On March 9, my 14-year-old Geordie had a fever of 100.5, a horrible cough and runny nose. The same day, my 15-year-old Jake also had a sore throat and a fever. Allergy season was just getting underway, so to be safe, I kept them both home from school. At this point, the U.S. had 702 cases of the virus and everyone was still going about their normal routines. Out of an abundance of caution, since March 9, we have all been quarantined in our home.
On March 13, as the numbers in the U.S. increased to 2167, so did Geordie’s fever. I decided I should take both boys to the pediatrician, just to be sure this wasn’t something to be more concerned about. None of the pediatric staff took any additional precautions from a routine sick visit. They just asked questions like, “had we been on a cruise or traveled out of the country?” No, we didn’t travel internationally or go on a cruise. They tested both kids for strep, sent us home with, “it’s probably allergies.”
Geordie got much worse over the next couple of days, and so did the confirmed cases in the U.S. His fever continued to hover around 101, and his cough went to his chest and got much worse. He was sleeping all the time, and he was non-stop coughing.
On March 19, the U.S. number had risen to 13,479 and I knew we had to take Geordie back to the doctor. This time, the pediatrician’s office seemed to be COVID prepared, gloves, goggles and gowns were now present. The doctor came in and took a lot of time with her stethoscope. She listened very closely to his chest as he struggled to take deep breaths in and out. Unfortunately, she gave us the news that he had developed pneumonia in both of his lungs.
“I am going to test him for the flu.” Geordie, the doctor, and I all glanced at each other for a good 30 seconds. She knew what we were going to ask. “I can’t test him for COVID-19 because of the lack of testing kits in our office; CDC guidelines tell us to only test if someone has traveled outside of the U.S.” Was she serious? My kid has pneumonia; of course you have to test him for COVID-19!
I felt horrible for her as she wrestled with what she knew was the right decision. Geordie was worried; I was scared, and the pediatrician was paralyzed with knowing what she had to do. I nicely insisted that she administer the COVID-19 test. She left the room, came back and did the flu and COVID-19 tests. Her recommendation was to start a three-day supply of azithromycin, four puffs four times a day of ProAir. The test results would be back in two to four days.
Ten days had passed since this all started with a fever and cough. At this point, everyone’s worlds had been turned upside down. All of my kids’ schools had closed; there was a stay-at-home order for Sandy Springs; I had been laid off; and now I found myself in the role of 24/7 nurse trying to make sure my child was breathing, all while maintaining my sanity waiting for the test results to come back.
That weekend was the worst. Geordie struggled with his breathing; his cough was horrendous; he was sleeping around the clock; and I didn’t sleep at all, checking on him all the time. I kept my phone by my side hoping to get the results, but the weekend came and went, and nothing. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, nothing, still no results after seven days.
At this point, I started coughing; my husband was coughing; the other kids were coughing; and all I was thinking was the entire house is now infected. Pollen counts in Atlanta were at an all-time high, so I kept saying, please just be allergies. How do we not have results after a week of getting tested?! After another week of seeing the numbers infected on the rise in the U.S. to now 83,732, … does my entire family now have it?
Finally, after 10 days of waiting, the results came back negative!!! Thank goodness, just a horrible case of pneumonia at a very strange time. Now we can all breathe a sigh of relief and continue to nurse Geordie back to health from pneumonia.
Over the past three weeks, clearly the severity and numbers have grown where people in this country are taking this extremely seriously. Watching my child go through this horrible experience, seeing the numbers rise daily, not knowing for 10 days if we were all infected with COVID-19, really had a huge impact on all of us, mentally, physically and emotionally.
Please know that based on our experience, if you get tested, you may not know for days and that will cause anguish, stress, and mentally, it will be extremely challenging. Today marks day 25 of the Francombe self-quarantine. We have done puzzles, played family board games, cooked, cleaned, fought, went on family walks, but most importantly, we are taking care of each other and spending a lot of quality family time together. We will all get through this trying time and hopefully come out stronger on the other side. Take care of yourselves and each other. Everything will be OK!
Stacie Francombe was director of the 2019 Maccabi Games held in Atlanta.