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Self-Quarantined During COVID-19: One Eugenian's Account

Photo provided by Joanna Bartlett.

Testing for COVID-19 is gradually becoming more available across the U.S. and Oregon, but demand still exceeds availability. Many people are being told by their doctors to self-isolate if they think they’ve possibly been infected, which includes Joanna Bartlett and their family.  Since last week, they’ve been self-quarantined inside their Eugene home.  KLCC's Brian Bull recently talked to Bartlett, and asked how they’re all doing.

(Note: Following transcript may not be entirely accurate or complete)

Bartlett:  “So before we got sick, I would fall asleep at night, coming up with all of these elaborate plans of how we could isolate different members of our household, depending on who got sick first. Because the advice is that the infected person has their own bedroom and bathroom, and is isolated from the rest of the house, and I was like, “Oh we have that  plastic sheeting, and we could put it up in the hallway, kids rooms, or we could…”…and none of that happened because by the time my husband and I realized we were getting sick, we had been contagious for I don’t know how long, and both the kids have shown some symptoms, my 14-year-old has just had a little bit of a cough, but not too bad. And so I went, “Ah….well, too late for that.”

Credit NIH / Flickr.com
Novel coronavirus.

So I would say, I suppose, don’t torture yourself about…I suppose if somebody gets like, suddenly ill with a high fever, and it’s really obvious, sure, totally isolate that person if you can. But you know, you do the best that you can.

And take care of yourself and your family members, treat yourself and others kindly, do as much self-care whatever that happens to mean to you.  And call your doctor, call the Lane County Public Health hotline and talk to a nurse, and stay home.  If you think you’re ill at all, just stay home, it’s not worth it to be going out and potentially spreading the virus.

Bull: You’re not tested, how come?

Bartlett:   It wasn’t given to me as an option, there aren’t enough tests available, my understanding is that they’re only testing people who’ve been admitted to the hospital.  Both of my friends who went to the ER, neither of them were tested.

Bull: Would it be helpful were it possible to be tested at this point?

Bartlett:  It’d be incredibly helpful. Because right now we are assuming that we do have COVID-19, and so we’re quarantining our whole family.  And one of our kids is with her mom, with her other parent, at the moment.  And she would usually be coming over to our house, and she’s not right now until we’re better. So we’re not getting to see one of our kids because we don’t know. And we want everyone to be safe and healthy.  And also while right now we’re assuming do have COVID-19 and acting as if we do, once we feel better, we can’t necessarily assume that we have had it. So it’s a bit of a weird place to be.

This is not a fun illness to have.  We’ve been very fortunate in that we have a mild case, we don’t need medical care, we don’t need hospitalization.  And it’s still been hard and kinda scary, not being able to breathe easily, getting out of breath like walking the stairs or having a conversation or singing a song, does not feel good. Having that chest tightness, and pain, along with the fatigue and the nausea and the headaches. And my sense of smell is apparently broken.  I can still smell things, they just smell wrong. This is not something I’d would want anybody else to have. And so we need to take it seriously, and stay home and not spread it.

Bull:  You’re a grief recovery specialist, Joanna.  How has that helped you in adapting to your current situation?

Bartlett:  Well, what we’re all experiencing right now is grief.  The definition of grief that I work with, that the Grief Recovery Institute works with, is that grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss.  And grief are the conflicting feelings that we feel when a familiar pattern of behavior changes or ends.  And we are all in an unfamiliar pattern of behavior right now, a lot of things have changed or ended for pretty much all of us. Whether that is…that we have lost our jobs, or we have financial losses, or we have a loss of health, we have a loss of sense of safety, and for some of us that will also be the traditional losses that we think of, such as loss of life, of our loved ones…perhaps dying from this. And that’s loss and that’s grief. And that’s what we’re experiencing right now.

And so what’s helpful for me, is that I know this, that I can name it. When you can name what you’re experiencing, it can be very helpful in understanding what’s happening and moving through it. And for me, it allows me to be kinder to myself, it allows me to be more compassionate with myself.  And when you’re kinder and more compassionate with yourself, then you can be kinder and compassionate with other people around you. Because you understand that they’re going through grief as well. And this is a hard time for all of us.

Joanna Bartlett shares a song via Facebook Live in her home.

Bull: You’ve also used music to reach out to people.  Is it therapeutic to play music during this uncertain time?

Bartlett:  Definitely.  I used to play music, I had aspirations of being a folk rock star when I was in my 20s that didn’t quite work out.  And so I love playing music, and it’s a helpful thing for me emotionally. And so I decided to just start doing little Facebook Live (streaming videos), you know, me and my bedroom, or on the front porch, or where ever, just to share music.  Because it is really helpful for me, and I got some really nice feedback from a few friends of mine, saying “Oh, I love it when you do this.” 

So I’ve been doing it as much as I can. And also because this illness has been affecting my lungs, it’s leaving me short of breath.  I’ve been…it seems a little counterintuitive, I’ve been wanting to do things using my lungs.  But when I’ve been up for it, it to me feels like a good exercise for my lungs.  And it’s a bit of that, “Oh, I’m just going to keep on going anyway.”


Bull: When this pandemic finally ends, what’s the first thing you’d like to do?

Bartlett: I think I want to hug all the people who have been helping me. Like my neighbor across the street, I want to give her a big hug.  I want to be able to see the people I haven’t been able to see, I want to be able to on walks with my friends in the neighborhoods, or go for hikes.  That kind of thing, when the physical distancing things have been lifted, when the pandemic is over.

And I suppose the last thing I‘d say is that let other people help you, ask for help when you need help.  Get grocery delivery, get meal delivery, whether you are getting it from a company…we had Friendly Street Market deliver our groceries yesterday.  Or whether it’s…if you’re reaching out to friends and asking for help…I do not like asking people for help. I’m very independent, stubbornly independent. And it’s hard for me to ask for help.  And yet it’s been necessary and it’s actually been really heartwarming and healing, to know that people care about me and want to help. 

BB:  Joanna Bartlett, thank you very much for your time and I wish the best for you and your family in recovering from this pandemic.

Bartlett:  Thank you.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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