Gabriela Hutchings is a senior studying journalism in Boston University’s College of Communication and Advertising Chair of the Back Bay Publishing Co., which oversees operations of The Daily free Press. Upon returning to her home in California for spring break, she was confronted with the possibility that her mother might have the coronavirus. Soon falling ill herself, she and her family have had to adapt to social distancing under their own roof, all while still trying to live as normally as possible.
When I returned home to California from Boston on March 15, my mother was already sick. It was weird for all of us in my family because she never falls ill; we assumed it was just a cold or maybe the flu. But hour by hour, all of our devices were flooded with more and more updates on the coronavirus. It became clear in the span of a few days that now, we must factor in the possibility that my mom could have COVID-19.
She had a fever for well over 12 days that was accompanied by exhaustion, cold symptoms, irritability, muscle soreness and brain fog. Like anyone would, she sought medical attention three times before the doctor finally agreed to test her for COVID-19.
By this time, I had been home for four days. I already had extreme respiratory issues, body aches and a nearly 101 degree fever. It was clear that I needed to be tested as well. We both got into the car and drove to Urgent Care. here, my 57-year-old mother was driving in her car on the way to Long Beach Urgent Care.
Once we arrived, we were told, “Wait in your car, we will come to you. What is the make and model of your vehicle?”
They saw the situation. They let us inside.
They proceeded to test my mom. The doctor refused to test me, despite my many aligning symptoms. Seemingly, I did not fit the criteria.
Less than 48 hours after her test, we received news that my mom had tested positive for COVID-19. The medical staff finally began to take our symptoms seriously. The Long Beach Department of Health acted quickly, contacting my whole family immediately. They mainly wanted to contact me because they knew I was showing symptoms alongside my mom. I was required to get tested as soon as possible.
The testing center was a tent set up in the back parking lot behind the Department of Health. Healthcare professionals working there were practically in hazmat suits. I had communicated the make and model of my car prior to coming, as well as a specific time. They were waiting for me.
I was required to have all my windows fully rolled up. They directed me with signs. Once I pulled up, one woman fully dressed in protective gear came to my window. I was then allowed to roll the window down for a short moment while she stuck a long stick up my nose. It was a very quick test but fairly painful.
I got tested four days after my main symptoms started. My results came back: negative for COVID-19. At first, I believed it. Maybe it was just a cold?
My mom remained sick and I did not see her much. She wore a mask at all times. I would check in throughout the day to make sure she was okay or see if she needed anything. We also share a bathroom, so it was very hard to fully avoid her.
Everyday, she opens her window for fresh air and some natural light.
I have started to really miss my friends, who have been able to go out and social distance together. I have tried to stay as far away as I can at all times but still see them, masked and beyond the rule of six feet apart.
But days passed and I got sicker. I can no longer go out, at all. I am not sure if it makes it better knowing nobody else can either. Sometimes, I think it makes it worse.
Three weeks after my initial temperature rise, it has grown concerning to me that my fever has persisted for so long. My body has grown so tired.
By now, all of us except my brother wear masks around the house at nearly all times. My father stays upstairs mostly, except to get his morning coffee and eat dinner.
Being self-employed, my 61-year-old father has kept working in whatever ways he can. It is inevitably getting harder and clearer that eventually, everyone may have to stop working.
I can’t help but wonder, “what is everyone else’s plan? What is everyone else doing?” It’s helpful to stay busy.
My mom has taken to cooking a lot during this time, I think it helps with her mental health. Another long night after another slow morning, day by day, she slowly began to feel better.
We began to start using homemade bandana masks instead. They are easier to clean and in much better supply. My mom would never cook for our family without being fully masked up. For that, we are all thankful.
She has always been used to following Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines while at work, so once the coronavirus hit, she stepped it up. Her skin began to get thin, bare and sore from washing her hands so many times a day, an inevitable struggle during this pandemic.
Cooking has been an escape for us both, and we’ve been making new recipes that we create ourselves or find online. Between being advised not to leave home and grocery stores lacking essentials, we are still trying to eat as healthy as we can. However, with so many non-perishable goods such as junk food and snacks around the house, we occasionally stray from healthy eating.
My brother and I are both attending college online now from the same household. I usually stay in my room. My East Coast classes are now three hours earlier, which usually leads to me staying in bed for my 8 a.m. classes, especially since mornings are when I feel the worst and sleep has been scarce.
My brother Andrew has staked claim over our family’s entire dining room, with his textbooks and chemistry notes spilled over the large altar-style table at all times.
He is the only member of our family who hasn’t showed any COVID-19 symptoms, but that’s not to say he isn’t affected by the pandemic in other ways.
This abrupt shift in lifestyle seems to present in its own stages of grief in all of us.
This has been my life. We are sick but sticking together. Like any normal family, we fight, but unlike before, now we are forced to come back together.
Social distancing will go on, isolation will grow harder and these next few weeks will supposedly be the hardest. However, I am lucky to have a home and resources and a family. I feel fortunate despite our illness. I know it will be okay.