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Looking for Grace After Recovering From COVID-19

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It’s been almost nine months since the coronavirus began spreading in our world, affecting everyone in varying degrees. The stress and fatigue of the pandemic has been hard to carry… and with no end in sight and cases surging (again) I felt like it was time to share what’s been on my heart.

COVID-19 popped on my radar when it slowly started to dominate the television news cycle in March. I’ve spent much of 2020 covering virtual COVID-19 press conferences related to Los Angeles County as part of my job as a journalist. I have analyzed coronavirus case counts, hospitalizations and death rates, trying to make sense of it all for those who read my news reports. I have also shared a lot of COVID-19 news stories and all of the precautions (wear a mask, stay home, social distance) on my social media platforms which I followed at very high standards. On a personal level, I have spent every day cleaning and sanitizing, trying as best as I could to keep my family safe. I was one of those people who took the coronavirus as an immediate and direct threat since Day 1, and for good reason.

I am a medical mama of twin boys, now 6, who were born premature, and a 2-year-old baby girl who was born with the congenital heart disease, Tetralogy of Fallot. I have stood on the side lines as she went through three life-saving open heart surgeries and battled her way through countless procedures. I made a decision early on during quarantine that I would be strict in order to protect my children as much as I could. My family didn’t go anywhere; even going out to grocery shop was off limits. I quarantined with my kids and my parents (who live a few days out of the week at my house to help with my kids so I can work), while my husband kept going back and forth to work.

We stood home for five straight months, yet the coronavirus still managed to finagle its way into my life over the summer and a large part of me felt like all of my quarantine efforts were in vain.

Testing Positive 

It was the first day of virtual first-grade in August for my boys and I woke up feeling like a horse kicked me in the back — worst body aches I’ve ever experienced. That day, I also remember randomly smelling sour milk, but didn’t think much about it. It wasn’t until the next day, when I got a phone call from my dad saying, “I hate to tell you this, but I got that sh*! …” that the panic set in. My heart and world shattered in one instant. I could hear in his voice how scared and sick he was. I hung up the phone, called my daughter’s cardiologist and our pediatrician to find out where we could get tested ASAP since we had been around my dad just a few days before.

I still vividly remember standing with my husband at the rapid results clinic waiting… when the medical assistant handed me our paperwork and whispered, “I attached some county guidelines.” I just wanted to cry because I knew that meant there had to be at least one positive test. I felt my knees want to buckle underneath me, but I held it together until I walked back to the car and had to deliver the heartbreaking news to my mom. There was a heavy cloud of fear over me, I was shaking and staring blankly at the results and quickly looking at each one of our names and then words “NEGATIVE” and/or “POSITIVE.”

Myself, my husband, my parents who are in their late 60s, and one of my little boys all tested positive.

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What do we do now?

How was I supposed to isolate myself to stop the spread of the coronavirus, but also take care of my children? Trying to make a care plan was nearly impossible because the fear and anxiety were almost debilitating. My parents immediately went back to their own house and I had to make the heartbreaking decision to send my son who tested positive with them in order to try and keep my other two children from contracting it from him. My heart was torn. Not being able to take care of him was the worst feeling in the world. I didn’t see him for almost three weeks.

A few days after we tested positive, my second son spiked a fever and so did my babygirl. My son was thankfully back to normal after about a day, but my daughter worried us. She had a fever of nearly 104 for three days; I remember her crying and moaning from the pain. All I could think was, “Oh my God did I get her sick? I will never forgive myself if something happens to her.” I had been wearing three face masks including an N95 to try and keep from spreading the virus to her and my son. And it didn’t work. Her cardiologist advised against retesting her and instead said, “Let’s operate like she has the coronavirus too.” I had no words, just tears. I was petrified. She was given antibiotics and steroids to prevent her from developing pneumonia or any other COVID-19 related complications. I am so grateful that after four days of showing symptoms, she recovered.

In the midst of what was going on in my house, I also had to call my parents daily to check on them. They had great medical care and had their vitals taken every few days, so that was comforting to know they were being monitored. My son who tested positive was asymptomatic and was able to keep my parents hopeful and smiling while quarantining with them. My mom (who is normally my right hand) experienced extreme fatigue, a bad cough and many other symptoms that I know she kept to herself (because that’s what moms do). My dad, who is in incredible shape at 66, scared us the most. I have never in my life seen him so ill, so weak. He has always been very active, exercising multiple times a day and running upwards of six miles daily. COVID-19 took all of that stamina and youth away from him, and to this day he still has not yet fully recovered. He had a fever for 10 days, extreme fatigue, cough and more. My dad told me he would never fully discuss how the virus really made him feel, but I do know that he is completely terrified to get it again.

I developed the most intense migraine I have ever had while sick with coronavirus. On day three of the migraine, I could no longer take the excruciating pounding in my head so I took some medication my body is used to because I have suffered for migraines for several years. As soon as I popped it in my mouth, I started to feel extreme burning in my head. I started crying hysterically and got into the shower to see if it would help, but the burning only got worse. My local urgent care was able to see me and gave me a migraine cocktail — four shots in my backside. It was so strong I couldn’t even walk out to my car (where my husband who was also dealing with pretty intense coronavirus symptoms, and my kids, were waiting), the doctor had to walk me out and help me get in. I slept for about 10 hours and woke up with major relief. To this day, I won’t take that medication again because I know that COVID-19 left an impression on my body basically telling me we are no longer friends.

Looking for Grace

Having the coronavirus felt like I was up against this deadly infection, so I trained myself to keep thinking about the high survival rate. I remember going to sleep every night just praying so hard that my family and I would all wake up the next day. The thing that caused the most anxiety was how widely the virus differs from one person to the next. I never really knew who was going to get better or if anyone was going to get worse. My family is still experiencing some of the “long hauler” symptoms of the virus, including an increase in headaches, migraines, body aches and fatigue. The most difficult for me has been the longstanding affect on my senses. It has now been more than three months since I have tasted any food or drinks, or smelled the scents of my beautiful children.

And then there are the mental challenges; I still carry a lot of anxiety about the long-term effects the virus will have on my aging parents, my daughter’s fragile heart, my husband’s underlying condition and my growing little boys. Not to mention the guilt… because the virus also spread to others members of my family, and I can’t help but feel partly responsible for them getting sick too.

I am indeed forever grateful that we are all so much better. I often think about how lucky we are that we didn’t suffer the fatal consequences of this virus, which has since claimed the lives of more than 240,000 Americans… including a handful of good people I knew personally. And I still go through so many thoughts in my head, wondering how and why this all happened to us. I know I did my damndest to keep my family safe, yet the regret of knowing that I failed still weighs heavy on my heart.

So every day I try to find grace and remember that I really did everything I could.

Since “recovering,” I have started donating my convalescent plasma to critically ill COVID-19 patients in the hopes that it will help them recover. Being able to donate is the only way I know how to make sure that my experience with COVID-19 wasn’t just a waste of time, tears and energy.

So I want to urge you all to do your best to help stop the spread of the virus as we are again seeing this latest surge. Wear your mask. Social distance, avoid gathering with a lot of people, stay outside of other peoples’ houses, always wash your hands, get a COVID-19 test and be considerate of  others who may not be as healthy as you are.

I know we are all tired of the pandemic, but trust me when I say we can’t afford to let our guard down.

Stay safe, and take care of your families.

Photo submitted by contributor

Originally published: November 13, 2020
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