside, socially distanced. Since March, we have basically lived a very sheltered, limited life and have only allowed our small bubble inside our home. The only risk we took was allowing both of our teenage kids to play outdoor sports. I had felt as a parent that so much has been taken away from them, and sports was the one thing they had left. The risk was small since they were outdoors but it was there.

Despite all the precautions we took, somehow Covid made it to our house, and when I got the call from our doctor that my son tested positive, I was completely shocked and terrified.

We were so sure that it wasn’t COVID that we almost didn’t get him tested. We knew no one in our community who had Covid (except one), no one at my son’s school, no friends in Minneapolis or even in the US. Covid was something we only read about in the news. But somehow, my son got the virus and to this day we will never be exactly sure how he got it. Our only guess is sports. 

After the initial shock set in, I went into panic mode as I began to frantically call my “bubble” of friends and my family to tell them the frightening news. My son wasn’t that sick but my fear was the rest of us in the family would get sick. We knew that we had to all get tested as soon as we could however I soon discovered what a nightmare getting tested was. And this was well before our numbers moved from roughly 1,500 cases a day to almost 6,000 positive cases a day just last week in my home state of Minnesota.

For my daughter, getting tested was no problem. I called her pediatrician and they got her in right away regardless of whether or not she had symptoms. For my husband and I, it was a bit of a nightmare. After calling around, we found that many places would not test us without clear symptoms. I heard from some friends that they even had to lie about having symptoms to get tested even if they had been exposed. Other clinics required first a video screening call with a doctor to access your symptoms and then an appointment for a test. None of those solutions would work and I was shocked at how hard it is to get a test in a major US city eight months into the pandemic.

After further phone calls, we finally learned of a drive up testing site at a hospital and made the drive there later that afternoon. The line of cars was so long that they had to have patrols directing the cars. Again, this was mid-October well before our peak of positive cases and testing needs right now. The line of people who wanted to get tested was so long that they had to close the entrance and turn people away well before the closing time. We waited over two hours Inside our car until we finally got to the top of the line, rolled down our window and got a very uncomfortable nasal swab crammed up our nose. Little did I know how risky it was for both of us to be in the same car together for over two hours without a mask on! That I would learn later.

Once we got home, the waiting began.

We isolated my son Max in his bedroom which was not a bad place for a fifteen-year-old to be for the next ten days. I brought him breakfast, lunch and dinner to his closed door, and he was only allowed out of his bedroom to use the bathroom that no one else was allowed to use.

The next morning, my husband woke up feeling like he’d been run over by a truck. He was exhausted, had the chills and nasal congestion. It was obvious at that point that he too had Covid but of course the test results weren’t back. Thankfully, he was able to start isolating right away in our basement where he would live for the next ten days with only a short break to the bathroom.

I was frantically trying to “run the ship” and deliver meals outside of closed doors, wear a mask 24/7 in my own home and use antibacterial wipes to touch every single item touched by my son and husband. Meanwhile, we had no food and were running out of wipes, Tylenol and hand soap and it was time to get some help. I sent off a few frantic text messages to some of my friends and also did a few online grocery delivery orders so we would have food for the next two weeks that we would be trapped in the house on quarantine. I tried not to panic and told all my friends to not give me a single “bad” story about Covid and the horrible things that can happen. Yes Covid can have mild symptoms in children and even adults. However, I have learned that Covid effects every single person differently and you can no way assume that you will have mild symptoms.

I went to sleep that second night on the pull out coach in my office, completely exhausted and honestly a bit scared. What if my husband got worse and scarier yet, what if I got it? Who would take care of the family?

By day three, we finally got our test results. My husband of course tested positive and was suffering flu-like symptoms, and my daughter tested positive as well with a headache and fatigue. However, surprisingly enough my results came back negative. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I the sole caregiver had been spared until I realized that two days before I had sat in the car with my husband for over two hours waiting to get tested for Covid. Never did I once think of wearing a mask or going separately. That would mean I was exposed again and would have to be re-tested 5-7 days after that exposure to my husband. So the crazy wait began again.

Meanwhile, life was insane, preparing all three meals for my husband, son, and daughter and delivering the meals outside of their closed doors. I was the one who was isolated now since I had to keep clear of them or else my quarantine would be 14 days after their ten days of quarantine. That would be 24 days total of quarantine and it just was not possible. I could hardly manage two weeks let alone almost a month! So my number one goal after ensuring everyone was not too sick was keeping myself healthy. Those ten days were scary, isolating, exhausting, and lonely. On day seven after the car exposure, I went to another drive up testing site and got my nose swabbed again. By this point I thought for sure I had it. I had a headache, was exhausted, a sore throat, and heart palpitations. I once again awaited the results to find out again I was negative. It must have been all the stress that gave me Covid-like symptoms.

The only time I could leave the house was with my mask on to walk the dog. Thankfully it was unseasonably cold outside which meant there were not many other people walking around. When I saw someone, I simply walked off in the street to keep my distance. I felt like I had a huge scarlet letter on my chest, with a huge letter C. While most of my friends were incredibly caring and worried about us, some of my acquaintances acted as we had done something wrong and had not followed the rules. I instantly knew who my real friends were. They were the ones who dropped off meals and wipes and soap. They were the ones who checked in with me over the next two weeks to make sure we were ok. They were the ones that gave me the strength to get through an incredibly stressful experience that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

After much hesitation, I decided to share my story with my community on Facebook and to take some of the stigma off getting Covid and what to expect if you do.  In the aftermath of our harrowing experience I wrote:

Often I wonder….was this really ME? We all have lost so much these past 8 months of the pandemic. For me, I’ve lost a huge part of myself. I have stopped following my dreams of seeing and experiencing the world. I’ve stopped writing. I haven’t seen my extended family hardly at all and it has been so hard. Yet we still have a roof over our head, food on the table and our family. 2020 has by far been one of the toughest years in our world. A global pandemic, injustice, riotings, and hate. Sometimes it is too much to take.

Yet, when I look at this picture, I remember there is a strong woman somewhere in hiding. There have been so many challenging mountains to climb in this journey of life. For me and for everyone. I hope I see this woman in the picture again someday soon. She is missed. 

Me at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro roughly five years ago

 

Our two weeks came to an end just in time for Halloween. It felt like a godsend. Halloween is my daughter’s favorite holiday and although this year it was certainly going to be a different one with the pandemic, she was thrilled to be able to go out and do a “socially-distanced, mask-wearing” Halloween.

We learned from the Minnesota Department of Health that my family would be immune to getting and passing COVID for 90 days (this is the current CDC guideline).  It was bittersweet.

A few weeks after Covid left our house, it has become apparent that our state and country are far into a second wave which will most likely be more brutal that the last one. It is heartbreaking and hard to accept all the mistakes we have made in trying to tame this beast and I personally am ashamed by the lack of leadership and credibility of our government. So many lives have been lost and so many lies have been told. I wonder how differently the pandemic would have played out if we had a president who actually believed Covid was a threat and how many lives we could have spared? The number of cases and deaths in our country is an outright disaster and embarrassment to our democracy.

Like much of the world, Saturday I breathed an enormous sigh of relief and felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I finally saw a glimmer of hope that things will get better. It felt good to have hope once again after so many years of despair. Those who have followed my blog know that I am a strong believer in protecting the planet, our fellow human beings, and the utter importance of human rights for all people. I have tried hard not to discuss politics on my blog as it is such a divider in our world and I do respect everyone’s right to believe what they want even if I strongly disagree. For me, 2020 will be a year that goes down in history and not for its good things but for its ugly upheaval and pain. Yet I can lift my face to the sky and finally see a ray of light once again. And that is enough to keep me going.

 

41 comments

  1. Nicole, thanks so much for sharing this story. I find it really hard to continue being vigilant without other people’s real-life experience to remind me that this virus is still very, very real. I’m glad you guys all came through okay but it must have been an unthinkably stressful month, especially with the election to finish things off!

  2. Thankfully your story has a good ending.k. Like you I try to avoid being political on my blog, but these days it is hard considering what we are experiencing. Hopefully leadership will improve shortly. Take good care and thanks for sharing your story.

  3. It is all about hope and facing the challenges head on, be it climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or fighting the Covid, right?

    So good to see that you and family fought bravely and defeated the Pandemic …

    As we are well into the 10th month of this Pandemic, the psychological impacts are more and more evident around us.

    It is really the time to revisit our life’s priorities and goals, I believe.

    So far, myself and my family managed to save ourselves from Covid but it’s there everywhere.

    Your story is really an inspiration and it taught me that we should not lose heart even if we get infected by the virus.

    There are positives even during this tough time and we will surely emerge stronger, I believe…

    I really appreciate all of you who restored our faith in democracy and it gives hope for us also …

    Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring post 🙂

    1. Oh thank you! I have learned so much these past ten months. First the pandemic began, then we had the murder of George Floyd less than two miles from my house, then the scary scary riots and looting for days right outside my door, a crazy president and the election and then COVID. I am trying hard to think of what I’ve learned through it all. I guess that family is so important as it is mostly what we have and to have hope. Without hope and kindness we would have nothing at all. 🙂

  4. As an MD in MN who deals with Covid reality every day, I appreciate when those who have had Covid speak out about the reality of the illness. Not only are beds scare, but health care workers are succumbing to Covid via community spread and there are limited nurses/physicians to care for patients. None of us are able to work from home. Wear a mask over your nose AND mouth in addition to social distancing. If symptomatic…get tested and isolate until your test results are back. Dept of Health now has 3 testing sites in the metro and you can book an appt online. If you are told that you are high risk as you were in contact with someone who is positive, stay home for 14 days. We need to work together to get this under control so we can all live a more normal life.

    1. Thank you so much for your service Leslee! Yes, I couldn’t agree more. I was so happy the day our Governor made masks mandatory and now as we are heading into very very scary numbers of cases (7,300 today I believe) it is more important than ever to be diligent. Since our experience I was happy to hear that the new saliva sites have opened up and it seems a bit easier than just a month ago to get the testing done. I still am shocked by the people who don’t take it seriously. We always have and always will. I am inspired by those out there doing the hard work and sacrificing their lives to help us.

  5. First of all, I’m so sorry your family had to deal with this disease. Next and most important, I’m so glad everyone appears to have recovered well! Finally, I understand your diminished spirits these days. Even as we, too, try to recognize daily that we have it pretty good, it is hard not to feel down about not seeing family, what is going on in our country, and just generally not being able to live our lives in the way we thought we always would. (Maybe shame on us for daring to think we always could!) Keep that mental picture of strong Nicole as much as you can!

    1. Oh thank you Lexi! Yes I need that strong woman more than ever before. Snow is already on the ground and MN reported 7,300 cases today. It is going to be a long winter. Thanks for the inspiration my friend.

  6. What a harrowing experience- I’m so glad you all came out the other side. It has to get better from here and this election is the first step back

    1. Thank you and yes, I agree! We have a plan coming into action a little late but better than none and denying this disease isn’t real. It was so scary and the winter will be tough but I have hope!

  7. Thank u for sharing your experience with Covid-19 with us. This make it real and perhaps people who don’t think its a thing can start taking it seriously. I wish your family a healthy recovery from it all.

    1. Thank you! Yes I was so shocked when we got it that I realized I had to share it with others. Our numbers are getting out of control now and it is scary because winter is setting in. We all need some strength! Take care and be well!

  8. Thanks for sharing your grueling experience, Nicole. It must have been such a stressful time for you especially, trying to keep everything together and caring for your family. Kudos to you all. I’m so glad you all came through this relatively unscathed. I agree with everything you have said about the irresponsible and shameful way the virus has been mishandled by those in power. I’m looking forward to a brighter future next year. 🤗

    1. Thanks so much! Yes it was soooo stressful and scary. I am feeling hope thought after the finally good news! We will have a Covid plan finally too!

  9. Thanks for sharing your story. My son’s girlfriend had strong symptoms and a lasting fatigue. She was tested many times and it always came back negative, but her doctor is convinced she had it. The tests are not foolproof, apparently the results vary. Hope you and your family are feeling well now!

    1. Yes I agree. 30 % of negatives are false. I’m donating blood next week and they are doing any antibody test to see if I actually did have it. Stay well!

  10. Nicole, just last night I was wondering about you because the last time you updated your blog was back in September (I think). Then this morning I read about this harrowing story of yours — having every single person in the house, except for you, contracting Covid-19 is too much to handle for sure. This reminds me of what my mom once told me: mothers are strong, even stronger than what the society may think, and stronger than what many women think of themselves. To be the sole caregiver in the family must have been very distressing, although I know it wouldn’t all be possible without love. I’m glad to know that things sound to have improved for your husband and kids. And I hope the new administration can deal with the pandemic in a much better and scientific way. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

    1. Oh thanks Bama! Yes I have sadly not been writing at all this past 9 months as I haven’t traveled (except once) and have felt rather uninspired. Believe it or not, life has been really busy and in my spare time I’ve decided to take a college level Spanish class online to get something good out of this time at home. Moms are the rock. Sometimes we don’t feel it but my biggest concern was keeping my family safe and having them recover. I have no idea how we would have managed without me being healthy! I wish well to you. I am feeling a lot of hope now and come January am looking forward to some changes in our country. 🙂

  11. Nicole, thank you for writing this and pushing back against the stigma of catching what is a very infectious (and incredibly insidious) disease. I’m thankful that those 10 insane days have passed, that no one in your immediate family came down with severe, life-threatening symptoms, and that you somehow remained Covid-free the whole time. It is indeed alarming to read about the second wave now sweeping over North America and Europe. I sometimes think of my relatives in Houston, Chicago, and New York, and wonder how they have been faring throughout these past eight months that have turned life for all of us upside down.

    Back in February, before everything blew up, I naively booked return tickets between Indonesia and Canada for October so I could spend time with family I hadn’t seen for almost a decade. I don’t know if it will be possible to refund those air fares, but it seems such a trivial thing to worry about right now. I’ve been giving myself constant reminders that I still have a warm bed to sleep in at night, enough food throughout the week, and that I’ve managed to keep my job while millions of others have been laid off. I’m also grateful to be “stuck” in a big country where I can take socially distanced road trips if need be. We all miss travel dearly, but sometime in the not-too-distant future, you will go back to trekking and climbing mountains all around the world, I am sure of it. Sending a virtual hug your way!

    1. Thanks so much James! Your message has made me smile. This sure has been a very very hard 10 months and I know this winter will get very hard as the virus is getting so out of control here in the US. My state alone had 7,300 cases reported today! It is soooooo crazy. But there has really been such a lack of leadership that it is not a surprise. Hope is on the way. Sending a virtual hug right back at you!

  12. What an utter Nightmare!! Was thinking that your Blog had been missing in action for a while. Thought it was Pandemic related – Little did I Know how much so! Glad that you won’t have a sociopath leader from January onward and have someone who will have other people in his thoughts for a while and does the job that he was elected to do – for the good of the people and not just himself. . . I Hope and Know that Your Family will Beat this awful Disease and be on the road again Before long! Take Care!

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I actually have hardly blogged at all since the pandemic began as it has been hard to write about travel and I felt rather uninspired. So much sadness has gone on that I felt pretty empty about writing. But I hope that things will improve in 2021. It is hard to look back with regret at all the mistakes that have been made in handling this terrible pandemic but hope is on its way. Thanks so much for stopping by! Take care!

    1. Oh thank you for the kind words. Yes it was ugly and hard but could have been so much worse. I’ve heard so many scary stories and our numbers are not looking good as we go into winter. Got to keep hope alive! 🙂

  13. Sorry to hear about the COVID ordeal that your family had to undergo. The truth is it catches you when you least expect it. Hope things are better now. Take care, Nicole.

    1. Thansk Arv. Yes it is so true. Covid is so widespread in the US and is getting worse and worse every single day. It is so frightening but I do have hope for a better 2021 and future. Hope all is well with you. Someday I will make it to Jaipur!!!!!

      1. I can imagine, Nicole. It is a joke that the head of the US chose to ignore it over the economy. What good are profits if they come at the expense of lives? Capitalism, at its worst! I’m fine but we too had COVID in our house, luckily, it didn’t infect everyone as we practiced quarantine measures. Take care, Nicole.

      2. Yes I could go on and on and on about what has happened in my country. At least now I feel like come January we will hopefully head in the right direction. So much pain in the world. Take care!

      3. I’m hoping the transition is peaceful and the fear stems from the behaviour and verbal messages being sent out by Mr Trump. Let’s hope sanity prevails. Take care, Nicole.

  14. Wow, what a time you’ve had of it. Just when things couldn’t get any worse. It’s been a truly shocking year, but I believe that it has taken the pandemic, and George Floyd and the emergence of BLM and BIPOCLM to bring about the political change. Be proud of your country! You all got together and did what was needed. And be proud of yourself for the way you handled a truly rough 2 weeks at home. It must have been very scary. I’m so glad you’re all well again.
    Much love
    Alison

    1. Thanks Alison. It has been an insane year and there has been even more things on a personal parenting level that has made it even harder. I don’t think I’ve ever cried as much as this past year. I am proud of the election results yet also realize there is so far to go. What saddens me most of all is that the virus is now completely out of control and we won’t be able to do anything until the end of January when thousand of people will have died. It is tragic. Just this week we had over 7,000 positive cases in my own state! It is so scary. Anyway, I hope next year at some point or 2022 life will calm a bit more and I can get back to writing again. I realize how much I miss my blog and community but this past year there has not been much positive news to write about. I also someday want to do our trip to Canada like we had planned and meet you face to face! Take care and stay well!

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