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For My Family, Fear Of COVID-19 Was Worse Than Actually Getting It

COVID-19 temperature check

The state kicked our two college-age sons online and shut down their part-time jobs back in March when COVID-19 struck, so sons I’ll call Daniel and James came home to quarantine. The shutdown was not a bad deal for them. They received food and stimulus money, both courtesy of their taxpaying parents. In addition to completing their coursework online while home, they also worked on projects for my husband, John, who Venmo-ed them under the table.

Weeks went by as we anxiously waited for the Wuhan virus. John and I scrupulously over-analyzed every ache and pain, and at our age, there are quite a few. Every headache, every throat tickle, was a harbinger of the plague. Even as we attended church in our pajamas, however, God was gracious. None of us got sick.

After six weeks, Daniel and James had settled in for the long haul, cheerfully eating their way through our food supplies. Then the lockdown started to lift, and John and I spied a window for sending our young men back to their college apartments. We decided to launch them back into the world.

Dodging the Virus

With a renewed appreciation for the empty nest, John and I sat on our front porch, enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning. We thought we heard music from across the woods. Hopping on our four-wheeler, we followed the sound to our closest neighbor, Church of the Living God.

A traveling pastor and worship leader were projecting from a sound system in the breezeway. About 15 faithful parishioners parked nearby, windows rolled down. Every so often, the pastor shouted, “Can I get a witness?” and was greeted by exuberant honking. John and I decided drive-up church beat pajama church hands-down.

As our state slowly relaxed its restrictions, I began to meet friends for lunch on the patio. We started to attend church with masks. Perhaps life was finally returning to normal.

Meanwhile, James — the younger brother, always strapped for cash — gave up his college apartment. Texas was open, so he went to work the summer camp circuit, and for about six weeks, he managed to avoid the virus.

While James was playing dodge-the-virus in Texas, Daniel resumed his job at a rock-climbing gym — new and improved, with social distancing and extra Clorox. Daniel was just starting to relax, just starting to hang out with friends in real life, when one of his friends tested positive. When Daniel told the gym about his contact, his employer promptly sent him home. After a week of waiting and mindless phone-scrolling, Daniel tested negative and went back to work.

Then the call came from James. “Mom,” he said, “I was exposed, and I have a fever. They are sending me home tonight.” COVID-19 had arrived.

Contracting COVID-19

To John’s credit, he did not flinch. We pushed the kids out of quarantine, so we couldn’t leave them sick and stranded. John and I drove to Texas in the middle of the night, and then we drove home, sharing the same cramped air with our feverish son.

James wasn’t sick for long. He spent two days in bed, then bounced back in perfect health. His sense of smell returned a few days later. Meanwhile, John and I weren’t sick, but we weren’t exactly healthy, either. We hunkered back down into quarantine mode, anxiously waiting for the virus to strike.

On day six, we reaffirmed our commitment to live our lives, to do what we could to keep each other’s spirits up. That made us feel much better.

Then on day eight, John got a fever and chills, which lasted about four days. Once his fever broke, he continued experiencing symptoms including nausea, diarrhea, muscle pain, and nerve pain. He lost both his smell and his appetite, the so-called corona diet. Due to fatigue and an overall feeling of unwellness, John spent two weeks moving from bed to couch, not sleeping well in either location.

We did our best to treat John’s symptoms at home, using Tylenol, Advil, and ginger ale. He also ate several bottles of medicinal gummies: vitamin C, probiotics, elderberry, and zinc. Mostly it was a waiting game, trying to predict whether he was turning the corner or getting worse.

When John’s chest started feeling tight, we went to the doctor. Doc, who is old school, removed his mask to talk, asking about our family, including my brother, by name. He listened to John’s lungs and pronounced them clear. The doctor, familiar with James’s employer in Texas, said he had treated other COVID-19 patients from there.

The doctor said that if not for the origin story, John could be experiencing any of a number of flu-like illnesses. He reassured us John was on the road to recovery, which was worth the visit in itself. After swabbing John’s nose for “epidemiological purposes,” the doctor prescribed an antibiotic just in case.

Moving On

Four weeks post-exposure, John still feels tired and worn out. On the bright side, he is finally well enough to ride his motorcycle. Cruising across the green countryside lifts both our spirits.

John ranks COVID-19 within his top five to 10 unpleasant illness experiences. Although the coronavirus was bad, John says the fear of getting it is worse. He was relieved when, after 10 days of waiting, his nose swab came back positive for the virus. Assuming he has antibodies now, he can move on with his life.

It appears the virus has spared me, for which I have no explanation other than the grace of God. I tested negative and have started making plans with friends. Since James was helpful during John’s ordeal, we are letting him stay until his new lease starts this month. We look forward to visiting Daniel before college starts. Life goes on. As John says, COVID-19 is bad enough that you should try to avoid it. But odds are very good that if you contract the virus, you will survive.

Over the past month, I have shared our story with friends and colleagues. Some of them, especially those with pre-existing conditions or older parents, live in constant fear. I try to encourage them as best I can. For those who believe, isn’t life itself within the grace of God?