by Barb, writing from a family vacation in Stone Harbor, New Jersey
When we owned our house in Boothbay Harbor, our family–my husband, Bill, our two kids, their spouses, and their kids–used to get together there over the Fourth of July long weekend. When we sold the house, we said, “No worries, we can rent.” Renting a house for a week seemed like a much better idea than paying for a house over the course of a year, especially given the maintenance required by a Victorian by the sea. The first year we rented the house right next to our Boothbay house. But this year, with a baby and a toddler coming with us, we had decided a place by a lake would be better. We made reservations at the campground where we had camped when our kids were little.
By the end of April it was obvious no one was going to be comfortable going to a campground. But we hadn’t all been together since Thanksgiving and longed to see one another. My son and his wife hadn’t met their newest niece, and their seven year-old daughter missed us all. We decided to rent a house in the country that everyone could drive to in one day. We found a place on the Massachusetts/Connecticut border with enough bedrooms and a pool and a pond. The Fourth of July wasn’t available, (a downsized wedding had snapped it up), but the last week in June was. Plans were made. We had all been pretty isolated up to that point. It was our first social venture in months.
The place was great. We were thrilled to be together. My granddaughters were so excited to have another kid to play with that the more than five year difference in their ages wasn’t an obstacle.
I started feeling sick around day three. Nothing serious, but lethargy and no appetite, which was annoying because every night a different person cooked and the results were delicious. I finally confessed to Bill. He took me through the covid checklist. The lethargy was my only matching symptom. But I started taking my temperature.
By the fourth night I had a fever of 100.3. We waited until the grandchildren were in bed and called the adults into the living room. I told them I had a fever. I felt terrible. I had been hugging and kissing their kids and preparing food.
They were enormously relieved. “We thought you were going to say you were dying!”
“I wouldn’t tell you I was dying in the middle of a vacation,” I insisted.
Everyone started looking up where to get covid tests, but every place we found required proof of Massachusetts residency, something I couldn’t supply. I felt worse as the night went on and in the morning called a friend with connections to the healthcare industry in Massachusetts. She forwarded an email I wrote describing my symptoms to a friend who is a hospital administrator and a former emergency room doctor. He got right back and said I certainly should have a covid test, since I was staying with so many people, but given my symptoms, the low community transmission rate in Maine and how careful I had been, he thought something else serious was going on with me and I should go to an emergency room right away.
My husband dropped me at UMass Memorial Hospital’s emergency room and I walked in on my own. They put me in a covid room with negative airflow since I had a fever and my status was unknown. On that last day in June, the emergency room seemed perfectly normal. There was someone who’d had a heart attack in the next room. There was a kid who’d broken his arm.
My rapid response test came back two hours later as negative. I was happy to be able to call my family and report that. The hospital continued to treat my status as unknown, awaiting the results of the longer test. Aside from the fact that the medical personnel put on fresh PPE every time they entered my room and discarded it when they left, the biggest difference I noticed was I was cared for by a very small team. Two nurses, the attending physician and a resident did all the work, whether it was starting my IV or wheeling me down to have a CAT scan. I assumed this was so the smallest number of personnel had contact with me.
The results of the CAT scan showed a large kidney stone, dangerously infected and going nowhere. At six at night the urologist called to say I needed a procedure to put a stent around the stone. By that point I was starving and lonely and my phone was dying. I thought he meant a procedure while I was awake and I didn’t think I could handle it. I was panicky and weepy until he assured me I would be unconscious for the surgery, at which point I said, “Oh, then do whatever you want.”
Now I’m embarrassed for falling apart. When I think about what must have gone on in that emergency room all spring, and I’m there crying because I’m hungry. I am deeply grateful to have been in a Massachusetts hospital on June 30th, and not on March 30th, or April 30th, or even May 30th.
By the time I woke up in recovery my second covid test had come back negative. They moved me to a non-covid floor in the hospital and the next day I was back at the rental place in time for dinner, with no restrictions except not to lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk.
After a couple of courses of antibiotics, I had a second day surgery to remove the original stent, blast the stone, and put in a new stent. The day surgery place at the hospital was pretty normal, except fewer people than usual and everyone wearing masks. The second stent was removed a week ago.
Now I’m at the beach with my brother’s family and my son’s family. I feel fine and I’m so happy to be here.
Readers: Have you had an unusual experience in the time of Carona? Tell us about it.