When the news came that schools would be closed two weeks ago, I went into action mode. I started checking off the list in my head of things I needed to do. I wanted to stay ahead of the panic, I ordered groceries, a bidet (in case things got really bad), and thought of ways to hunker down through it with my family.
late Sunday night I developed a sore throat and a headache. My mind went back to the week before at our Mexico mission retreat when I had treated a young girl from another state with a fever. I had isolated her in the nursing cabin, I was the only one in and out of there. I stayed home from work, not wanting to possibly share what I had. Tuesday I went through the drive-through testing facility, I had developed a cough with my sore throat and being an employee at a hospital I qualified for a test. Wednesday and Thursday my cough got worse, and my throat and secretions turned dark.
By Friday I was having shortness of breath and by Saturday am I could see my tonsils had evidence of a secondary bacterial infection. I messaged for a virtual appointment, I couldn’t be seen until Tuesday. I tried to contact my doctor’s office and it was closed. I rummaged through my mission bag and had a full script of an antibiotic for traveling abroad that would also treat bacterial bronchitis and tonsillitis.
Saturday night I could not swallow more than water, I felt like an elephant was on my chest, I had been taking an expectorant with Tylenol and decongestant for days. I had taken a Nyquil and was so sleepy. It felt like too much energy to decide if I needed to go to the ER. What if I exposed them to Covid-19? What if I had exposed my entire family and my exchange student? I had spent the last week as far away from them as possible, bleaching down surfaces and wiping doorknobs that hadn’t seen a disinfectant in awhile.
I started to silently cry, with no test results and I had every symptom listed. Would I continue to breathe in my sleep? I could hear myself wheezing. I had been using my old sports induced asthma inhaler, most likely expired. With a Hail Mary, I decided to take my steroid I had on hand for emergency RA flare-ups. I knew as a nurse it would reduce the swelling in my throat, but taking a steroid was not recommended if I had Covid, I went with the urgent swelling in my throat and tried to go to sleep.
As I tried to sleep, I tried to imagine what it would be like to see my daughter again. How I missed her. I thought of how much I wanted to see my girls walking down the aisle. I remember the one-time Mikenna tried on a wedding dress, how beautiful she looked and I am thankful I got to see her in one. Then I prayed, I prayed for my family. I prayed that my family does not suffer any more loss as it already had including our family members most at risk, some over 70.
The next morning, I woke up, my throat was back to normal, just slightly sore, my secretions clear, my cough still ongoing. The antibiotics had killed the secondary infection and steroids had reduced the swelling. I spoke to my rheumatologist and kept her up to speed, she was at least communicating with me, unlike my primary or virtual doctor. Tuesday and Wednesday went by. Still no results from the hospital testing center. I was burning through all my sick time waiting for test results. My husband started developing a cough. I started to feel horrible for not sleeping apart. three teens in the house, one young adult, along with my husband and I. No one could see anyone or go anywhere. What if I had the virus? It had been ten days since testing. I agonized over putting toast in the toaster. How do I not touch anything for ten days, maybe 14. I tried to watch a show with my student. Covering my face, soon my cough came on and I retreated to my room.
Finally Thursday afternoon my test came in. Negative. I had an upper respiratory infection but not Covid-19. I ran into my student’s room and told her, I hugged my sleepy daughters, so easily falling into the pattern of staying up until the wee hour of the night and sleeping in until almost lunch. I hugged my three little black cats, in my defense I only had two, my oldest daughter had brought one home with her. I hugged my fat, lazy puggle who had loyally would lay on me everywhere I went.
We had developed a bit of brain fog over the last two weeks. The lack of routine and direction causing a feeling of helplessness in the house. I realized the house needs structure, walks to take, chores to do, projects to do. I started pulling out things for the teens. I had let myself fall into the same zombie-like days. I thought of the non-profit projects left unattended. Did they have to fall away? I could adapt.
I awoke today to my grief. I had a dream last night where I saw my daughter. Her hair lighter and longer, she said she was bored. She was in a dorm-like school, she wanted her movies. She had a great collection, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, The Notebook. I say this is the only place I can see you, that I would have done anything for you and I wake.
I open my phone as it sits under my pillow to a Facebook memory alert on my phone. There she is on my phone, eating fondue with her sister, in purple. The Pandemic had put my grief aside. I contemplated the ability of our brains to compartmentalize. I had even considered last week the fact I hadn’t had any moments stricken by loss, but quickly put the thought aside. Distraction is a coping technique, one I had learned well before my loss.
My heart aches today for those suffering losses around the world. Alone, isolated and some unable to hold religious gatherings, funerals, memorials, or even proper burials. We may see many having to put their own grief on hold, compartmentalizing to deal with their own health and needs, since loss knows no time anyway.