As the nation continues to fight the spread of COVID-19, I would have never predicted that my household would be living inside the news headlines of testing and quarantine — and seeing the coronavirus deteriorate the health of someone I deeply care about.
Even after being mindful of masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, COVID-19 made it into my home when my husband tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus that is affecting millions of people around the world.
My husband, Ruff, is a healthy, robust, self-employed 34-year-old without any underlying health issues who works out regularly. On June 30, he developed a cough after dining indoors at a local restaurant four days prior. Living in the age of a pandemic, we did not take this unassuming symptom lightly. Without hesitation, our family of three began masking indoors, separated rooms and bathrooms, and refrained from being in close contact with him.
After two days, his symptoms progressed to a low-grade fever, confirming that this was much more than a minor cold or seasonal allergies. We decided to take the next step in further distancing ourselves from family and friends during the Fourth of July weekend. My 7-year-old son, RJ, and I watched the fireworks from our balcony and gazed at the stars above us, wishing that our beloved husband and father would recover from the unknown.
On July 5, Ruff’s symptoms worsened and he suddenly lost his sense of taste. Working in a health care setting and knowing the common signs and indicators of COVID-19, I went into crisis mode. I prepared a go-bag for RJ as fast as I could, packing enough clothes for up to two weeks in case his dad’s symptoms would take a turn for the worst. His uncle picked him up so that I could take Ruff to the Emergency Department to get tested, since the next available test with the County of San Diego wasn’t for another two weeks. At this point, I was wearing two surgical masks and a face shield during the three-minute car ride to Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. Ruff was screened at the entrance and immediately escorted to be tested. I stood outside of the Emergency Department entrance for two hours in tears, thinking of the worst-case scenario and what my game plan would be.
The following day, we received a phone call confirming his positive test result. As the day wore on, he proceeded to feel worse — developing body aches, chills and nausea. Our world became one of isolation, round-the-clock care, prayer, fatigue and uncertainty — even as society carried on around us.
I was consumed with trying to keep us safe, disinfecting high-touch surface areas and creating homemade barriers around our house. I strategized on how to provide supportive care and help Ruff cope with his symptoms and support him emotionally, while protecting my own health. I often thought to myself, “What would our intensive care unit nurses or infection prevention specialists do in this situation?”
The nights were the hardest, when fear and anxiety descended. My days were occupied with notifying close friends and family, attending telehealth appointments with our primary care physicians and pediatrician, speaking to County tracing representatives, and worrying if whether or not RJ and I would also become ill with the coronavirus.
In the midst of going through a dark season in my life, I realized the bright light that came in the form of loved ones who showed up when the load was too heavy. The strength and reassurance of our friends and family, who took the time to do porch drop-offs and frequently checked on us by phone or text, gave me the strength I needed when I was ready to fall apart. I am incredibly grateful that Sharp HealthCare offers Emergency Paid Administrative Leave that allowed me peace of mind and a financial safety net to take time off from work and take care of my family after being affected by COVID-19. The acts of kindness and relief revealed that difficult times will not last forever, but the genuine relationships you have with others can last a lifetime.
Two weeks passed and it seemed as if the coronavirus left as quickly as it came into our household. Ruff regained his sense of taste, was fever-free and off medication. After three days of being symptom-free and with the guidance of our doctors and the CDC, our family was happily reunited.
While most people with mild symptoms are able to recover at home, like Ruff, those who are at higher risk for severe illness have the potential to be hospitalized and put on respiratory ventilators. My family was lucky enough to fight this disease and make it out stronger than ever. Ruff plans to donate his convalescent blood plasma to help others with COVID-19 have a fighting chance of survival.
This pandemic is a very strange time, and it is affecting us in ways we do not fully understand. I love this quote by an unknown author: “Ships don’t sink because of the water around them. They sink because of the water that gets in them. Don’t let what’s happening around you get inside you and weigh you down.”
Leslie Aquinde is a senior specialist in Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center's marketing department.
For the news media: To interview Leslie about her family’s experience with COVID-19 for an upcoming story, please contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.