This is my 12-year-old daughter. Vaccinations for her age have recently become available. I figured I had time to make that a priority. I was afraid, too, to be honest. And we are living like the “war is over,” so again, I figured I had time.
I sent her to youth camp and she came home with a stuffy nose on July 1st. We are now 17 days into her COVID journey.
I didn’t think much of her nasal congestion. I figured it was allergies from being at a campground. When she was no better on July 5th, I thought it would be best to take her to the doctor just to rule out a sinus infection before heading into a work week. At that visit they did a PCR COVID swab and, while I waited for results, we learned the camp she attended was cancelling future camps because of a recent COVID outbreak during the previous week. My stomach sank — and 45 minutes later, I learned Jill was positive for COVID.
Jillian’s symptoms remained pretty limited to lack of appetite, nasal congestion, and fatigue until she spiked a high fever of 104.6 on July 9th which prompted us to urgent care. She was so sick. She was vomiting, in much discomfort, and almost fainted on more than one occasion. She was discharged with pneumonia in the lower left lung and RAD. We were given antibiotics, an albuterol inhaler, and oral steroids. I felt certain the root cause of her acute decline was bacterial pneumonia as a secondary development to her COVID diagnosis.
Her fever resigned itself to flutter in the 100-101 range the next few days. Her lack of appetite, fatigue were still there but I know pneumonia is hard on the body, especially with COVID, so I was patient until July 14th.
Jillian met me at the kitchen island the morning of July 14th panting and hunched over. She wanted breakfast but could barely breathe. Do you ever get so scared as a parent that you actually react in anger? I asked her to please not be dramatic or I would call an ambulance. Four hours later, I realized that was exactly what she needed.
She sat down, nibbled on a pancake and got a bit better so then we moved back to her bed and I told her to take more albuterol. She was still running a fever and it didn’t feel “right.” I went back to our July 5th discharge papers and it said she should be fever free with antibiotics at about the 3-4 day mark. We promptly went to urgent care.
I knew she was bad, but I had no idea how bad she was until we checked in. Because I immediately disclosed she had COVID, they were ready to have us wait in our car, but took the precautionary pulse ox reading first. My daughter’s heart rate was 135 bpm and her oxygen was at 82%. The receptionist got the nurse, the nurse got the physician, Jillian got oxygen, and EMS was called. I lost my composure. It was an ugly, blubbery cry. Jill was so brave and I was so scared. I felt so helpless. I felt so stupid.
Jill had to ride in the ambulance by herself. I drove like a madwoman and I cried in my car.
I was taken right back in to Jillian’s room, where she was already attended to by two nurses and a physician. The ER doctor let me know, in no uncertain terms, that had my daughter been vaccinated, she wouldn’t be panting with oxygen to keep her oxygen saturation above 90% and her rates below 130 bpm. She was breathing 32 times a minute. Again, as I was informed, my daughter’s heartbeat and respirations were that rapid to keep those stats (with O2). I heard our healthcare workers were exhausted and frustrated. But now I knew, and could feel, their emotions. I got it.
Suddenly, every concern my ill/misinformed mind had about vaccination was replaced with whether she had a pulmonary embolism and what major city we would have to travel to (again with her in a solo ambulance ride, etc). I felt like I was going to pass out. I kept texting my mom to just please pray. I didn’t have the the heart to let her know it was this concerning. (I later learned they had been calling all the way out to Omaha, Nebraska, where I’m sure she would have been flown. I can’t even imagine.)
Within the next few hours, Jillian’s blood work showed no signs of a clot and we were able to get the last PICU room in Springfield. This is to God’s glory.
What I never knew about COVID, I know now, being unwantedly educated. So for those who still want to believe COVID is not “real” or that think the pandemic is over, I will leave these hints for your PICU/ICU isolation stay (and, by the way, we got off EASY so I have, admittedly, limited knowledge).
1. There are no visitors, nor medical/nurse assistants in isolation. You will learn to hook/unhook your child from their leg pumps (to help discourage thrombosis), heart monitor (to make sure they don’t have myocarditis, etc.), and O2 monitor when/before helping them to the restroom, all with an IV stand in tow.
2. Nurses have to wear full, head-to-toe PPE every time they come into/out of your room. You will want to make a list of everything you need (water, tissue, ice, blankets, etc.) when they come around to do vitals. It’s just courteous and, in our case, our nurses are sharing their time with three other COVID PICU patients. It also helps to have pen and paper to show notes through the glass doors to your room.
3. Ready yourself for some anxiety from your child. The “code blue” message and constant alarms are unnerving, especially when they think it’s for them. They quickly learn how to read their monitor and know they are OK.
4. You will need to prepare yourself to bathe and toilet your child on your own. These tasks are simply impossible, and exhausting, for them. Again, your nurses are helping your fellow Peds patients with alarms and codes.
5. Bring pillows and blankets. It helps ease sleeping in a recliner. Again, the nurses aren’t there for a parent’s stay, so you will just have to get what you get. Bring ibuprofen and antacids, too. The back pain from sleeping in a chair and stomach acid from worry make these items necessary.
6. Bring an eye mask to help sleep. I found myself watching her oxygen and heart stats in the night. It helps to literally cover your eyes. I would also suggest non-scented lotion. Your hands will crack from the continuous washing and disinfection.
7. Be ready to feel emotionally and physically isolated, and not wanting to talk all at the same time. It’s one heck of a roller coaster.
8. Be prepared to see your COVID patient frustrated, bored, depressed, and angry. You will absolutely need to be patient with the fever of emotions that being dependent, weak, and breathless brings.
9. Your trash, dishes, towels, sheets, will be whisked away in some kind of hazmat bags to ensure everything about you remains isolated, as it should.
Here it is. My daughter loves Jesus. She cannot vote. She does not align herself with a political party. She loves science and math. She can’t wait to start middle school and go back to the pool. She is just a child. I make her decisions and I have to watch her live with/in the life I choose for her.
On July 14th, it didn’t matter who I voted for or what church I attend. It mattered if I had chosen to vaccinate her, which I did not. She was left to deal with COVID in a very bad way (again, we are so very blessed — things could have been much worse). I gave her time and a freedom that wasn’t mine to give. Our children, our families need to be vaccinated.
My family lives in a county and state that have unprecedented COVID deaths and stats. The EPIDEMIC IS NOT OVER. I FEAR IT’S JUST BEGINNING. I fear for our fall semester and the social gatherings that all remain unmasked because, well, we want it/them to be.
As I have already posted, we had it easy and that is due to the prayers and faith of ourselves, our family, and many friends. I am so, so thankful for God’s miraculous touch on my daughter. I have NO doubt that, without God’s intervention, Jillian would still be critically ill and we would be hours away from our support.
Jill is home. She remains in isolation for three more days. If you lost count, that will be 20 days my daughter hasn’t seen anything outside of our home or a hospital and has not seen anyone but myself, her brother, dad, and grandma. Again, she is 12. No friends. No cousins. No stores. No pool. No family beach vacation. 20 days in isolation, not quarantine. (Google it. There is a difference.)
Please mask, vaccinate, and practice social distancing. Whether you are atheist or Christian; Republican or Democrat; or your beliefs lie in between, WE still wage war on COVID and its variants. Jill thanks you for reading her story. She loves people. If you know her, she would “save” you if she could. She knows of, and releases, her information on this post. That IS my Jill.