When the Coronavirus hits home

Opinion/Analysis

My 79-year-old mother is in a progressive care unit (PCU) in a hospital in Alachua County awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test administered March 19th in the same ER facility where the seventh positive case of coronavirus was tested.

I have been bombarded with information about COVID-19 as I have been reporting on Alachua County’s response to the pandemic for a week, but all of the statistics and maps of cases and town hall discussions and declared states of emergency don’t put this pandemic into perspective until you face it head on. 

My mom has been self-quarantined for almost two weeks by choice, preventing me or anyone from visiting her in person. But we have been talking on the phone daily and using facetime to communicate. 

She left the house to go to the grocery store despite my offers to deliver groceries. She left the house again to go to three doctor appointments.

In the past two days, weakness and fever set in and she fell three times. Yesterday she called emergency services to come to her home after a fall to help her up. They took her blood pressure but did not take her temperature.

She kept all of this from me despite my daily check-ins. In my last phone call to her yesterday, I was picking up on slurred speech and disorientation and it was then that she talked of her falls and fever.

This is why we decided to take her the ER late last night. 

We were greeted by a security guard wearing a facemask who used hand sanitizer as we walked into the doorway of the ER. The guard asked the COVID-19 screening questions about symptoms of fever, cough, shortness of breath, and about international travel, contact with anyone who tested positive for COVID-19, overall health.

Based on her answers, we were both immediately issued facemasks as she answered yes to two of those questions, then we were allowed to proceed to the check-in area.

When nurses and doctors came to see her, they wore full masks and shields, gloves and full-cover disposable suits. The doctor commented that supplies for the protective wear are running low.

Along with other diagnostic tests, they administered the COVID-19 test which involved three swab samples taken high up into the nasal passage.

And within the hour, I watched from the parking lot as my Mom was put in an ambulance and transported to a PCU. 

Instructions for me from the medical staff as I left for home were to continue to follow the CDC advice of washing hands and maintaining social distance as we await test results that are expected to come in within 48 hours.

And now I wait not knowing when I will get to see my mother again.

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