With the worst of my husband’s condition behind us, I thought I would take a little bit of time to talk about how we were able to get through this at all. Here is a short list of supplies I am incredibly thankful for having or having provided to us over the past 3 weeks. Most of these we already had, even before the pandemic hit, but some we did need to get replenished during the worst bouts of fever.
Separate bedroom. For all the times we wondered if we indulged too much getting a one-bedroom apartment instead of a studio, we were really grateful to have a separate bedroom that made self-isolation possible at all. I imagine that if we didn’t, our families would have insisted on us leaving New York much sooner, maybe even before he came down with his fever.
Digital thermometer. My husband has always been fairly keen about having a digital thermometer be a part of his health kit at home, even back in school, so we have a couple in our home. He had his own thermometer that I never touched and that he used frequently throughout the day for us to keep track of trends in his temperature, namely what time of day his fever tended to spike and how high it was spiking. Prior to the pandemic, we checked our temperatures fairly frequently when we were feeling a bit under the weather; it’s a good way for us to establish what our baseline temperature is, since it varies so much from person to person. I don’t recommend mercury thermometers because they can be more difficult to read and become dangerous and complicated when they break, which they do kind of easily.
(We were not suggested a pulse oximeter, as my husband’s blood oxygen was never in question, but this is something I have seen other people get at the recommendation of their doctors. They are currently a bit harder to find, as a result.)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol). Because my husband had a fever about a year ago, we actually had most of a bottle of acetaminophen left in our health kit. This became crucial in keeping his fever within a safe threshold, as he frequently flared above 103°F, with 104°F being the temperature that you will need to take someone to the hospital. As we usually do, we tried to keep to the minimum effective dose, which was half of what was directed. (When a painkiller/fever-reducer suggests 2 pills, I usually try 1 first to see if it’s enough to work, and oftentimes it is.) We did have to have more shipped to us after his fever got worse, as he needed to take the maximum dosage recommended per day and we were rapidly running out. Luckily, when faced with shortages online and the prospect of leaving my building for the first time to attempt to find it in stores, we really lucked out by having some shipped overnight by our parents.
Small face towels. A lot of folks don’t use the small-sized face towels much but they were really helpful for when I couldn’t give my husband more medicine but needed to cool him down. Just run under/soak in cold water, wring out until it’s damp, and lay across forehead. Repeat as needed when the towel is no longer cool the touch.
Meal replacement shakes (Soylent). When I learned about Soylent, I knew my husband would like the product because he used to express frustration with eating taking more time and energy than he necessarily had or wanted to spare. Since he had very little appetite while he was sick, Soylent really helped make sure he was still consuming calories and nutrients, especially because he barely had the energy to chew. It’s super easy to consume, has a mild but pleasant enough taste (like a drinkable pancake or cereal), and doesn’t have too much extra stuff in it. These are great for when you don’t have much of an appetite and/or your alternate food option is junk food. There are a lot of formulas available on the market now, including direct competitors like Huel and older companies like Ensure (just be sure you are not buying the shakes for weight loss, as that would be counter-productive here).
Vacuum insulated tumbler. I was desperate to keep my husband hydrated during this time, so I kept him prepared with several reusable bottles of water. In addition, I made sure he always had a vacuum flask full of hot water to drink to soothe his throat. Our keeps drinks hot for hours and hours, even if you accidentally put it in the refrigerator. This was exactly what we needed because he was too tired to drink a mug full of hot water in one go, but the water would otherwise cool very quickly. Just remember to adjust the temperature of the water so that it is drinkable, because it will not cool down over time, that’s kind of the point of using this kind of drinking vessel. Some brands that do this well are Yeti, Bubba, and Thermos, but there are a ton available and they should all work fine for this purpose. (The one we used is the biggest one we have, which we received as swag at a conference.)
Citrus fruit. This was sort of a nice-to-have but it seemed to really bring comfort to my husband to have Mandarin oranges as an easy snack that he knew was chock full of vitamin C. I actually had one of many small breakdowns when I gave him the last one, and was saved when my in-laws sent me a bag of them to continue giving to my husband. I definitely recommend having some easy to eat fruit available always, but especially if someone is sick. It was also good to have lemon for me to squeeze into his water.
Canned chicken noodle soup. An American classic comfort food, since I was unable to find pork bones to make broth before we were quarantined. This was a lot of my husband’s meals, and I often added a bit of turmeric and black pepper for an anti-inflammatory boost, some greens or frozen veggies for even more nutrients, and would serve with some baguette slices that I softened up from the freezer to boost the calories a bit more, too.
Disinfectant wipes. Even though I am fortunate enough to have been able to sequester my husband into our bedroom for my safety, he still had to come out to use the bathroom (especially considering how much water I was giving him) and I was at risk every time I gave him food and water. I would have preferred disinfectant spray, but the wipes were really convenient for wiping down the bathroom, the tray I served food on, the sink, etc. REMEMBER: To disinfect, you need to allow the surface to be wet with the disinfectant liquid for several minutes. Otherwise, you’re just wiping but not disinfecting, and in fact you may spread germs around.
Health insurance. I cannot stress enough how strange and broken our healthcare system is and how fortunate we are to have medical coverage. We were able to do telemedicine appointments (where the stressed doctors told us not to try to get tested unless he was having trouble breathing) and I know that if we did need to go to the hospital, we would have been able to be taken care of.
A plan for the worst. A week in, I had to get real and had a plan for what would happen if my husband started experiencing shortness of breath. We checked which hospital would be closest for us to take him to and agreed that I would be unable to accompany him there. (Again, on the off chance that I was not exposed already to what he has, I definitely would be in a hospital waiting room.) He would walk if he was able, to avoid getting into a car while he was sick, but would otherwise be prepared to get a ride with a mask.
Thank you so much to everyone who has reached out to me and offered support. Your sympathy and consideration mean so much to me during what has been a difficult time for everyone, so I’m really grateful people were able to spare emotional energy on me.
Please stay healthy and safe. The best way you can ensure that for yourself and for others is to stay home and continue safe practices if you do leave to buy groceries or have things delivered to your home.