March 19, 2020, Mount Kisco, NY–On Monday, March 16, I was on deadline for the Inside Press, covering the hasty switch local restaurants were asked to make by 8 p.m. to takeout and delivery service only, as coronavirus containment measures grew in severity here in Westchester County.
It was a sad article to write, as I attempted to speak with restaurant owners and managers who were busy, worried, and upset about the impact on their employees. As a former waitress and bartender, I was worried for them too. As a longtime reporter, I knew the community needed to follow this kind of news in as close to real time as possible, so they could see the impact on their favorite establishments and possibly help mitigate it with extra patronage. Due to the time crunch, and the need for social distancing, I conducted these interviews by phone and filed the article as quickly as I could.
Later, as I was doing laundry and tidying up around my house in Mount Kisco, I started to feel a little under the weather. Nothing major, just achy, with a headache. Maybe I felt a chill. I couldn’t take my temperature because our thermometer had broken and there hasn’t been a thermometer to be found in Mount Kisco for some time now.
I put another load in the dryer and called it a day, telling my husband that I hoped I wasn’t coming down with the flu.
The next day–St. Patrick’s Day–I decided to basically stay in bed. My kids are older now, so the college students home working remotely could keep an eye on the sixth grader. I asked my daughter Regina, a freshman at Baruch College-who’s still coming to terms with the cancellation of her softball season-to throw the corned beef in the crockpot and assigned the Irish soda bread to 14-year-old Ted.
Later, I woke up from a nap with chest pain. I have a minor cardiac condition, but I didn’t want to go to the hospital unless it was absolutely necessary since all resources are needed to fight the coronavirus. Instead, I called my internist’s office at Caremount first–my doctor said I had to go in.
Pretty soon I was at Northern Westchester Hospital, where I was handed a mask at the front door, and once in back, I was quickly surrounded by people in masks, clear face shields and yellow gowns. They efficiently got my heart issue under control and swabbed up both nostrils, testing for flu and COVID-19.
I was told I’d be there at least overnight, so they could keep an eye on my cardiac activity, and I was settled in on the sixth floor in isolation, connected to a heart monitor that never showed a problem after my initial treatment.
Today, 48 hours later, I’m lying in bed at home, a 50-year-old woman on day one of a 14-day quarantine that includes my entire family of nine (yes, my husband and I have seven kids.)
My test results only came back this morning, as I was preparing to be discharged. I was shocked that they were positive. Although I have asthma, my lungs had remained resolutely clear throughout my stay, checked often by skilled and kind nurses, and I’m still breathing well right now. My temperature hasn’t been over 100 degrees and is currently normal.
A cardiologist and an internist at NWH judged me well enough to be sent home and weather out the course of this illness with my family. One of the nurses supplied me with a thermometer that had been used on me, otherwise slated for disposal, and made me enough copies of a symptom log sheet to keep track of my whole crew.
By this time, just two days after I entered NWH, six of us are feeling sub-par and are in as much isolation as we can manage, but no one seems dangerously ill. The flu is much worse than what the Kelleys are experiencing so far with COVID-19–a little coughing, aches, fatigue and headaches.
My husband and kids won’t be tested. Both the doctor at NWH and the kids’ pediatrician asked that we operate under the assumption that they have it and monitor any symptoms to make sure no one has to go to the hospital. Nat, 24, spent all day yesterday sacked out, barely moving, but today is eating pancakes and sitting up reading to pass the time. He has special needs, so he keeps talking to me from across the hall, trying to convince me that because he feels better it’s okay if he leaves the room. No dice!
My daughters aren’t too debilitated to FaceTime friends and request coffee delivery from healthy brothers (left outside a closed door, of course.)
When I was told my test was positive, I picked up my phone and checked the Shoprite app, knowing I’d need food delivered. But all the spots were taken. Yes, we’ve done some stocking up–mostly because my husband took this whole thing seriously way before I did. But nine people eat an incredible amount of food, and a 14-day quarantine is quite different than social isolation, which now seems to me a lifestyle of enviable freedom.
Thankfully, family and friends have already offered meals and checked to see what they can get me at the store. Right after I arrived home, a friend from Katonah dropped packages of disinfectant wipes in my mailbox–another friend is currently cooking for us. Many of my older sons’ friends, guys in their twenties, have been texting in, offering to pick up whatever we need.
There’s a lot we don’t know right now. Will we flatten the curve? When will our economy rebound? When can we once more mingle freely with family, friends and co-workers?
I don’t know. I wish I did. I only have a few bits of knowledge to share from my brief initial experience with COVID-19: no one in my family is very sick, so far. I’m the only one with any of the comorbidities I’ve seen mentioned in the news, and I’m well enough to write this article (lying down.) Medical professionals have assured me that they think my family will be fine, and they’ve given me the tools I need to ascertain whether we need further care.
Our local hospital is well-run and reliable. The people who work there are not only friendly and dedicated, but inspire confidence with their professionalism and expertise, and I pray the curve flattens enough not to overwhelm them.
As an aside, the hospital is also continuously customer-service oriented; I was given a mini-loaf of banana bread tied up in a bow at discharge, attached to a card that says: “From our family to yours.”
Not in 14 days, but in some weeks or months more–who knows how many–I very much hope to write the article for Inside Press about the resurgence of the local restaurant business.
Until then, everyone, from my family to yours–stay home and stay safe.