I want to share my family’s COVID-19 story in hopes it will resonate with someone that it needs to. In hopes it will emphasize the stress our healthcare system is under. And to break the news that this can happen to you.
Jake tested positive for COVID-19 after exposure at school. We always knew this was a strong possibility with him being a teacher, but I have to admit, it still felt shocking. The next day, I tested positive and Augie and Alice tested negative. Since the kids had been exposed and we didn’t want to risk infecting another family, we isolated together. Not surprisingly, about four days later, Augie and Alice started having mild symptoms. They were both back to normal within a few days except Alice has continued to have a junky cough when she wakes up in the morning. The kids have been in an extended 24-day quarantine since I didn’t get them retested (their 14-day quarantine couldn’t begin until Jake’s and my 10-day isolation was over).
(Monday) was Day 18 since Alice’s symptom onset and it was the scariest day of our lives. After eating breakfast, I picked Alice up out of her high chair, she excitedly gave me a hug and then proceeded to start choking. My thought was, “oh no – she had unchewed food in her mouth.” She was breathing, but violently coughing so I forced myself to just let her work it out. She eventually stopped, but was now wheezing and I just knew something wasn’t right. I called 911. The paramedics evaluated her and put us in the ambulance to head to Stillwater Medical Center.
When we arrived we were placed in a room. They were extremely busy. An X-ray was taken and her lungs were clear. Her breathing was still noisy so they gave her a breathing treatment and oral steroid. A COVID patient was arriving via ambulance and since we were in the last remaining negative pressure room, they asked us to move to the hallway where they had little stations set up. I can now see the frantic scene of the ER. I feel bad for even being there and taking up space. Then, suddenly, Alice begins to go into a massive coughing fit. She can’t breathe. Doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists are swarming us. She’s in complete distress. She is refusing oxygen. Her O2 drops to 72. I tell them I’m scared. But we just hold her and do our best to calm her. It passes and her O2 goes back up to normal.
We are then put in a room that is also used for storage. They run tests. She comes back COVID-19 positive, which wasn’t necessarily surprising since I’ve read you can test positive for awhile. They break the news to me that they want her transferred to OU Children’s because we need to be near a PICU. We are priority and will receive the first ambulance in the area. In the meantime, they do some other treatments and get an IV in. Her breathing continues to be noisy. We wait for hours upon hours – there’s no ambulance available. The nurses then come in and apologetically ask if they can have our bed, and roll in a chair. The hospital is literally out of physical beds. Of course I can sit in a chair. I can sit on the floor. If there’s anything I could have done in that moment to help a healthcare worker, I would have done it.
Our transfer arrives and we make the long haul to OKC. We arrive at OU Children’s ER. We were told we would be evaluated there and to expect to be admitted. Upon arrival, Alice is doing much better. Her breathing is close to normal. Her O2 had been 100% the entire ride. They hook her up, watch her, make sure her O2 stays up while sleeping, etc. They think the treatment SMC gave her worked and she’s made it over the hump. They say we can go home and focus on getting this mucus thinned out. This all happened because she got COVID-19 and her little 1-year old body doesn’t know how to cough out all the junk, so she started choking on it. During the past (almost) 3 weeks she has never showed any signs of wheezing or labored breathing. Like I said earlier, she only had some junk in her throat/chest when she would wake up. This came out of nowhere.
This pandemic has affected our family in countless ways. For one, I work in oil and gas and haven’t had work since June. But all I could think about while sitting in the ER while my little girl struggled to breathe was... Take my job; take my money; take my time with family and friends; take my sanity while dealing with distance learning, but please, whatever you do... don’t take my baby.
This is not a political issue. This is a humans caring about other humans issue. Don’t think the worst can’t happen to you. It can. And it might.
I know distance learning is hard on us as parents. It’s hard on me. It’s hard on kids. It’s hard on teachers. But just please remember, not being able to breathe is a much harder thing.
I could say endless things about the bravery and selflessness of our healthcare workers. They are tirelessly trying to save us all while putting themselves and their families at risk. They are inches away from the face of a COVID-19 patient trying to get IV’s in and get the person the oxygen they desperately need. They’re running out of resources. They’re running out of physical space.
We have to protect each other. We have to get our numbers down. This is not manageable.
Alice is home this morning and continues to do well. Thank you to our massive support system for lifting us up this past month. And if you made it this far, thank you for listening.