My Whole Family Got COVID…
My Whole Family Got COVID…
Here’s the whole story.
After a crazy-eventful lockdown (in which we had to make not one, but two emergency visits to the hospital for our normally healthy kids), we were so looking forward to getting back to some kind of normal. Our kids’ school was opening up again, our work loads were piling up nicely, things were finally looking up. Then, we got COVID.
Firstly, how did we get it?
One of our twins, aged 5, began to cough for nights on end. No other symptoms, just a cough. We were all fine. With their school set to open soon, we decided to take him to the doctor to make sure he was OK and not contagious. The doc examined him and determined it was just allergies. But after another week (and lots of allergy meds and a little steroid meds later) his coughing continued unabated. By this point, my wife and I had developed mildly sore throats and were coughing a little at night too. Of course, we didn’t have the dreaded virus, we told ourselves… we hadn’t come into contact with anyone who had it and our symptoms were so mild and atypical… no fevers, no headaches, no loss of taste or smell.
But due to our son not getting better, and him waking up in the middle of the night declaring, ‘I can’t breathe,’ we took him back to the doctor. Now that it wasn’t just Charlie with symptoms, the doc suspected we had somehow contracted COVID and told us to take the next 2 weeks to isolate at home. We obeyed and battened down the hatches (we hadn’t sent Charlie to school with symptoms anyway, but now the rest of the gang joined him too).
We were also told to not go and get tested as a) false negatives are a thing, and b) due to us all having no comorbidities and being low-risk with mild symptoms, we shouldn’t add to the already over-burdened testing situation.
Still, we were itching to know for sure, and so my family of 7 sent me to the Dischem drive-through as tribute. Two days later, I got the results: COVID Positive.
Since then, all but one of us has had some of the tell-tale symptoms. Given how we really do live cheek to jowl in this household, it’s strange that we didn’t all get it at the same time, and stranger still that our patient zero was one of our youngest: 5-year-old Charlie!
So what were our symptoms?
My 7-year-old daughter was asymptomatic. The rest of us have had a variety of symptoms. I sneezed and was a little snotty. On about day 5, I woke up in the night feeling like my air pipes had narrowed, it felt harder to breathe than usual. We all coughed, but not a classically dry cough. My wife coughed for the full 2 weeks, and Charlie for almost 3.
Julie and I felt really tired by the afternoons, and both of us felt an ache in our lower legs when we climbed into bed at the end of each day. We all felt strangely breathless at times, even after almost no physical exertion.
None of us lost our taste or smell, but Julie mid-way through, for about 3 days, felt like her tongue and the roof of her mouth had been burnt.
What scared us?
1. The prospect of day 7 was scary. We had read that if you have a serious case, you’ll typically know by day 7 or 8. We watched closely as each member in our family progressed through their symptoms… sighing a relief on day 10 in all cases.
2. The breathlessness was scary. In my case, it was worst on days 4-9. Not that we were in real danger, but your mind plays tricks on you. I kept wishing I had an asthma pump or something.
3. Scariest by far was the thought we might have infected others in our presymptomatic and early symptomatic phase. When our doc sent us home that first day, we phoned everyone we’d been in contact with over the past week to let them know.
One of these people I’d come in contact with went into isolation and sent out this message to his work: ‘I have been advised by a contact tracing exercise that I go into isolation.’ Nice. No need for more details than that.
Thankfully, it seems that none of the people we were in contact with have developed any symptoms (and this is now almost 3 weeks later).
What surprised us?
1. Just how mild the symptoms can be. A half-hour before I got my test results, I’d said to Julie that this whole ordeal felt pointless. “All we have is a cold,” I said. Everything I have read speaks of the virus having flu-like symptoms, but in most of our cases it was more cold-like. Other than our eldest son once reaching a temp of a blistering 37, none of us had anything remotely resembling a fever. Most of the time, our kids didn’t even register anything hampering their happiness and energy levels. The only meds we gave them was OTC cough syrup (like Demazine) at night (if they needed it), and we loaded up on Vitamin C and Zinc during the days. Our doc did put Charlie on a short course of an antibiotic to protect his chest.
2. That, as far as we know, no one got the virus from us. Not the person who works in our home (she didn’t come while we were in isolation – she stayed isolating at her home). Not the person I had traveled for over an hour in a car with. Not the family member we had had a coffee with. No doubt we got lucky, but I had imagined that if you have it, everyone around you catches it.
3. That, as far as we can tell, we got it from our youngest kid! He was coughing for a full week before anybody else in our family got any symptoms. Where did he get it? We have no idea – we took him out of the house only a handful of times over the previous weeks. We suspect he must have picked it up during one of two family outings: a walk on Sea Point Prom and another family walk around Kalk Bay. On both occasions, we went all donning our face masks and with freshly washed hands there and back. However, on both occasions, our little boys managed to still touch every public surface in sight, naturally. Wherever he picked it up, it’s been reported that it’s particularly difficult for small kids to pass on the virus to others, but as our case shows, it must be possible.
4. The real numbers must be much, much higher. Officially speaking only I had COVID, and the rest of the family who were not tested, had suspected COVID. The daily new case graph registered only 1 for my house (alerted by the pathology lab), but it probably should have counted 7.
What was weird about this virus?
1. Just how long and sticky it is. My symptoms started 3 weeks ago. By WHO-standards I have been post-infections for over a week. I have felt great for longer than that. But Julie and I both still have bouts of breathlessness.
2. Some of us seemed to get it worse than others. When we normally get the flu, Eli and Julie are our ‘untouchables’… they never get really sick, while I am man-down for several days. But in this case, Eli and Julie got it worse than the rest of us. Eli particularly lay about exhausted for a few days, saying his chest hurt when he coughed. We’re not sure about the other kid’s blood types, but I am an O type, and we know that Eli and Julie are both A positives. Then again a recent study questions the blood type hypothesis.
3. Its affect on our cognitive functioning. Julie and I have had days where our brains just don’t work. Endless typos, struggling to find the right word, no creative juices, extra forgetful. And that, after the other symptoms are gone.
What we would do differently…
We wouldn’t have dropped our guard. Had we kept up the vigilance we had at first, and washed ours and our kids hands more stringently after outings, perhaps we would not have gotten it.
Keeping our masks on, washing those hands, and keeping social distances when out – these are just the new norms we must live by. Like us, at any moment, you could unknowingly have the virus and be passing it on to others if we don’t all keep up our guards.
With the remote possibility of us getting it again, cautiousness and mask-wearing is still the way to go, even for those of us who have recovered.
My advice to young, healthy families.
If your young family gets it, go home, stay home, get lots of Vitamin-C and Zinc, drink a lot of hot lemon water, and if you can, eat loads of high-alkaline foods. Sit in the sun for 20 minutes a day, and rest well.
And know this, almost certainly, you will be fine.
The real thing to fear is passing it on to those who are more vulnerable. So keep that mask on, wash those hands regularly and keep your distance – especially from those who are at a greater risk of developing more serious complications.
When the mask feels stuffy, and the hands start to burn from another round of hand sanitizer, just remember, you’re doing it all for love.