How Living With a COVID-19 Patient Has Changed My Perspective on Social Distancing

This article was originally published in The La Salle Falconer, Milwaukie, OR.



I woke up last Thursday morning, April 2, and walked downstairs to get some breakfast before starting my online classes. My mom shoved a thermometer in my face and said, “Your dad tested positive for the coronavirus.”

With only 101 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in all of Clackamas County, I thought that my dad feeling under the weather was just an ill-timed coincidence. While considering the chance that my dad had somehow contracted the virus, I always ended up asking myself, “Why would he have it?”

The question I failed to ask myself was, “Why wouldn’t he?”

Oregon Governor Kate Brown implemented a statewide “shelter-in-place” order on March 23 in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus throughout Oregon. Despite potential fines, for violating state orders surrounding COVID-19, many people didn’t take the directives seriously.

My family has been under self-quarantine for about three weeks despite one grocery run by my parents on March 15. Sitting in our home wondering why so many people are still selfishly leaving their houses when they don’t need to, we never thought our family would end up facing the wrath of the pandemic.

“I started first getting a lot of pressure in my head, like, similar to a sinus infection,” said my dad, Travis Rush, about the first symptoms he felt. “There was no mucus, I didn’t blow my nose, [and] my nose wasn’t running.”

My dad had mentioned he felt a little sick so I kept my distance from him. My mom and I weren’t concerned, and we assumed it would pass in just a couple days.

“It had been a bumpy week, but I was doing fine with no temperature whatsoever,” my dad said. He had decided that his achiness and head pressure were symptoms he had due to a cold.

We all started to notice that something was up on Friday, March 27, when my dad started to lose his sense of smell and taste. “My kids handed me scratch and sniff stickers [and] my son handed me one that said it smelled like root beer,” my dad said. “…I scratched it, and smelled it and it didn’t smell like anything.”

“I began really not feeling well, then that Saturday, at about four in the late afternoon, I started to get a fever,” said my dad. “[By] Monday I could no longer taste anything.”

His symptoms started to worsen at a much more rapid pace than they had been previously.

“By five o’clock, my temperature was well past 100 again,” he said. “[It] got all the way up to 102.8 degrees that night.”

While I knew he was sick, I was completely oblivious to the severity of his condition. I thought he had a cold and just felt a little tired so he wanted to stay in bed.

Over the next four or five days, I didn’t see my dad once. I’ve known him for most of my life, and I’ve never seen him so struck down by an illness. Even when he should be resting, typically, he refuses to let even the flu affect his daily routine.

This time was different.

My family knew he was sick, so we let him be alone in my parents’ room for the next few nights. On Wednesday night, April 1, my mom told me he was calling his doctor to discuss the possibility of getting tested.

My dad spoke with a telehealth doctor and got on a teleconference with them to answer some questions about his symptoms. They prescribed him some cough medicine — which, according to him, did nothing — and decided he should go in the next morning to be tested.

“I pulled outside the doctor’s office, and the doctor asked me to stay in the car. He walked out in full [personal protective equipment]” my dad said. “…He pulled out an iPad and started asking me for all my personal information, entered it into his computer, then pulled out a long swab.”

“He put the swab up my nose to a very uncomfortable point where the swab felt like it was touching my brain,” said my dad.

My dad returned home that afternoon and went back up to his room to continue resting as he had been doing. The next morning he received a phone call from the Clackamas County Health Department, which we assumed meant that he had gotten the virus.

After they confirmed to my dad that he had tested positive, they proceeded to ask some questions with hopes to pinpoint where he could have contracted it. I knew that my dad had been on a total of four flights within 14 days of his symptoms appearing, so I was sure that’s where it came from.

Initially, I was shocked to hear that he did have a case of COVID-19. Originally it felt like this crazy possibility that I was almost sure wasn’t possible.

While my dad’s symptoms are nearly gone, I know others are not fortunate enough to say the same. “I’m a very healthy person,” he said. “I don’t hardly ever get sick. When I do, I usually power through it. This thing took me to my knees.”

I wondered if my dad had anything he wished he could say to people who aren’t taking this as seriously as they should. Personally, I felt a little angry that I’m still seeing people hanging out with each other, even more so now that the virus has affected my own family.

“I would strongly, strongly suggest that everybody be super vigilant about staying away from anybody who’s older or anybody who has a compromised immune system,” said my dad.

I feel lucky and grateful that my family is healthy enough to endure this without any severe damage done to any of us; however, I know that not all families will be so lucky.

If you are reading this, please stay home. I know that it’s not ideal, but I truly believe that you will regret not taking this seriously if this strikes your family.

I miss my teachers, I miss my friends, I miss my grandparents, and more than anything I miss my life. More than ever before, I have a real sense of the impact of the coronavirus, and I hope that every single person can gain the same insight without their families being affected.