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Our Self-Quarantining Success Story: How We Kept COVID-19 From Spreading Through Our Family

Sep. 17, 2020

By Margaret Lynn

My daughter, Ashlee, came down with COVID-19 in early July. Even though she's only 25, the virus hit her really hard — landing her in the ICU for 10 days, seven of which she spent on a ventilator.

But, I'm not writing to tell you about how Ashlee got so sick she doesn't even remember being taken to the hospital. I'm also not writing this to talk about how miserable it is to have your child on life-support and you can't even be in the hospital room with her. Our family's experience with COVID-19 was rough, but that's not exactly why I'm writing this.

I'm here to share the part of our COVID-19 story that explains how I cared for Ashlee while she was sick, without myself, or my son, Nicholas, getting sick too — which, from what I've heard, is pretty rare.

To be honest, I'm surprised neither Nicholas or myself got COVID-19 as well. From other people I know who've had COVID-19, someone else in the family almost always gets it. Maybe not everybody in the household, but at least one other person.

But, even with Ashlee battling COVID-19 at home for four days, Nicholas and I stayed healthy. And what I know is that the steps we took to safely care for Ashlee are things almost any family can do.

So, our self-quarantine success story goes like this:

Like so many others, we were being careful

Pre-pandemic, I would've called myself a germophobe. And as soon as the pandemic hit, my germophobe habits went to an entirely different level.

I wasn't disinfecting our groceries like some of my friends were, but I was carrying hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in my car, as well as making my kids to do the same. I was wiping the kitchen counters down after my grocery runs, and sanitizing commonly touched surfaces around our home.

And since my daughter Ashlee works at a local hospital, I was making her take her shoes off before coming inside the house after her shifts.

I would say we were being careful. But despite our efforts, one Sunday in early July, Ashlee was sent home from work before her shift ever even started — she had a low-grade fever.

We knew that her fever could be a sign of COVID-19. We also knew we needed to take care of her while protecting ourselves. So, we started Ashlee's self-quarantining protocol immediately.

The only time Ashlee left her room was to get tested

From the moment Ashlee came home with a fever, we treated it as if she had COVID-19 — even though we wouldn't get her positive test results back until she was already in the hospital.

After coming home with a fever, Ashlee went straight to her bedroom and didn't come out. Well, she came out once — to get tested. But, even then, I disinfected the stair banister and the front door handles, the only things she had to touch to get from her car to her bedroom.

Otherwise, for the four days Ashlee was fighting COVID-19 at home, she never left her bedroom. The fact that she has her own bathroom attached to her bedroom helped.

While caring for Ashlee, there was no such thing as being too cautious

When it came to protecting ourselves from a virus that spreads as easily as this one, Nicholas and I knew there was no such thing as being "too careful" while taking care of Ashlee.

My son protested, but I made sure I was the only one caring for Ashlee. I figured the more people caring for her, the likelier it was for one of us to get sick — and I couldn't bear the thought of both of my kids having COVID-19. If anyone was going to get sick, I wanted it to be me.

I would prepare Ashlee's meals and drinks, leave them outside her bedroom door and then send her a quick text message to let her know they were ready for her. When it came time to collecting her empty dishes, I would spray disinfectant in the hallway and at her door, take her dishes straight to the sink, wash my hands, wash her dishes (sometimes several times with paper towels I could throw out) and then wash my hands again.

Even just walking by her door I'd be cautious.

Like I said, to us, there was no such thing as being too careful. I don't know if anything I did actually helped, but I was just trying to be as safe and clean as possible.

I monitored Ashlee's symptoms via texts, phone calls, FaceTime and through the door

We've all read the stories about mild COVID-19 symptoms that turn severe. Plus, as a parent, you can't help but want to constantly check on your child when he or she is sick. But, I knew I couldn't go inside her room to check on her.

The first day or so, we were mostly texting and calling. I would ask about her symptoms, making mental notes about whether or not they seemed like they were worsening.

After a few days, though, I felt like I needed to see her — to see what she looked like. So we started FaceTiming. And, for the most part, she looked and seemed okay — just a fever.

On Tueday, however, Ashlee's fever spiked — hitting 105. While FaceTiming her later that day, I noticed she was developing a cough, and she mentioned having a hard time catching her breath after coughing. I was worried.

The only time I entered Ashlee's room was when her symptoms became severe

I only entered Ashlee's room twice while she was fighting COVID at home, both times coming just hours before paramedics would rush her to Houston Methodist.

Ashlee's symptoms had started worsening. To help her stay on top of her dosages of fever reducers and cough medicine, I was setting alarms and listening outside her door. At 2:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, I listened outside her room to make sure she was awake and taking her medicine. I could hear her stirring and mumbling, but that was it.

I decided I needed to check on her in person. I put on a mask and gloves and entered Ashlee's room for the first time since she'd come home sick. I woke her up, helped her take her medicine and rushed out of her room to toss my gloves and mask and wash my hands.

It was when I'd check on Ashlee again around 7 a.m. that I entered her room for the second time. While listening outside her door, I didn't hear any stirring at all — total silence. I put my mask and gloves on and entered her room again, but this time I couldn't wake her up. I called 911 immediately.

As Ashlee fought for her life, I sanitized her room

Ashlee was in the hospital for 13 days — most of that time spent in the ICU on a ventilator. Because I couldn't visit her in the hospital, all I could really do was sit at home and wait. It was agonizing.

Amidst all of my worrying about my daughter, I eventually decided to tackle disinfecting her room.

I waited a few days, but I eventually put on my mask and gloves and entered her room again — this time to open the windows and set up a fan to help circulate air. For the next few days, I'd carefully enter her room and spray disinfectant everywhere and continue to let her room "air out."

Finally, I started the process of stripping her bedding (and anything else I could remove) and cleaning her room. I did 10 loads of laundry that day, all using the sanitize cycle of my washing machine.

Ashlee is home and almost fully recovered now, but we're still being safe

After 13 days in the hospital, and another four to deal with some of the lingering effects of COVID-19, Ashlee is almost fully recovered and back at work.

But, since we don't know how long she will be immune to COVID-19, we're still not taking any chances. In fact, we're doubling down on our precautions.

Anything Ashlee takes to the hospital, such as her lunch, is disposable. In addition, she goes straight to the laundry room after her shifts to take her scrubs off and wash them in the washing machine.

It's the little things, but since COVID has hit us personally, I don't think we can be too safe.

We've seen how terrible this virus can be. And while we can't be exactly sure what made our COVID-19 quarantine protocol a success, I hope our story can help other families dealing with the challenge of caring for a child, parent or someone else in the household who has COVID-19 without anyone else getting sick.

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