Loneliness, Uncertainty, Anxiety: Watching My Husband Fight COVID-19 From Afar Was Gut-WrenchingDec. 11, 2020
By Stephanie Noriega
The arrival of the novel coronavirus earlier this year means I now find myself differentiating between life "before the pandemic" and life "after the pandemic."
I would say that before the pandemic hit, my husband Erik and I were what people refer to as two peas in a pod. We spent a lot of time together and enjoyed each other's company. The pandemic and all the subsequent restrictions really only made us two peas in a smaller, more claustrophobic pod (our house)!
This new level of closeness we reached — both in our relationship and in sheer physical proximity — was one of the reasons Erik's positive COVID-19 diagnosis felt pretty devastating.
Erik's positive test
It took a solid week between his exposure and for his fever to hit. Since he works in health care, as soon as he felt a slight rise in his temperature, he immediately quarantined himself to our second story. Even knowing he was potentially battling COVID-19, he sprang into action — alerting the proper channels and scheduling a Houston Methodist Virtual Urgent Care video visit and COVID-19 test.
It all happened faster than I could comprehend. Faster than I could genuinely react to in real time. And then, suddenly, there was nothing but time. So much time. Empty spaces of time that were once filled with his presence, conversation and laughter. There was plenty of time for the reality of the situation to sink in, and it was grim: Erik was going to have to fight the virus on his own, in a room upstairs, away from me, and I would have to wait alone, without physically interacting with anyone either, in case I started to develop symptoms as well.
The anxiety of having a sick loved one in your home who you can only minimally care for — partially because there isn't much you can do and partially because you desperately need to stay apart — is immense.
Erik was sick with a consistent fever for two weeks with no respite. I think the most stressful thing about COVID-19 is that there's no clear expectation of what your illness will entail. The spectrum of symptoms and their level of severity varies so widely that medical professionals can't even anticipate who lives and who dies. That's a wildly unsettling reality to face when you or a loved one is battling the virus. There's just no way to feel certain that everything will be okay.
That feeling of uncertainty, coupled with the fact that I was anxiously anticipating my own potential infection while trying to protect my friends and family from possible spread, made for a stressful and lonely time — marked by inconsolable silence.
After Erik's illness, we're continuing to stay in our pod
Erik is part of a category of lucky people who survived a coronavirus infection. But more than a quarter of a million others in America weren't so lucky.
I wish I could tell you that he avoided death because of his age, gender, health or medical history, but that wouldn't be true. I wish I could tell you that I didn't catch it for any of those reasons, but it's not that simple. We're dealing with a virus that spreads quickly and takes lives indiscriminately. I can tell you that caring for someone fighting the novel coronavirus is a lonesome and trying task.
I'm sharing my story to urge you to please avoid any unnecessary risks in the days to come. As we head into a potential surge period, please protect your peas and stay in your pod! Yes, it might be small and isolated, it might be boring and monotonous, but it's the best way to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe this winter.