Although I’m overwhelmingly humbled by love, support and comments, I don’t feel that brave is the right word.
I am comfortably writing this at home. My husband is improving each day, I have food in my refrigerator, my kids are happy(ish!), and I know that we will emerge on the other end of this historical event pretty ok. We will be healthy, we will use all the resources available to keep us sane, and financially we will recover.
I am not brave. The list of brave people right now is long, and it doesn’t include a woman writing a blog in her Christmas pj’s.
Emergency workers and local responders. Hospital staff, from nurses, techs, maintenance, food providers, to the physicians. Mental health workers. Pharmacies. Grocery store and small market employees, all of them from the back room stocking, to the checkout. Delivery personnel. Non-profit shelters and meal providers. That is a shortlist of the essential workers who are taking significant risks, every day.
People laid off and struggling in ways many of us can not comprehend are brave. Children who aren’t in the safe environment of a school, or receiving that guaranteed meal, or that love and shelter they rely on from their teacher.
And the patients fighting COVID-19. In the hospital alone, while their families are home on strict isolation, fighting for their lives, apart. Caretakers advocating for treatment plans, armed with bits of information and determination, but frustrated by slow progress.
Those who have lost someone they love in such a tragic and confusing way.
These are brave people in a situation that is so unique, scary and painful. With no roadmap.
I do not want to move forward without acknowledging that.
My family isn’t the only family with COVID-19. And we are no longer the only family in our town.
I think that leads me to the whole point in this: COVID-19 does not discriminate.
The unique part of our experience as a family is the timing. The significance placed on the statistic of being the “first”. Unchartered territory. Those firsts are still happening, only they are now in the hospitals.
I have a story of recovery to tell, and I am genuinely struggling with that today. I know that not everyone has, or will have, that ending.
When I started writing, my goal was to share an experience of honesty, positivity, and realistic information. So that when it’s you, a family member, or your neighbor, you can understand the experience better and offer support in an impactful, genuine and grounded way.
I do not want to be insensitive to those who are in a critical situation. And I am thankful to those who have reached out in support. I am working on more ways to help, in addition to this story.
The first phone call I made the day my husband received his diagnosis was to the mom of my daughter’s friend. And I cried the entire time. My daughter spent the night at her friend’s house a few days prior. With no directive or information yet from the Department of health, I felt responsible to tell her.
I also made sure that the parents of my daughter’s other close friends, anyone she had spent time with a few days prior, heard the news from me.
The boys’ moms on the field trip, one of whom was with me that day, were also informed.
Their reactions are personal to them, and no one indicated directly to me that they were overly concerned. But I know deep down, a few were freaking out.
And THE GUILT I felt. It was so intense.
The world had changed so much over the course of just four days. Who was quarantining better, who was a crappy quarantiner, who was in between? Until that very moment, I didn’t CARE.
But suddenly, that mattered to me. I didn’t want to instill fear where there had been none. And I didn’t want to fuel more fear where it existed.
After those, I called a friend for support, and again, I just sobbed. I wasn’t afraid something would happen to my husband, because his symptoms were mild and manageable at the time. Looking back, I am so thankful for that. Because once his symptoms worsened a few days later, my reality and message would have been different. I was more overwhelmed by that influence of fear in others.
As I’m making my calls, the Department of Health was calling my husband.
And that is when “contact screening” begins.
First and foremost, the Department of Health showed care and concern 100% of the time. Every single caller asked how my husband felt, how we were all coping with the isolation, and genuinely wanted to be sure he was ok.
I think one of the issues of using all of these big words and big departments we’ve never had to hear from, is their dehumanization. The department of health is run by human beings, with families and personalities, and a life that they’ve created, with their career being something they are likely passionate about as they advocate for health within the state.
The information they collect:
- Symptoms and date they began
- List any places the patient has been since the first day of symptoms
- List any places the patient has been for up to five days before the onset of symptoms.
- Provide contact information as needed for the above
These instructions were given:
- Any household members were on a strict quarantine until 14 days from the first day of his symptoms
- Our quarantine would end on the 14th day, or 72 hours after the last day of symptoms (that later changed)
- Each day until the end of the quarantine, we reported all of our temperatures in the a.m. and p.m.
- If any of the household members exhibited symptoms, we were “presumed positive” but not tested. Which means we would not count in statistics by the department of health or CDC
After digesting all that, on Sunday, my husband informed anyone he had been in close contact with. I don’t want to speak on behalf of him, but I think that emailing the dads who attended that small meeting on Thursday night was gut-wrenching to him. And I can only assume that the amount of guilt that I was feeling was minimal compared to what he was feeling.
The Department of Health releases the gender, age, and town of a “presumptive” positive case of COVID-19. What makes it “presumptive” is that the State of NJ performed the test, but the CDC “confirms” the case.
It’s also up to the Department of Health to decide what places of business and group gatherings are reported.
And we had no idea how many days they would go back – there is conflicting advice on when a person is contagious. At the time, the assumption was, you are contagious from the first day of symptoms. They only go back 3-5 days before that, to see if they can connect the dots and determine the source of exposure because they believe that’s the average time from exposure to first symptoms.
We waited and waited for that announcement, selfishly crossing our fingers that there was more than just one case to report in our town. That sounds terrible. I wouldn’t wish COVID-19 on anyone, and I regret that thought. But I think we knew somewhere deep down that if there were only one person, it would be easier for people to figure out who that person was. And in direct contrast to this very public blog, we don’t share a whole lot publicly, aside from some cute photos of our kids and vacations.
And our gut was right.
On Sunday afternoon, the news hit.
Within minutes, it was on every town Facebook page. I think people felt important being the “first” to share the “breaking news”.
But here’s the deal. By the time you are reading the announcement in the Burlington Times, sharing and resharing the news on Facebook (over and over again, even when five people before you have shared it), watching the town mayors Facebook live announcement, and seeing the Patch, it’s old news to some. Anyone directly exposed has been contacted by the positive patient, their caretaker, or by the department of health.
I sat and imagined what it must be like for my friends, reading the news for the first time. And then I started to imagine what it would be like for them to find out from someone other than me that it was my husband. It’s a small town, and as much as we entrusted the individuals we informed out of an abundance of caution, I think keeping our name private was too much of a burden to bear for some. People like to talk. People especially want to talk about this. And if someone had a name, they had valuable information at that moment.
With encouragement from a friend, I sent a text. But I only messaged a few people, knowing that even though there are more friends whom I trusted outside of this small group text, and whom I would have wanted to tell myself, I just couldn’t manage a more extensive group emotionally. I knew that my privacy would be upheld where necessary and that they would be honest when necessary.
The best thing I did for myself that day was to tell my local friends because I needed a soft place to land from that day on.
If you live in a small town, you know that it is both a blessing and it can be a curse. And at first, it felt like a curse.
I know people are scared.
And sometimes, people do and say things without thinking out of fear. But you know what, sometimes they do things simply because they’re an a-hole.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on negativity. But I do think people need to be aware and accountable for their words.
Simply put, people were “unkind”, both publically and privately.
During the most chaotic time, I had a conversation with someone who works in town. His words to me were: 99% of people in this town are incredibly supportive, but that 1% will try to tear you apart.
And he was right.
I think this experience begs the questions:
How would YOU feel if your loved one was sick with COVID-19 and your town demanded an immediate list of every place you and your family had been over the last 14 days, without asking “Is he ok?” (and think about, three weeks, ago, how long would that list have been?)
How would YOU feel if your loved one was sick with COVID-19, and people publicly asked what side of town you live on?
How would YOU feel if your loved one was sick with COVID-19 and people wanted your children’s ages listed?
How would YOU feel if your loved one was sick with COVID-19 and someone went ahead, feeling that they had valuable “information”, and shared your children’s ages publically (incorrectly at that)?
How would YOU feel if your significant other was sick with COVID-19 and a colleague reported to your place of business that the rumor in town was that you knew you have COVID-19 and intentionally went out and spread it?
How would YOU feel if your significant other was sick with COVID-19, and they received a call from HR of their company, verifying that you didn’t see patients in your office after your diagnosis, because that’s what someone reported them?
How would YOU feel if your significant other was sick with COVID-19 and someone said your husband should go to jail for neglect (I mean, you’d probably think that was ridiculous, but for full disclosure, it’s listed here).
How would YOU feel if your significant other, or a loved one, was sick with COVID-19? Would you be ok with all that?
How I felt from those initial reactions?
Scared. Embarrassed. Violated. Sick. Worried. Angry. Anxious.
Alone. Overwhelmed. Tired.
For how long?
About 24 hours.
Because then, that other 99% showed up.
And when they showed up, it was in a big way.
The moment that I shifted my focus from the 1% to the 99% percent happened exactly one day after the announcement. The text was from someone that I don’t see on the regular, but I enjoy her as a person, and we always chat and have kids the same age.
She said to me:
“I know you have a village of friends, but there is always more.”
I am so thankful for those words.
And for all of the texts that came in, please know that every. single. one of them meant something to me and lifted my family up. Your words arrived at times when either my husband was physically worsening, or I was emotionally spent, and I needed a new voice to hear.
For my friends who wanted to respect our privacy, or just didn’t know when to text or what to say. I received your messages through others, and they were so appreciated.
And for all of the thoughts that I received from strangers through my friends, I felt connected to you.
For the meals that you dropped off and the sweet treats at our door – I think I had the most well-stocked house in town! To be able to grab a meal out of my fridge (or a gluten-free donut) when I could do nothing but worry about my husband and my kids, kept me going.
For the offers to grab things from the grocery store, which I hated to do, but swallowed my pride and took the help I needed anyway.
For those emergency Gatorade front door drops from the hoarders in town (LOVE YOU!).
For Ralph’s Market, who, when I started to feel that I couldn’t ask my friends to find food for my family that they couldn’t even access themselves, and I frantically messaged the owner, they delivered to my doorstep.
For those who shared their faith with me and how they used special prayers for our family.
For the teachers and superintendent of Moorestown schools, who both advocated for our privacy and kept constant tabs on us.
To my mother in law, who may or may not have figured out how to read a blog, probably walked a hole in the bottom of her sneakers with all the trips to her church, and offered countless times to take this virus for us – I would never have given it to you GG, we told you, you’re high risk!
It’s like the Oscars and the music is playing… but to my family. I don’t have a traditional one (and that’s an entire blog series!) – but the one I created, the one that found me, the one made up of extended family and my lifelong best friend. They were some of the last to know, and although that makes me sad, we wanted to protect them from worry.
And to my daughter’s hugs and calming nature, and my son’s snuggles and trust in me when dad couldn’t be there, and my husband’s strength.
And all of you who are reading this, who reached out with kind words and support, and who connected me with families that I can now offer words of support to as they struggle. Every word has been read (and I am trying to hard to respond!).
And to my village.
This week, I will dive into COVID-19 symptoms and how it presented for my husband, myself and my daughter, as well as the treatment that worked. There were also some things we were doing to treat it, that we maybe shouldn’t have according to “news”.
I will be mindful to do this in an informative way, with as little fear as possible.