A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, my mom and I were vaccinated. Both of us are essential workers and we qualified to get the vaccine early. My dad and brother weren’t yet vaccinated, but I thought my family was safe from getting COVID-19 since my mom and I were at the highest risk with our jobs. We had made it that far, and we were so close to being all vaccinated.
But on March 31, I received a call from my mom telling me that my dad just tested positive. I was in complete disbelief. My mom was a healthcare worker and made sure my dad was doing everything he could to not get COVID-19.
Leading up to this, I had friends test positive before, but having a parent test positive has a completely different effect on an individual. I was in complete shock and instantly felt cold, numb.
The news of my dad’s positive test was layered in another level of anxiety outside of his health: I was worried about my own as well.
I had just come back to campus from a doctor’s appointment off campus, a doctor’s appointment back at home. Thankfully, I wasn’t considered a close contact. Although I’d been in the same house as my dad, my visit home was so brief that I didn’t have any encounters with him.
My dad was doing everything he could not to get COVID-19. But everything wasn’t enough. There was a small COVID-19 outbreak at his work in which three people in his office tested positive. My dad had a cough a couple days prior to the email coming out about his co-workers. Though he hadn’t thought anything of the cough in the days leading up to the news of the outbreak, that email changed things.
My mom made my dad get tested just to be safe. She didn’t think he had COVID-19, nor did he. It was allergy season, and his cough is a typical sign of allergies at this time of year. The test was just a formality. We didn’t expect it to come back positive.
Something so simple as going to work is where my dad got COVID-19. Given all the protocols and regulations in place to make workplaces safe, that’s the last place I expected him to get it. But that’s what happened.
My dad’s positive test required my family to make changes at home. My little brother is in high school and still lives at home, so my parents made the decision to have my dad isolate at our cottage. He wasn’t experiencing symptoms besides the cough, but after my brother tested negative, we wanted to keep his exposure to a minimum.
In just a couple of days, my dad developed a few more symptoms, including fatigue and muscle weakness.
When my dad’s quarantine was up and he was no longer contagious, I went home (with school approval) to get my second dose of the vaccine. Even though it had been ten days since he tested positive, I could see fatigue and weakness with everything he did.
The next morning, my mom told me that she was taking my dad into the emergency room. His breathing was irregular, and she was worried. Hearing this, I was instantly awake. I thought since it had been ten days since he tested positive, it would be smooth sailing from here. What I didn’t know is that in some cases, days ten and eleven are the most difficult.
After doing some tests, doctors concluded that my dad’s blood oxygen levels decreased significantly when he was walking. They decided to admit him into the hospital.
Back on campus, I had some peace of mind knowing that my dad was getting the care he needed to be in order to get better. When I was on the phone with him, he even told me that he was glad he went into the emergency room because he knew that he was where he needed to be.
I didn’t think that there could be anything more added to the table. I thought his hospital admission was the end of it.
The next morning, while I was working my on-campus job, I got a text from my mom saying that my dad had developed pneumonia. Reading that text, I felt something within me halt. I didn’t know how to even try to stay composed while I was at work, but somehow I did.
After three nights in the hospital, my dad was released. I could tell he was feeling better because when he called me to let me know he was coming home, he was very concerned about when we should put the jet skis into the water at our cottage.
As I am writing this, my dad has been out of the hospital for a week and a half, and he is still not able to lift anything heavy. My parents are in the process of moving, and as he struggles to lift the lightest of boxes. My mom said that attempts to lift these boxes are often followed by a coughing fit. I can imagine it’s hard to watch.
This whole experience has opened my eyes to how serious COVID-19 is. I’ve heard about other people’s experiences, but experiencing it for myself with my dad made it personal.
Even though my dad had a trip to the hospital, stayed overnight and then still facing the effects a week later, he didn’t have the worst of COVID-19. Compared to many others who have been affected by the illness, my dad had a mild experience. That fact is what is so eye opening about this whole experience to me.
My dad never went to the ICU. My dad never had a ventilator. My dad was lucky, which is hard to believe sometimes, but he truly is. When I’m home for the summer, I still get to see him and hang out with him, unlike so many other people who didn’t get to see their loved ones recover. My dad was lucky. And so am I.