Living With Coronavirus Under Your Roof: One Family's Story

Mar 24, 2020

We’ve been hearing a lot about COVID-19 in recent weeks from health experts and elected officials. Now we’re going to hear from a family that’s contending with a case inside their own home.

Credit NIH / Flickr.com

For disclosure’s sake, the wife is a longtime acquaintance of KLCC reporter Brian Bull. Her husband tested positive for coronavirus late last week. To provide the family confidentiality, we’re identifying them by the aliases of “Amy” and “Jim”.   Bull called them at their Idaho residence earlier this week, to check in once Jim was feeling rested enough to talk.  Bull began the conversation by asking Jim at what point he realized he wasn’t feeling well.


WEB EXTRA: Listen to an extended interview with Jim and Amy, on how they see the pandemic affecting society and how their teenage son is coping.  Transcript below.

Bull:  Jim, at what point did you start feeling out of sorts?

Jim: About a week ago last Monday, I started getting a little dry cough.  And then Tuesday morning it progressed to chills, achiness…I did not have a fever (coughs). And our healthcare facility here has a testing tent.  And I drove by, and they screened me, and said I passed the testing criteria, and they tested me on Thursday afternoon and then I received a call Friday evening from the health district to tell me that I was positive.

Bull: What was your immediate reaction to the news, Jim? 

Jim:   Ah…(laughs) It certainly changed my perspective.  I think up to that point I was living under the delusion that I just had a little bit of a cold, or I was run down from increased work.  But it became very real at that point, and you immediately start thinking about your family, and those around you that you may impact.

Amy:  There was some fear for sure.  We’d been super careful. I’d already increased cleaning since he was in healthcare; washing hands, disinfecting services, I think there was just, y’know…“How did it find its way in?”  But as we know, it’s super-contagious, and I think also the fact that he didn’t have a fever, and we were being told that was a main symptom to look for.

Jim: I know my family are showing some symptoms. They appear to be somewhat mild, which is somewhat comforting.  I’m feeling better, and the health district is calling every day, as well as the health system that I belong to, so it feels good (coughs)

Bull: I understand Amy has you sectioned off in another part of the house?

Jim: Yes, (coughs) there’s three of us in our household, and everybody’s in their own room. Everybody has their assigned bathroom.  Everybody goes down and does something at one point, and then Amy runs through and wipes everything down with sanitizer.

Amy: We follow the recommendation of being separated. Doing that, and just trying to eat well, stay hydrated, and just following the guidelines they’ve provided for us.

Bull: And it sounds like hydration is a very important part of this.

Amy:  Hydration is super important, they’re saying that medications that you do take, they really can’t do their job unless you are having a proper intake of fluids.

Bull:  Is it difficult to…ah, I imagine in a family…hugging, kissing, high fives, I mean that’s something you’re not engaging in right now for a while.

Amy:  Ah, right. That’s correct. I think you know right now a lot of families are being quarantined, and they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but pressed a little different with the self-isolation. So we’re living together but apart, which is very different right now.  Different than what I think we expected, where we might be able to be playing games and doing what families do when they’re indoors for a while. But it’s a little different for us right now.  Hold on Brian, I’m going to cough (laughs, then coughs)

Bull:  Amy tells me you’ve had some good support from family and friends. What’s been the best thing you’ve had them do for you and the family so far, Jim?

Jim: You know, I…(coughs) Excuse me.  It’s been really nice and comforting.  They’ve…all, most of the family have called every day.  They’re very understanding, they want to know how we’re doing. They’re also very curious about, y’know, what are the symptoms, how’s it impacting you, because they haven’t experienced this like we have.  And I think they’re worried it’s coming.

Bull:  As someone who is currently having an active case of COVID-19, Jim, I was just curious.  How informed are you staying on the developments of this global pandemic?  Are you watching the news, just reading up on articles, do you feel like you’re fairly informed, or do you prefer to leave it out of mind for a while?

Jim:  I have stopped really going online and trying to stay current with it. In the area that I live, it came on so fast, in the number of cases so quickly.  I don’t anticipate anything in the news other than it continuing to increase and ramp up in its severity. So I’m choosing to kind of detach from some of that for a while.

Bull:  What do you do to pass the time?

Jim:  Thank God for Netflix and streaming (coughs).  But I’m continuing to do some work from home, to stay engaged because there’s a lot of activity around this COVID-19 going on where I work. Talking a lot with friends and family, who keep calling.

Amy: Probably more TV watching than normal, reading, online gaming, definitely sleeping more, trying to get our rest.   We’re even supposed to be distancing ourselves from our pets, but that is proving to be nearly impossible.  We have just one dog and one cat, but they’re wanting to be right near us.  The recommendations are to stay some distance from your pet, they’re not really clear of the effects so that has us nervous.  So while they bring us comfort, we’re doing our best to keep our distance, but it’s just a little impossible. Especially when a cat wants to jump in your lap.

Bull: And I understand that currently, neither you nor your son have been tested for coronavirus, is that correct?

Amy: That’s correct.

Bull:  Is it because you’re not displaying full symptoms, or strongly pronounced symptoms?

Amy:  I think there’s such a stress on the system with the limited amount of test kits, that having already been exposed to someone that’s tested positive, they would  just prefer we stay home and monitor our symptoms, and stay in touch with Central District Health at this time. 

Bull: What are some examples you’ve seen of kindness, compassion, or people just being Good Samaritans in this pandemic?

Amy:  Oh, we’ve seen so much kindness, not just with our own friends and family, but also happening within our own community, around the country.  Y’know people are trying to help local establishments, and our healthcare workers, retailers, pharmacists, so many people that are just trying to do their jobs, so that we can stay safe. They’re major heroes right now.  And it just shows that sometimes we can be our best when I think when we’re faced with the worst.

Bull:  You and Jim have a teenage son, can I ask how he’s holding up in the midst of all this?

Amy:  Well, you know fortunately we live in a day and age when our teenagers are very well connected, socially. And of course, he has his pack of friends that are checking on him and wanting to help as well. He’s doing his online gaming, he’s playing his guitar, and family’s checking with him as well. And he’s really super appreciative of the network of friends and family that we have around us as well.

Bull:  Do you feel that you and your husband have been able to communicate effectively the seriousness of the coronavirus, without being alarmist or raising concerns that may not be realistic?

Amy: I think we’ve been very realistic with him.  I can see where this could be an issue with younger children for sure, y’know watching the news with him and him staying informed, and really important. He’s pretty down into that anyway on his own.  But just making sure we continue to have conversations about what’s important and social distancing.  Especially at the beginning was huge, because I think so many people felt that younger folks would be fine and not really be as affected by this.  As they know now, they can be huge carriers in this pandemic. 

Bull: One of the big stories that came out of the previous weekend were all these teenagers that went to Florida for spring break, and they had that whole “Well, what happens happens” attitude. Even though they may not be at strong risk compared to some other demographics, there was still concern that they can still be carriers, and bring the coronavirus back to planes, the dorms, their homes when they come visit, so it’s still a significant threat.

Amy:  Exactly, it’s just very unfortunate.  In fact, he was watching the news that night when that came on, and he was just shaking his head in disbelief. So I think we do have a responsibility to be educating our children, especially teenagers where it’s so hard for them and they all want to be out and be active, but we all need to do our part.

Bull: So Amy is there any advice you want to share to our listening audience in terms of preparing for coronavirus?  And also what to do if they or a close relative test positive?

Amy:  You know, I don’t want to add to the hoarding madness that we’ve seeing going on, but you will be in quarantine for quite some time. And that’s on top of the quarantine that you’re already maybe doing. So make sure you do have medications. They are advising different ones, you can look at the CDC website and see what those are, or ask your healthcare provider. But make sure you do have some medications as well as just some basic necessities on hand. I know that some grocery stores and restaurants are also providing delivery.  And of course, be in touch with your doctor as soon as you find out.  

It’s also normal to be scared, but not to panic.  And of course, as symptoms get worse, you’ll want to call your ER in advance. 

Jim: People really should take social distancing and this COVID-19 threat very serious.  It’s very disheartening when you see the news and people are on the beach or they’re continuing to get together.  At this point, what I’ve realized is, (cough) it’s not about me as an individual anymore, it’s really about those around me and trying to keep them safe.  I wish people would really consider that a little bit more.

Amy: Yeah, just stay safe, look out for neighbors and friends, they’re definitely high risk, especially if they’re alone. Be checking on those folks.  This is just a very serious thing.  Take it seriously, people.

Bull:  Jim and Amy, thank you so much for your time.  I’ve got my fingers crossed for the best possible outcome for everyone.  Take care.

Jim: Thank you very much.

Amy: Thank you.

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