Note: I spoke with my husband about how comfortable he is sharing his experience being sick on the Internet. He isn’t, so this post will primarily focus on my experience taking care of him.
I started writing and writing and writing and it wound up being really long. I haven’t really been talking to people about this experience because… I don’t know, I haven’t really processed that it all happened yet. My husband is literally still in isolation today.
TL;DR My husband had a high fever starting exactly 14 days after we began self-quarantining, aka the maximum amount of time that the novel coronavirus can supposedly be incubated by a person. It burned for 12 days straight, during which time I felt very alone, almost like we were in a distance relationship, with the distance being the space between our living room and the bedroom he was isolating in, and I stopped taking care of myself. Thankfully, he was never sick enough to be able to get a test here in New York, and his fever finally broke this past weekend. I’m learning that I really just let this entire experience destroy me and I’m trying to recover now. He is feeling significantly better and will be ending isolation soon. I’m finally allowing myself to rest.
Stay home, please. To keep yourself from having to endure even a “mild” case like ours. To keep others from the same. To lessen the load on our healthcare workers and other essential workers. Please.
On day 14 of our self-quarantine, a Monday, after worrying about me running slightly warm over the weekend (which happens to me a few times a year), my husband began to run a fever. It got high enough that I gave him medicine to bring the fever down, but I assured him that it was unlikely to be the coronavirus. After all, neither of us had left the building in 2 weeks, and he left our apartment unit about 3 times to pick up delivered groceries and packages. I suggested he not worry his family or coworkers given the state of the pandemic because I didn’t want them to assume he had COVID-19. Just to be safe, we decided to isolate him in our bedroom and I began disinfecting everything he touched.
His second day of fever, he started to cough just a tiny bit and told me his body was beginning to ache. I spent the day trying to work while also keeping him comfortable, and that evening, after spending a lot of time worrying about him, I started to feel some concern about my own situation. I had spent the previous 2 weeks being grateful for my partner during quarantine and now I was faced with the conundrum of being in a long-distance relationship with him — the distance being a minimum of 6 feet when one of us was at the door when I dropped off his meals — and more than doubling my usual household chores. Rather than having a partner in doing things around the house, I had to do all of it on my own, in addition to the additional work of constant disinfecting, recording his temperature, and more. I sat outside the bedroom door to eat dinner with him, but he wasn’t able to eat much.
By the third day, my husband’s fever was higher than the previous days and I was reaching a breaking point mentally. I attended my morning meetings and told my teammates that I would need to take the afternoon off. Immediately after closing my laptop, I found myself with a nosebleed. I used to get a lot of nosebleeds but it had been a while, and this one didn’t let up as quickly as I was expecting it to. I found myself sitting on the floor of my bathroom, clutching a towel to my face, feeling a little dizzy and disoriented in the dark, because I had somehow accidentally turned off the light. It was the start to a pretty bad afternoon. When I finally was able to clean myself up, I spent an hour to process and cry over my grandfather’s passing, which had happened just a few days prior, and then spent perhaps another hour just sitting. I wasn’t watching TV or scrolling social media, I wasn’t talking to anyone or even crying. I just hugged myself, with a blanket wrapped around me, and stared out the window. After checking on my husband, I took a depression nap, and woke up to comfort myself and my husband with a hearty beef stew and mashed potato dinner. He wasn’t able to eat very much and I spend the remaining days hiding the burn on my hand from the hot Dutch oven knob that burned me through 2 dish towels and an oven mitt. I spend the rest of the evening with a migraine while fielding urgent text messages from my in-laws, who were informed of their son’s condition during dinner.
I tell my own family the next day. I get a splinter while disinfecting the wooden tray that I’ve been using to deliver meals to my husband. Looking back, this was probably when I should have noticed that I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself in my efforts to take good care of my husband. My stress and exhaustion actually push my own temperature up a bit, further frustrating myself because I refuse to be sick and rendered unable to care for my husband. I stay up late to wash all the dishes in scalding hot water, running them through the dishwasher on the “Sanitize” setting to be safe, throwing out all of our garbage and recycling as fast as I can to avoid potential human contact, and scrubbing my hands hard.
The reason I don’t really think to take care of myself is because my husband doesn’t seem too sick. His fever hovers around 101-102°F every day, but he isn’t feeling much discomfort otherwise. He is biding his time off from work with video games and watching Governor Cuomo’s daily briefings, which I am avoiding because it is just a bit too much for me to process anymore. He’s also spending a lot of time watching videos about the coronavirus because gathering as much information as possible brings him comfort. It doesn’t comfort me as much, especially because my background in research biology means that my standards for “promising results” are higher. We argue about my high standards before taking research pertaining to this pandemic seriously.
I have been waking up before the sun comes up because my husband has coughing fits and starts his days with a fever. I am up late tending to him and washing dishes and disinfecting and crying on the phone to my mom. During the day, I don’t do much but prepare food and water and disinfect our home. I’m getting by on about 4-6 hours of sleep a night because I’m too anxious during the day to take naps; I took one nap early on and my husband’s fever spiked during that time, so I awoke to him coughing and yelling out my name.
He takes a turn for the worse over the weekend. His fever would burn above 103°F every day, and we were only managing his temperature with acetaminophen (Tylenol) that he only took when his temperature went above 103°F, which was every morning, every evening around dinner, and every night in order to let his temperature come down enough to fall asleep. We have spoken with 2 doctors over video chat, and both have recommended we not take him to get tested unless he is having difficulty breathing. I make preparations as to which hospital I will need to have him go to if we get to that point.
We reach a low point when he is waiting the bottle-prescribed number of hours to take his next dose, and we were maxing out doses each day. Down to one single Tylenol pill, his fever veered dangerously close to 104°F, but he wanted to wait a few more hours so that he could take one right before sleeping in an attempt to sleep through the night. I desperately try to bring his temperature down with cold compresses that I have to toss to him.
On the 12th day, he wakes up with a lower fever than usual. We have received more Tylenol via a rushed overnight delivery but that last Tylenol we had turns out to be the last one he needs. He remarks that having a 101°F feels like a such a walk in the park compared to the 103+°F he was experiencing the day prior.
I cry happy tears for the first time during this ordeal.
(I cried many unhappy tears during this ordeal.)
He is doing well enough to end isolation really soon. I’m still very exhausted because, as an extrovert, I have been very low-energy during quarantine, which made the extra tasks my husband’s fever required even more tiresome to take on. I also am still getting used to being relaxed enough to sleep more than 6 hours a night and eat more normal-sized meals.
We’ve been reading a lot about people’s COVID-19 symptoms, and the range of “mild” symptoms is really wide and difficult for all affected. When I return to social media, I see that friends, co-workers, and acquaintances are
I hope your time at home is not too difficult, that you are able to spend more time developing the relationships you care about, including the one with yourself.