Our COVID Chronicles, part 2

Well, Truman's third test came back positive, so we are sitting at 5 out of 6 COVID cases here. Sigh. Truman is feeling better than he did on the first day of his fever, but still has a headache, is weak, no appetite, and his legs ache. His fever has come down from 102.4 that first day to right around 99 on his fourth day. He also has a new face rash, but the Ped isn't concerned because Truman does get viral rashes. Zyrtec should help the itchiness and we were cleared to use Ibuprofen for the leg aches, too. Sigh, so much sighing around here. Sigh. Sigh. Freaking Sigh. 

Porter is the last man standing, and he's cracked the code for this mess. Yesterday we were talking about all things COVID, and he said to us, 'I'm not going to get it, because I'm being SUPER careful.' We asked him to elaborate and he said, 'Well, I'm not going to lick anyone that has it.' Porter! We also discussed extra hand washing as a truly 'careful' measure. To which he responded that he does wash his hands after using the bathroom, and 'before we eat, whenever you tell me to.' This kid, man.  

(my images are going to be all inspiring quotes by Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram. She is the most amazing artist and speaks to my soul often!)

Yesterday I spent some of my day answering questions on Instagram, which was mostly enjoyable because it feels nice to share and help others work through their questions. Old habits die hard, I guess. Most people were very supportive. And yet, I can feel the anxiety rolling off many of the comments. I get it! It's incredibly scary, the fear of the unknown can be suffocating. I'm guessing parts of our story will increase the panic (specifically around sending your kids into a school building) and some parts will ease your worries. But I wanted to touch on a few things before I get into my actual post. 

When I mentioned the shame stigma that seems to surround COVID patients, several people said that nobody should feel shame about contracting a virus. And I agree! But now that I'm digging into my feelings a little more on this topic, it's not a true 'shame' that I've felt. I mean, it does feel like we have the plague and people may want to run the other way when they see us. But what I really couldn't put my finger on until I shared our story, is the fear of judgement. It feels like some people will pick apart our story, and look for 'what went wrong', or what we DID wrong. Because obviously, we messed it up somehow, right? And maybe if *you* don't do this pandemic how we've done it, you will be SAFE. How else can I explain it other than saying, we did everything right and we still got it? Yes, the kids wear masks all day in school. Yes, they are socially distanced--there are only 9 kids in Cece's cohort. Yes, we have brand new HEPA filters installed in our school building. I know that is hard to hear but they are facts. I know everyone means well asking questions and I'm ok answering most of them. 

Trust me when I say I completely understand others' anxiety about this, and the need to control and predict what will happen to you. But as long as you are doing your very best, which I believe 99% of people truly are doing, you just have to keep following precautions and continue to take calculated risks you feel most comfortable with for your family. It could still happen to you as nothing is a 100% guarantee at this point, except for literally locking yourself inside your home until the end of time. I would not recommend that choice either and I certainly do not recommend living your life in fear! 

It all really sucks, you guys. All of it. The anticipation of COVID, the actual living through COVID, the unknowns about the future. I know so many people are struggling mentally and emotionally right now, and it's heartbreaking. BUT! There are silver linings and positive things to pull from this, I promise. I'll talk about those in a hot minute. 

A few other hot topic questions from Insta revolved around my in-laws and how they are doing. They are doing great, Praise Be! Lois tested negative twice, and we didn't actually see Tony the weekend that Cece would have been contagious. Ultimately Nate's parents have been our top priority during this entire pandemic. Back in March, we completely stopped seeing them to protect them from COVID. And then, once we realized there is not an end in sight to this pandemic, we started taking calculated risks to see them as they are an invaluable part of our lives. It would be my ultimate nightmare to give COVID to my in-laws and I'm beyond relieved that has not been a part of our story right now. We miss them so much but we have a ways to go before everyone is out of quarantine. It will make it even sweeter when we can reunite. 

The other common thread in most of the questions had to do with the school district policy on quarantining after a positive case. I was disappointed in how the district handled Cecelia's case, and I have been in communication with them about my disappointment. I'm not going to elaborate any further or throw anyone under the bus. I know people want to blame SOMEONE here but it's honestly not worth the effort to point fingers. 

Also, yes we will be sending our kids back to hybrid (assuming it stays hybrid and doesn't switch to full virtual soon with our metrics changing by the day). Cece is already back, in fact. No, I do not regret sending my kids into the building. Full virtual learning for our family is extremely difficult and I do not think my children learn best in this home environment. Obviously, I wish Cece didn't get COVID but I still prefer in-person learning to at-home learning. 

And yes, I still believe in mask wearing. Cloth masks are not N95 masks, they are not perfect, and nobody should promise you that you'll be safe if you just wear a mask. But I do think masks reduce the viral load you're being exposed to and I think they are worth it.

Yes, of course I am worried about long term effects for the kids and for Nate/myself. But I cannot create mental space for those worries right now. One day at a time is all I can manage. 

Oh, and blood types! I realized why I don't know my kids' blood types. I asked my Ped about this today and she said the hospitals only test babies' blood types if the mother is Rh -. I am for sure not negative and believe I'm AB+, so there's no way any of our kids have 0 blood. Also my Ped said that in children, luckily their symptoms tend to be less severe overall than adults---so the blood type and symptom relationship isn't proven for kids. 


My Covid Silver Linings:

-Nate's clinic can still function without him present. He can't work from home, and it's not the usual income without him there but absolutely better than nothing. 

-I am not working outside of the home anymore. Seriously, would have been impossible with both of us in healthcare and without any help from grandparents/daycare during quarantine.
-Nobody has endured severe symptoms, hallelujah. In fact, MOST COVID cases include mild symptoms. There will always be outliers to this statement but chances are high that you'll be okay if you do contract it.

-Cece and I could quarantine together. It was a strange but sweet time. 

-Nate and Wallace could quarantine together (with Cece and me) after my quarantine was finished.

-Cece did not spread it to her classmates.

-Antibodies! For at least 3 months we can feel less fearful of this virus. It is not a guarantee of course, there's just so much we don't know about this virus. But I plan to breathe a little easier and let go of some anxiety I've had prior to this.

-Family time and help from Nate in online learning! Under different circumstances this would have been heavenly, like a true vacation. Of course it has been anything BUT peaceful, and we have all been pretty sick. I have still been able to notice and appreciate the time with Nate here and I'm sad that period is ending, but he needs to get back to work!

-Hugging my family after isolation was an absolute HIGHLIGHT. It's like I don't ever want to take for granted all of the beauty in the ordinary days again. My first Wallace-hug made me cry, his little body wrapped around mine <3

Things I've learned from our personal case study:

-Being inside a school building with masks, HEPA filter, and social distancing does not mean you are safe from exposure. Even if you are staying 6 feet away, and have not been in contact with an exposure for more than 15 minutes cumulative, you could still contract the virus. This is a huge pill to swallow and I'm guessing Cece's case is rare but it still happened. 

-This virus is unpredictable: some people will get it after very low risk exposure, and some won't get it even with significant exposure. MADDENING.

-Even with symptoms, you might be negative (Truman). Well, at least for two tests, and then he finally got a positive test on the third try with a new fever. 

-Without symptoms, you might test positive (Me and Wallace--but we did get symptoms after our tests, so we would be considered pre-symptomatic).

-Our symptoms are not the same as everyone else's symptoms with COVID.

-Transparency and communication is KEY when it comes to possible exposure. Err on the side of caution and give potential 'close contacts' the information they need to make decisions for their family. 

-The only way to handle COVID is to go through it, you cannot completely avoid it forever or be fearful of it. Respect the virus, it is a very real thing. Take all of the precautions. But once it hits your family in some capacity, focus on the silver linings to avoid total overwhelm. Listen to your doctor. It's okay to be scared, angry, and sad. But at some point you'll need to process those emotions and move on. You cannot control everything that is happening to you. You can only control how you respond to this very crappy situation. I'm still working on this one on the regular.

-The first few days after Cecelia's positive test were the most stressful, overwhelming, scary days full of constant information. Many bits of information will conflict with each other when it comes from different sources (doctor versus health department versus school district). Grab hold of any information that makes logical sense and try to let go of the rest. And get ready for a crash after the adrenaline wears off. For me, my head was spinning for a solid two days before I crashed hard, and then I got sick after that. Stress does real things to your immune system and cortisol sucks. I'm not blaming my stress for contracting COVID but I'm certain it didn't help.

-Stick to Tylenol instead of Ibuprofen, even though it sucks in comparison for relief of fever (for adults at least, my Ped did say Ibuprofen is okay for Truman). Ask your doctor to be sure.

-Comparative suffering is not worth the effort. Everyone will move through this experience differently, at a different pace, and with a unique story to tell. Don't play the game of 'we had it worse than you because....'. There is value in re-prioritizing what is deemed 'essential' in your life, and having a kick-ass support system will help immensely. But ultimately, you will need to process this on your own, with your family, isolated. Nobody else can do that for you.

The end for now. 

Our COVID Chronicles, part 1

I'm emerging from an experience worth reflecting about, and I find myself craving the blogging process for this one. I want to compartmentalize my thoughts, I want to brain-dump all of the knowledge I've gained throughout this. Partially for me, but I also think others may want to read about our COVID story because we are learning new bits of information every day about this virus. And I understand what its like to obsess about different scenarios and worry about the 'what if's, and to crave real-life stories and facts. I also think it's helpful to hear positive outcomes about COVID instead of constantly being bombarded by the intense fear and worst-case scenarios. And finally, I'm sharing this because I don't want to buy into the shame stigma of COVID. It's happening everywhere and I truly believe everyone will be directly touched by it soon. Your story will look different than mine. So here we go. 

Our family has COVID. Cecelia, myself, Nate, and Wallace have all tested positive. Truman and Porter have somehow tested negative, twice. It's been a hot mess around here but we are all going to be okay. Priorities have shifted and our support system has been incredible. 

General timeline:

On October 1 and 2, Cecelia attended school in the building as a part of our hybrid set-up. On the night of October 2, someone in her classroom spiked a fever. We obviously found out about this much later and I'm not going to give details about someone else's story, because it's not mine to tell. But yes, we do feel confident that Cecelia was exposed at school on October 1 and 2. 

And in that same vein, I will talk about my entire family in this post, but I'm going to focus mostly on my own story and symptoms---not because I'm self-centered but because I feel most comfortable sharing my thoughts and less comfortable speaking for my family. I'm a little rusty on the old blog here, some feelings of fragility are surfacing now that I'm about to publish this, so please be gentle with me. 

So. That person with a fever tested positive for COVID on October 3. We got a vague email from the school on October 4 but no details about a positive test or confirmed exposure. We didn't do anything out of the ordinary that weekend, but we did have Lois over for Sunday dinner (10/4) and Cece played soccer that same day, too. 

On Monday October 5th, right before bedtime, Cecelia complained of a sore throat. My ears shot up but she didn't feel warm and I just chalked it up to her being tired after a long day. October 5th is now considered Day 0 for Cecelia. 

On Tuesday, October 6th Cecelia came downstairs for breakfast and laid her head down on the kitchen island. She said she felt 'okay' but her eyes looked glassy to me. We took her temp with our forehead scanner and it read 103. My head started spinning right then, and I called our Pediatrician as soon as they opened at 8:30 and then started jumping through the hoops to get Cece tested through our larger hospital system. I took her for a drive-through test at 2 in the afternoon, after calling Nate home to stay with the boys. It was unpleasant for sister, to say the least--we had all gotten tested at a free site in July before my parents came to visit us, but this was a lot more intense because Cece had symptoms. One thing I learned is that they order a 'deeper' test if symptomatic, and they swabbed her nostril along with her throat this time.

At 5 am on October 7th, Nate woke me up holding my phone after reading the MyChart results: Cecelia tested positive for COVID. I think my first word was an X-rated one, and then began the chain reaction of cancelling all.the.things. Nate spent most of the morning on the phone cancelling patients and updating everyone at the clinic. I began making numerous lists of questions and people to contact, and I sent emails and texts with a spinning head that felt totally overwhelmed. I talked to the Pediatrician's office, the hospital system that gave her the test, the school principal, the district nurse, but no health department called me that day. All of the information coming out of these various institutions was so confusing and conflicting. It was a lot. Cece was feeling pretty good this day, but definitely not herself---her fever was down to 100 degrees and she said her throat still hurt, and she had a headache for her day 1 of COVID. 

On Cece's day 2, October 8th, Nate and I decided to get tested for COVID, and this turned out to be my Day 0. We both felt fine and Cece was 97% better (self-reported), with a fever of 99 degrees now. We were attempting to isolate Cece from the rest of the family, as instructed by the health department who finally called me this day. But at the same time, isolating a sick 8 year old from the rest of the family unit felt impossible to me and I was worried about Cece's mental health at this point, too. My emotions were all over the board. I still felt like my head was spinning out of control and I cried a lot, which is not like me but it needed to happen. I was scared for Cece, worried about the rest of us, sad that we had to cancel so many fun events on our calendar for the next two weeks, and not excited about extra online learning for the kids during their quarantine. ALSO, there was a large amount of stress happening because our suburb was bracing for social injustice protests, and school switched to all-virtual to keep kids safe in case of riots. 

On October 9th, I slept awful. I woke up at 4 am and was super uncomfortable and had a raging headache like nothing I've experienced before. I sort of thought I was having a mental breakdown, and tried to nap that morning. Nate banished me to my bedroom to rest and sometime after lunch, I spiked a fever of 100.4. I knew my COVID test results wouldn't be in for several more days but I started to accept that I likely had it once my fever appeared. This was my Day 1 because my test came before my symptoms. 

My symptom checklist:

-Fever up to 101 (my baseline is 97.5) on day 1 and 2
-Unbelievable headache on day 1
-Body aches-could actually feel my hips and knees and back throbbing on day 1-4
-Diarrhea--explosive and surprising--on day 2 and 3
-Sore throat starting on day 1
-Congestion starting on day 3
-Extreme fatigue/weakness starting on day 1 and most noticeable until day 7 when I began forcing myself to eat protein
-No appetite on day 1-7
-Loss of smell and taste--which is seriously depressing. Never realized how much tasting food is a quality of life issue. This began on day 4 and I'm told it could last for 6 weeks.
-Notable: I never had a cough and never had any trouble breathing/shortness of breath

At that point, Nate took over caring for the boys and Cece started isolating with me in my bed. She was feeling a ton better by this time, and she'd go downstairs with a mask on to fetch me water or whatever I needed---my sweetest little caregiver. What did quarantine look like for us ladies? Well, we watched a ton of shows and movies (Princess Bride, Return to Oz, all 10 episodes of Babysitters Club, Hamilton, Never-ending Story, Hocus Pocus, and all episodes of season 2 Making It---we loved them all!). I also watched plenty of shows and movies once Cece was sleeping in her own bed but I mostly had to rest my eyes and listen because my eyes hurt so badly in the beginning. I could only stomach popsicles and some soup, we were taking lots of Vitamin C, had Biocidin spray from the holistic doctor that gave Nate and I our tests, and I took my temperature incessantly. I felt so weak I didn't even want to get up to go to the bathroom and had to lay down immediately after standing up. 

Nate sent me pics of the boys 'scaring' people outside of our house, made me smile:

So many supplements, so little time. I figure they can't hurt. 

Saturday, October 10 is a total blur but I know I started taking Tylenol for my fever that day. Then on Sunday, October 11th I noticed I couldn't smell anything (not even my favorite candle or coffee) and my back was KILLING me from laying down so much. Cece started Face-timing with my mom and her friends from school to pass the time. We would also Face-time with the boys but it made Porter and Truman super sad to see me but not be able to come in and give me a hug. We all took turns crying. I think those two days were my lowest point mentally and I had several dark moments when I just couldn't stop crying. I felt rotten and was in disbelief this virus was actually hitting our family, and felt so worthless from my bed---not able to help with the kids. It was pretty rough there for a bit, you could say.

How the boys said 'goodnight' to us. (tear).

Porter drew me about a million pictures (mostly of gravestones and spiderwebs):

My entire collection from one day!

Cece helped him rig up a system to give me those Porter treats: she tied a piece of yard around a basket, and put a bell out in the hallway next to the basket. When Porter would add a new picture for me, he'd ring the bell and Cece would pull the basket into my room, returning it to the hallway once we grabbed the paper. It was really so cute but also crazy hard to be apart from the guys. Anyway, Cece was on her day 6 and I was on my day 3 and I have no idea what the boys were doing downstairs, and didn't even care at that point. I do know a lot of our friends dropped off an impressive amount of goodies: chicken pot pies, soup, tacos, pizza, chocolates, home-spa kits, baked goods....it was pretty incredible to feel the love from our people. 

Sweetest donuts I couldn't taste but everyone else could so it's a win.

Rules of Quarantine length:

Now seems like a good time to mention this very confusing part of quarantine. If you test positive for COVID, your first day of symptoms OR your test date will be your day 0---you'll use the date that comes first. Then you have 10 days of quarantine, so on your day 11 you can re-enter the world at large. If you are in close contact with someone who tests positive, you will need to quarantine 14 days from LAST exposure to that person. This gets extremely sloppy within a large household, when some are testing positive and some negative. With each positive test, quarantine dates get moved around for everyone else in the house who is negative. With Cece's positive test, the rest of us went into quarantine from the world (and she went into 'isolation' from us) for 14 days, using the date of last exposure to Cece as our marker. As soon as I tested positive, all of the boys' quarantine date got pushed back even more, using their date of last exposure to ME as a marker now. Eventually we found ourselves wishing for a positive test for every person, because everyone had been exposed in our house like crazy and quarantine for those negatives became ridiculously pushed back. More on that in a bit. 

Back to the timeline! On Monday, October 12th, I noted that I was feeling about 40% of my normal self and did sleep pretty good at night for once. I was on day 4 and Cece day 7, and my test results finally came in: I was (obviously) positive and Nate was negative. He did get a pretty bad headache this day but I figured it was from all of the stress of being Mr. Mom:) I helped Cece with online learning while we both laid in my bed, and we watched lots of TV once she finished. I weighed myself and had lost 5 pounds, which sort of freaked me out, and I vowed to force more food down into my body so I didn't just wither away. 

Online learning from isolation: 

And online learning from quarantine downstairs. 

Tuesday, October 13th: I was more vertical this day! I needed to rest immediately after being up but I was proud of being out of bed for 30 minute stretches. Nate took the boys on a drive and when they got back, I snuck a peek at Nate and he just looked BAD to me. Sure enough, he spiked a 100 degree fever and that's not all! So did Truman, at the same time. Awesome sauce. They both felt achey and had headaches, and I wanted to burst into tears while punching a wall. I broke quarantine to be with them that night, I got online and requested all four boys get tested the next day, and then I rage-cleaned the kitchen while Nate napped on the couch after the kids' bedtime. I did not feel well enough to be 'on' for parenting yet but I knew Nate couldn't do it alone, and if his test turned up positive we couldn't even quarantine the rest of the boys away from two positive parents anyway. Hot mess express. Nate had been sleeping in the basement on a blow up mattress since Friday, but that night I told him to just come back to our bed to get decent sleep. 

Family Vitamin C time, so ridiculous:

Wednesday, October 14th: Nate took all 3 boys to get tested and Porter smacked the tech's hand away during the test, it went *that* well. Truman didn't have a fever anymore but said he didn't sleep much because he was super hot. Nate was up and down but obviously sick, although he wasn't flattened horizontal like I had been the week before. I was still feeling super weak, Cece was pretty much 100% better, and we all plowed through online learning somehow. It was a strange limbo day, feeling stuck between wanting to abide by quarantine rules but also just *knowing* Nate and Truman would be positive and everything would have to begin again for quarantine. On Thursday early morning, I checked my phone for test results at 5:30 am. Nate was positive, Wallace was positive (!! what??), but Truman and Porter tested negative. I had to make a color coded calendar to keep this all straight because nothing was making sense anymore. The kids all did Zoom calls with their classes, since this was the first actual school day they missed. I still felt weak and exhausted but we did things like set up a big puzzle in the basement and watch some family movies together. We couldn't be separated anymore with four positive cases in the house, since Truman and Porter couldn't take care of themselves just yet. So we decided to make the most of family time while we could. Nate still wasn't feeling great and then Wallace spiked a fever after dinner that night, 100.2. Poor baby boy was such a trooper but I felt super anxious about how he'd handle this virus. It was a challenge to avoid 'worst case scenario' thoughts when Wallace went down but he was so resilient and mostly happy, kids are amazing.

Jarring to read the word 'survivor' but I'm glad there is mental health support!

Friday, October 16 was the day Cece was released from quarantine so she could return to school. Such a strange thing to have our initial COVID princess return to the world WAY before the rest of us! She did well at school as we tackled more school zoom calls for the boys. I was on day 8, Nate on day 4 (using his headache on Monday as first symptom and day 0), Wallace day 2 (using his test date as day 0). Wallace seemed pretty much fine but his fever perked back up too 99 for a bit, even while he was running around the house like a hooligan. 

So many puzzles. 

So many movies in the basement

So much cross stitching for me

The weekend was pretty unremarkable. I did get Porter and Truman re-tested on Saturday, October 17 because my BFF at the health department urged me to try again. Considering Truman's fever earlier in the week and the amount of exposure those boys had undergone, it just didn't make sense for them to remain negative. And yet, their new tests came back negative AGAIN on Sunday. Sigh. Also, Nate lost his sense of smell and taste on his day 5 of this mess. If nothing else changed, the negative boys couldn't even start their 14 day quarantine until Monday, October 19th---the first day I was released from my own quarantine. So Truman will miss the rest of his soccer season, Porter will miss his favorite holiday (Halloween), and neither can return to school until 11/2. I hate you, COVID. Seriously. 

Have been trying to get outside, with masks, and not around anyone else obviously. A little Vitamin D and fresh (36 degree) air is good for the soul.

Everyone is feeling pretty good today as I write this, on October 19th. Cece is on day 18, I'm on day 11, Nate day 7, and Wallace day 5. So now that I'm not in quarantine and not contagious, I can care for Truman and Porter, Cece can be with anyone she wants, but Nate and Wallace need to stay away from T and P. It's a different kind of quarantine because Cece and I can bounce around to any of the guys. Although, one stressful thing that happened tonight is that Truman spiked another fever of 100.4 and says his legs hurt and he's cold. He does NOT want to get tested again so I guess we will just treat his symptoms and hope it moves quickly for him. 


Update: his fever persisted overnight, he's achey, headache, feels freezing cold, and weak. I called our Pediatrician office and got him in to be seen, and they tested him for COVID for a THIRD freaking time. Poor boy. I hate this for him so much, just want him to feel better. I don't even care if it's a positive test anymore, but I am glad I took him in and the doctor didn't ask me to make the decision to re-test at all. So  if it's negative, this could be influenza (although he hasn't been exposed to anyone outside of our family for over two weeks now) or some other virus. What are the chances??

We did get Caution tape for our house, and nothing makes Porter happier than Halloween decorations---this tape felt creepy a few weeks ago but I agreed to it now, because everyone really should stay away from our contaminated house!

And if we can't trick-or-treat this year, we will just have to pump up the decorations because Porter won't be satisfied until our entire lawn is covered with spooky decor. 

I'm running out of head space for this blog post, but I have more to say about silver linings and things that we've learned on this wild COVID-coaster ride. So stay tuned for a second post sometime soon-ish. 

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