False Negatives: Covid19

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a person who does not sit still. I am tenacious. I am busy. I walk or hike every single day. I find things to keep me moving. I think that is why I love to clean. In fact, Dave and I have a joke about what will be written on my tombstone:

“Before she left this world, she had to wipe down the countertop one last time.”

On July 22, all that stopped. Since then, I have been in the throes of what I can only describe as the worst and weirdest flu I have ever experienced. I have been completely bedridden, in pain and unable to speak. At times I felt like I was possessed by demons. At other times, I thought I was experiencing an exorcism. Thanks to the tender mercies a fever can bring, much of it feels like a dream.

My story is one of many.

It started with a comically runny nose, not mine, but Dave’s. I remember looking at him and thinking, “he has Covid. I am next.” A few days later, I was painfully exhausted. My bones ached like I had done a very steep mountain climb. The next day my body ached even more. My head throbbed. I thought it was just PMS. I was wrong. Anyone who knows me, knows how neurotic I am about washing hands, social distancing, and wearing a mask in public. So is Dave. We have not let visitors in our house for some time. As a result, I have only been around a few people, outside and socially distant. (Listen when people tell you how contagious this virus is.) Ultimately, I feel very grateful they did not get sick. Thankfully the boys were also spared.

Eli & I before the hell began

The runny nose came. Then the sore throat.

A few days in, I experienced excruciatingly painful chills, where my only relief was texting Dave, pleading with him to put socks on my feet and a hoodie over my head. I would manage to get myself under a few blankets. As he entered the room, and as I huddled under the blankets, I would beg him to cover me in another blanket, then urge him not to lift the blanket as he put my socks and hoodie on. 

“The air on my back hurts. I am so cold. Please please be careful.”

Here I am in the quarantine room we set up, somewhere under all the blankets.

(Keep in mind, it is July and our AC is doing over time to keep up with the 100 degree outside temperatures.) Those painful chills were always followed by clothes-soaking fevers. Up to five times a night I would have to change my sopping wet pajamas. My pajamas were soaked. My underwear was soaked. My hair was soaked. My sheets were soaked. I wept. Eventually and just to keep up, Dave bought me more pajamas. As far as the chills, I still cannot comprehend that chills can cause so much pain. I cannot process that uber-self-sufficient-me needed Dave to put my socks on. I remember days of laying in bed. My bladder would be full. I would be in the throes of crazy chills and terrified to get out of bed. I would lay there until an hour or so later, they would pass. I would ask Dave for help to get up or will myself out of bed just so I could pee.

Quickly, we learned to keep a dose of cough medicine and Advil within my reach by my bedside. (It was often too painful for me to get out of bed.). On the floor for when the chills came, I kept at least one extra blanket, a hoodie and a pair of socks. We also littered the nightstand with Gatorade, Coke, water, cough drops, an inhaler and tissues. After being drenched in sweat, I would be so dehydrated that I found Coke, even flat day-old Coke, offered me some immediate comfort. 

During this time, I often slept until the early afternoon, only to fall back to sleep a few short hours later. It was painful to speak and holding a conversation took too much energy. My mom, who had been in the hospital for something unrelated (twice) right before became ill, began texting me a few times a day.

On July 25th I texted her:

“Oh Mom. I feel awful. I am so frustrated with all of this. Thanks for thinking of me. I am not telling people what I am going through. I also know so many people have it so much worse. I can’t imagine and I hope I don’t get worse because this just sucks. I love you. I’m so glad I didn’t drive you to the doctor last week.” (My mom is 79 and has asthma. We dodged a bullet. I could not imagine how she would pull through this.)

Consequently on July 25, I also decided to get a Covid test. It was negative.

On July 26, I responded to another of my mom’s texts:

“I’m not good. These chills/sweat cycles are driving me crazy. I soak my clothes all day and all night. My ear hurts. I’m congested. My head aches. I’m crabby. I’m really tired of feeling this way. I bet you are sorry you asked.”

I seemed to sort of rally over the next few days.

On July 28, under the assumption that I was on the road to recovery, I wrote the following:

“In all seriousness, I have been super-duper beyond sick. I think it is possible I’m finally coming up for air. I am heartbroken that false claims are being peddled instead of pushing leaders to unify a pandemic-ridden country.

As far as me being sick goes… what I do know is I have tested negative for Covid, but if my symptoms persist, then I test again.

Whatever I am sick with seems an awful lot like Covid and an awful lot like a non sexual, painful demon possession. Really. The all night every night cycles of excruciating chills followed by clothes-drenching sweat feels like an exorcism. The headaches. The sore throat. The dry cough. Ay-yi-yi. FYI,  hydroxyWhatverYouCalliIt will NOT fix it. Honestly, it sucks so much that I felt compelled to tell people and their disinformation spreading to also suck it. And please please wear a mask.

Stop fighting what we as a society need to do to get this pandemic under control. It isn’t supposed to be fun. And instead of going crazy conspiracy, or selfishly politicizing a virus that is killing people and making millions sick, wash your hands for two rounds of happy birthday (20 seconds) and stop gathering in large groups. You can’t pray this away or throw snake oil at it. What you can do is work as a community to slow the spread so our hospitals do not become overrun, so we can eventually safely open things like schools and until there is a vaccine.”

[exit soapbox]
A good moment through all of this.

I must have used all my energy on preaching because about thinking I had turned a corner, I WAS WRONG! The virus was only getting started. I heard it came in waves. I really could not comprehend how my “mild” case could get any worse. By July 29, my dry cough and my breathing became persistent and labored.

I was afraid.

On July 30,  I went on oral Prednisone for wretched cough & shortness of breath, (which I am sure saved me from pneumonia). I really believe my experience with asthma is what led me to act & seek medical attention before things were more dire/critical. (*Please do the same.) I have also learned that when given before things spiral out of control that steroids are really effective in treating Covid. I feel totally blessed that I acted on my instinct. Of course, the demon-chills and sweats persisted.

During this time my best friend Marianne’s brother, Jay, was in a terrible accident and is now paralyzed from the armpits down and struggling to breathe on his own. I cannot imagine what he and his family are going through. I am blown away by their courage and their strength❤️ . At this same time, I was also learning about friends of friends dying of Covid and others being put on a ventilator.

I felt so sad for everyone.

I also kept thinking: “Even a mild case of Coronavirus, which seemed to be the lane I landed in, is terrible and terrifying. I would not wish this experience on anyone.”

Marianne & I before the word, “pandemic,” entered our radar & when my eyebrows were much darker

On July 30 here is what I texted my mom:

“I’m so sick. My doctor prescribed steroids this evening. My cough is worse and I am wiped.”

For the next few days I felt some relief and once again assumed I was getting better. Then again, I was still experiencing round-the-clock fever/chills, which caused me some anxiety. 

Maybe the steroids were wearing off. Maybe it was just another wave of this miserable illness. 

When I started feeling better (Dinner courtesy of Kristina — a godsend)

On August 3 things took a dark turn.

Here is what I texted my mom. (Thank God for her.)

“I’m so sick. 
I’m very worried.
I have a fever.
I can’t take a deep breath without coughing. 
Yes on the chills.”

Dave found me in our dark room passed out in a pool of sweat. He quietly brushed his hand across my forehead and took my temperature. I was burning up. I was also experiencing numbness in my left hand. Because I did not have an absolute Covid confirmation, we were worried something else could be going on. Dave took me to the hospital. They immediately whisked Dave away and ushered me into the special Covid unit. (Hmmm.) Covered in his safety protection, the doctor did not take a Covid test and said I could take one if I really really wanted confirmation. (He already knew I was very sick.) He also said the only reason to take one was to add me to the Covid stats. He listened to my lungs and heard a rattle-y wheeze and asked if I wanted a breathing treatment. They confirmed with an x-ray that I did not have pneumonia. They prescribed more cough medicine, urged me to continue taking Advil and cough medicine 24/7 and urged me to use my inhaler around the clock. Then he said the prednisone most likely protected my lungs from a worse outcome. He said I could take another round. He also said to watch out for my lungs getting worse. They also confirmed that this virus needed to work its course. Because I could breathe on my own, the safest place for me was at home. He said I am very lucky to be in good health. He was like, “Even though you are terribly ill, your  body is doing an excellent job of fighting this thing, (another tender mercy).” I immediately felt grateful for the advice my friend MB gave me all those years ago: “take 10 deep breaths every hour, or as often as you can, even if they make you cough.

I felt really crappy for the next few days.

Then, by some miracle, on August 6, my brain fog seemed to be lifting. My energy was still non-existent. (It is still low.) I still had a cough and was still spiking fevers. My throat was still sore (still is). My voice was hoarse (still is.) Somehow I actually felt like I might be finally coming out on the other side of this. It is kind of interesting. Because I have asthma, I have a little pulse oximeter at home. Between July 22 – August 3, my oxygen saturation hovered between 94 – 95%, which is in the normal range for sure. That being said, since August 7, my O2 saturation has been consistently 98 – 99%. Anyway, it might be nothing, but then again…

On Saturday, August 8, I followed up with another doctor. (I had been seeing them or speaking with doctors all along the way.) As we spoke, he heard the rasp in my voice. I reviewed with him all of my symptoms I have experienced:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sweats
  • Initial runny nose
  • Dry cough
  • Congestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dulled senses

Here is what he said:

“Beth, if you came in to see me or one of my colleagues, we would confirm you with Covid-19. And because we are consulting now, I actually confirm your with Covid. Stop second guessing. Other flus going around in July are extremely rare. New research suggests that there is up to a 30 – 40% false negative test rate.”

You tell me. Maybe I had some rarest of rare virus or… I will take a Covid antibody test. Since July 21, I have remained actively isolated at home. I am grateful that Dave only experienced a runny nose. I am grateful that Kyle and Eli did not get sick. They have both passed  the incubation period. I plead with you to wear a mask and wash your hands. The doctor also told me the other day that for some Covid’s long term effects and impacts can be devastating: (kidney damage, lung damage, heart damage for starters). I am grateful I am feeling better. 

Us masked up before it all began

Ironically at this point, after the cleaning, the quarantining, the isolation, I recognize as my symptoms dissipate, it is my understanding (which is supported by science) is that our house is probably one of the safest places to be.

What a strange world this is.

Roll credits.

OH WAIT: I keep forgetting to mention my sense of taste and smell. I was totally convinced my senses were not being impacted. I think the sensory disconnect was the fever distorting my view. I did not think twice that the only way I could smell my strong-smelling perfume was if I held my wrist close to my nose. And then there was food. I did not blink when the cheese I was eating tasted like rubber. In fact, the other day we were eating bacon when Kyle said, 

“I don’t like this bacon because it has jalapeno in it.” 

I am not a fan of jalapenos or spicy food. I was surprised to hear him announce that the bacon was spicy. To me, the bacon seemed super mild. Nor did I know there were jalapenos in it. I will leave you with that. 

Best soup ever from Jane & David

Finally (for real), I want to thank Dave, my mom, my friends, Beth, Marianne, Kristina, Emily, Nate, Jane, David, Dr. Bitner (my allergy/asthma doctor) and his staff for caring and checking to make sure I was ok. I love you people!❤️




Tagged : / / / / / /

Coronavirus Campus Chaos

Dave, Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

The other day I wrote what I would call our Coronavirus download, or better, a “I don’t want to forget this moment” journal entry (that I made public). The post was a bit sloppy. This one might be too. At the time, I had been up for more than two days. I was jetlagged. I was definitely nervous and completely freaked out. I imagine I am not alone. Today I woke up at 6:00AM —  worried. As I listened to Dave’s deep breathing, I tried to stop—worrying, that is. Then, while I hid my head and my brightly lit cellphone under the covers, Eli and I texted about his day. That just made me worry more. Of course Kyle woke up seeming sad. He assured me he was just tired. I have been worrying ever since. Nevertheless and in spite of my worry, I am going to try and write again. I think it is important. I want to remember this moment, even in its rough draft awkwardness. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

My hope is my words convey the love I intend (and are not glazed with worry). I know everyone is dealing with a lot. I am sorry you are struggling. We are sending you love & disinfected air hugs.

This Coronavirus business is complicated and hard. As a result, in the past few days, I have been in awe and completely overwhelmed. I have witnessed unexpected anger and extraordinary patience. I have been firsthand-judged in one moment and then unyieldingly supported in the next (from the same person). I have seen awkwardness, a weird sort of piousness, and a thousand times more compassion, kindness and love. At first I felt a little tender and maybe even protective of our bad-timing-travel choice. I think I also understand why people would be mad at us for traveling. I think I get why people might think I am an irresponsible mom for leaving Eli home. Yet, as I slow my own roll, I realize that we are all just doing the best we can. We all have our path. I never intentionally want to do anything that would cause someone else pain. That being said, I am sure I have. Yes. This moment is also making me contemplative. I think it should. Consequently, what I see is that I also need to be patient and forgiving.

Dave & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

We are still in the thick of it. We are still uncertain. 

See, we left Utah before the world shut down. We believe in and support social isolation. We do not take the potential harm our travel could cause others lightly. We never have. Last Friday we were on a flight to New Zealand when the announcement was made that New Zealand would shut its borders. We landed hours before they did. Kyle landed here a few short hours after we did, but before the self-quarantine deadline. As we traveled, we were extraordinarily cautious about touching people and things. We antibacterial-wiped down our airplane seats. We washed our hands. We used hand sanitizer. Social isolation was not as enforced until we arrived. Nevertheless, we still feel like we could have done more. We also feel like we are exactly where we are supposed to be. Is that just weird? I can’t explain it either.

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

Up until the second we left Utah, we questioned our choice. Dave and I rarely, if ever, feel the united calm we did before we left. We still feel it. We think it’s weird. We recognize that Eli is home alone. We feel guilty that Eli is home. We tried to find a way to get him here. Having him fly here at this point is irresponsible at best. Eli and I spent a long time talking. It is complicated. I think he loves being home alone and also wishes we were home. I wanted him to know he is loved. He is. Thank the stars for my super awesome neighbor (dear friend). She offered to help both my mom and Eli. Then, without even saying “let me know if you need anything” first, she texted Eli and brought him delicious tacos packaged in her own take-out container and a yummy chocolate pretzel dessert. To let me know he is really ok, she sent me a proof-of-life photo with the following message:

“Take care of yourselves. I will plan on making extra dinner for Eli until you get home. Even if he just puts it in the fridge for later.”

As I relayed this story to Dave, our eyes filled with tears. 

Eli & my sweet neighbor/friend, Salt Lake City, Utah

I am grateful for Eli. I am grateful for friends who fill in when I can’t. We are here. Kyle has had a tough study abroad experience. So have the million other students who had their studies abroad cut short. We only have one Kyle and one Eli. I am not exactly sure what Dave and I are doing, except providing a safe place for Kyle to land. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

When we arrived here on Sunday, Kyle’s school was still planning on keeping campus open after Spring break. On Monday, and after my other post, we received notification that NYU Sydney will be moving to an online format for the rest of the semester. Kyle has three friends who are also here. Two of them cut their spring breaks short. One of them flew back to Sydney today in hopes of packing up her things. The other’s parents bought him a flight home while he was out of cellphone range. He flew back to NYC this morning, the long way round. The third is here with his parents and is taking it a day at a time. All these amazing humans are traveling their own road and dealing with the impact of having their study abroad cut short. As they process their own shock and remorse, I am amazed and inspired by their strength of character. 

Kyle & I, Queenstown, New Zealand

But wait: there is more. We were told by NYU that they do not want any students who are outside of the country to return to Sydney. Instead, NYU said that they will mail back their things. Further, students who are still in Australia have until March 22nd to get their things packed and out of their rooms. After that, students will no longer be allowed back into student housing. Wait. Wait. There is even more. We feel bad that all of Kyle’s belongings are stuck in Sydney. Kyle came here with enough clothes for a few days. If we did travel to Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things, we would all be required to self-isolate for 14 days or face severe fines and penalties. At this point (and we think it is a super long shot), we are trying to find out if the Australian government would allow Dave and me to remain in the Sydney airport while Kyle quickly packs up his things and then immediately returns to the airport. Dave and I are not allowed into student housing or we would go with him.

Kyle & the horse, Queenstown, New Zealand

In the meantime, we remain safely in Queenstown. It is beautiful here. Kyle and I went on a walk this morning. We saw two horses in a field. For a moment, they found us and healed our souls. I love horse energy. At first they were like, “Um, you two have so much stress” and they trotted away from us. I was like,

“Kyle, I think they know it’s been a crazy week.”

Kyle & the horses, Queenstown, New Zealand

Eventually, we joined their moment. Kyle noticed some hay just out of their reach. For several minutes he fed them. It was a gift. Dave later commented about our free equine therapy. It was the best. In fact, except for the stunning realization that Eli is not here with us, we almost feel like we were given a reprieve from the chaos. We do feel blessed. Coronavirus signs on storefronts about travel outside of New Zealand keep us grounded. We don’t know how we are going to get home. We don’t know if we will be allowed back into Sydney to pick up Kyle’s things. We don’t know what we will need to do to get back in the country. We are also taking it a day at a time. Some moments are light, like now. I hear Dave laughing heartily as he tells Kyle a story. Some moments are heartbreaking, like earlier when Kyle broke down in frustration. We imagine unpacking the moment will take a minute. We encourage Kyle and his friends to pace themselves and not skip healing steps. I was like,

“of course it is ok to be uncomfortable. This moment is hard.”

Dave & Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

Some of Kyle’s study abroad friends were in a car accident yesterday. They are ok. They also have to go home. I really don’t know how they are doing it. I also know I have to bite my tongue. Of course I want to save them pain that I think my experience can save them. Alas, this is their journey, not mine. Like I said, we are here as a sort of oasis. Once Kyle’s cup is full, I am certain he will soar. 

Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

What a week. Thank you everyone for loving us, especially knowing you are dealing with your stuff too. 

Tagged : / / /

Coronavirus Crisis: Carefully Flying Across The Ocean As The World Shuts Down

We are social distancing. Just not the way I thought we would be.

Me, Big Daddy & Easy E, Salt Lake City, Utah

I think it was twenty-four hours ago, but it has probably been more. We lost a day. On Friday afternoon, Eli and I drove to our local Wal-Mart. He was mad at me because of something I said the day before. We stood in the frozen food section talking it through until a person strolled up and Eli impatiently said,

“Mom, let’s keep this moving.”

Easy E & Me

Until that moment I had not noticed the empty shelves and carts filled with items such as twelve bottles of Lysol disinfecting spray, shrink wrapped thick pieces of beef, and Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese. I will assume that Eli also saw the cart filled with Velveeta Macaroni and Cheese, because he said something like, 

“Mom, I really want some Velveeta.” 

I was like, “you might as well; it is the end of the world.”

Once convinced I would actually buy him “synthetic cheese,” Eli proclaimed, “Mom, the Velveeta is not in the refrigerator section.” I laughed and said something like, “Oh, so you are going like 1980s Apocalypse?”

I felt some relief and resolve when he laughed in response. 

We asked the kind, short-haired Wal-Mart lady, who was taking inventory, if she could help us find the Velveeta. Is it really cheese? She stood up, put both of her hands in the air and said, 

“See where I am standing.”

We looked at where she was standing and acknowledged her. She responded, now pointing with both arms,

“It is on the other side of where we are.”

We thanked her and commented about the empty-shelf-Armageddon-situation. Somberly, she replied, 

“This all makes me want to cry.”

Compassionately, we thanked her and said, “hey, hang in there. We are in this together.”

Us: SLC – SFO

I am not sure the world is going to end tomorrow. Nevertheless, she was correct. The Velveeta was on the other side and on a shelf. It is one of the things still left (or at least left on Friday). Eli laughed again and said, 

“This stuff is expensive, or I would have bought it myself the other day.”

I laughed too and said, “Good thing your mom loves you and wants to keep you safe during the end of the world.”

At that, Eli’s mood improved and he laughed too. I was hopeful that his positive mood shift signaled that he had forgiven my blunder, or at least, was on his way. And before we could pick up the next items, we noticed what turned out to be a brother and sister cleaning out every last box of pasta. I eavesdropped into their conversation as I watched them pack their arms full of boxes of Barilla pasta,

“I can’t believe her. She is nuts. Mom asked us to buy all the pasta. This is insane.”

I looked at  them. They looked back at me.

“Our mom is crazy. I am so sorry.”

“I get it.” I said. 

I couldn’t help myself and I wanted to help them (even if they didn’t want my help).

As they walked away I asked, “Hey, can I have one of those boxes?”

The girl sweetly turned around and said, “Here. You want two? My mom won’t miss it.”

“Sure. Thank you.”

She handed me the boxes. I told her I really didn’t need the pasta, and we talked about the end of the world.

Then, Eli and I both acknowledged feeling overwhelmed and marginally freaked out. I took one more run through the store in hopes of finding hand soap and Clorox Wipes (I know. Foolish). 

Big Daddy, Empty-ish Plane: SFO – AKL

We stood in the check-out line shocked at it all. Neither one of us realized it was so insane until we stepped into Wal-Mart. It was almost our turn to check out when a woman approached me. She said something about how she needed one dollar and that if I gave her one dollar now so she could pay that we could go to customer service and she would give me my dollar back. I handed her a dollar and said, “It’s ok. You keep it.”

As we drove home, Eli said, “Mom, that was traumatic.” Honestly, it kind of was. 

And it was only going to get crazier.

SFO – AKL

See, Dave and I were booked to fly to New Zealand on Friday. Kyle is studying at NYU’s Sydney center. He has been having a hard time, and has been counting on us to meet him during his spring break. Nevertheless, with borders shutting down and schools closing, we were not certain if we should really go. Kyle was panicked. He continued to be pulled in all sorts of directions. I just kept having a feeling that I needed to be there with him long enough for him to catch his breath. I wanted to show him that he did not have to quit or settle just because other people want him to settle. I wanted him to see that we believe in him so much that we would travel halfway around the world. Dave and I want Kyle to know he is worth it.

I know. It sounds a little crazy. What we moms do for our kids. Anyway, I think we are a little nuts. I also worry about Kyle. I am also a person who totally follows her gut. My gut kept telling me to press forward, which was all fine and good until my mom called.

SFO United Lounge

It was 5:24pm, Friday, March 13. Dave and I were leaving for the airport at 6:15pm. Eli is planning to meet us in Sydney next week. (I know. I know. That probably will not happen.)

“Beth. Did you hear?”

“Hi Mom. Did I hear what?”

“Governor Herbert closed all schools across the state starting Monday.”

“What? Wait. Mom. I can’t talk. I need to go. I have to call you back.”

Eli was already packed. We only had minutes to decide. I wrangled Dave into our room for a pow wow.

“Hey, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO?”

We decided to tell Eli he needed to get ready to go. Ok. In truth, I asked Dave to tell him. Remember, it was only minutes ago that Eli and I made peace.

Within minutes, Dave was back in the room looking forlorn.

“What’s up?” I asked.

“Eli is beside himself.”

Meme Eli sent Dave while we were at the San Francisco Airport

Dave and I panic-talked for then next three minutes. We were about to cancel the trip. In fact, earlier in the day, Kyle told us he wanted to come home. We almost canceled the trip then. I cannot explain my weird mom feelings, because instead of canceling, we pressed forward. And I felt totally calm.

I was on the fence regarding Eli. It was 6:00pm.

I went into the kitchen where Eli and I talked. I was like, 

“Eli, I don’t have time to say everything perfectly. I don’t want to piss you off. I probably will. I think you can stay home, but I need you to keep it together. And by keep it together, I mean, not how you think you should, but how I want you to keep it together. No excuses. No, “I don’t feel like it.” We don’t have time to throw down. We just need to decide. Can you keep it together with a good attitude?”

“Yes.” Eli calmly said.

 Then I looked him in the eye and said, “Oh, and no girls in your bedroom—for real. And no girlfriends spending the night.”

“Ok.”

I could feel Eli’s relief. We have a great network in place. I also think this is a good adulting opportunity for Eli. Again, I was weirdly calm.

I asked Eli if he was ok.

“He said, I need to go downstairs for a minute and decompress. That was a lot.”

I totally agreed.

By 6:24pm our Lyft arrived. Eli gave me the best, lift-your-mom-off-the-ground hug. We reminded him we may be back home in an hour, or we may be quarantined in another country. I told Eli I loved him. We all agreed to take it in stride. I told him I loved him again. Then he obliged to take some pictures, gave me another big hug, and has been checking in regularly ever since. 

Friday’s Lyft driver is a mother of five. Her oldest is nine. She assured us her car was Lysoled and that she wipes her car down with Clorox Wipes after every ride. We talked about schools being closed, about homeschooling and the end of the world. 

The airport was way more crowded than I expected. Every service worker was wearing latex gloves. Our ticket agent was extremely careful about our hands not touching her hands. Our first flight was delayed, which was potentially going to make us miss our flight to New Zealand. Luckily, the 6pm flight to San Francisco hadn’t left yet, having been delayed by 90 minutes, and was boarding as we walked by the gate, so we asked if we could get on that flight. It was only half full.

Somehow we found ourselves in half empty airport lounges, staring at people wearing masks on their faces and pulling them down to eat, and making jokes with people in bathrooms concerning all the bloodied hands from all the extra handwashing. A woman even asked me if I had seen the “Terminator Wash your hands Coronavirus” meme. I have not and will have to find it. About half the people were wiping down their airplane seats. I Clorox-wiped my phone like fifty-seven times. I don’t understand all the people who wear their face masks around their necks. And I have mad respect  for the folks who used their elbows to open the airplane bathroom doors. United Airlines somehow managed to get my gluten free meal. (I only get it about 30% of the time so that was like a total coronavirus-bonus). The flight was uneventful. A nice New Zealand woman explained the New Zealand food import restrictions. (Don’t leave fruit in your bag, or they’ll hit you with a $400 fine). And I didn’t even mind know-it-all budget-Kylo-Ren and his know-it-all girlfriend who were seated behind us, correcting me, Dave, the nice New Zealand lady, and each other while the plane was loading.

Us, Auckland, New Zealand

By the time we landed in Auckland, we were inundated with news. First, we heard misinformation about New Zealand’s borders being closed. Then we heard that all people arriving in New Zealand will have to self quarantine for the next fourteen days. I asked a staff member at the immigration line and she set me straight. We both laughed a sigh of relief when I realized that Kyle would arrive before the quarantine deadline. 

“You all are fine.” She said.

“But what about my son? He doesn’t arrive until 2:30PM.” I respond.

“He is good. He arrives 9 hours before the self quarantine requirement begins.”

Auckland, New Zealand

I thanked her. We laughed again. I thanked her again. We did not touch because no one is touching. In the past I probably would have given her a high five. I texted Kyle, who was about to get on his flight to Queenstown from Sydney. As I texted him, Dave and I walked about to the New Zealand immigration agent, who asked me to put my phone away. Then she gave us the third, fourth and fifth degree about where we had been in the past 15 days, and where we’d been in the United States. When we asked if we were visiting New Zealand “on holiday,” she gave us a disapproving look. We explained our mission to help our son, and she softened somewhat, but still eyed us as suspicious disease vectors. Finally she stamped our passports and let us in. 

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

After washing my hands like six more times, and using hand sanitizer at least four more times, we exited customs and searched for the domestic terminal. Luckily, Mia, a nice New Zealander who had been sitting near us on our flight, walked us literally like one half a mile from International flights to Domestic flights, and we made it to our next flight. What a gift. In all this world-is-ending chaos, the flight from Auckland to Queenstown is heavenly. It took my breath away. We flew so close to the mountain tops. I felt calm. I felt loved.

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

Alas, Dave and I are so jetlagged. When we landed in Queenstown we were bitchy tired. My phone lit up.

“Where are you? I hope Sydney and not NZ. What was travel like? What are your plans? I bet Kyle will be or was so relieved to see you. How can we help Eli?”

That is when I thought I should look up the news and see what was going on. I did and I also got some clarification. Then I responded to my texts. 

Landing in Queenstown, New Zealand

“We are in New Zealand. All is well. We have talked to officials. It’s actually quite bustling here. The restrictions go into effect until midnight tonight. Kyle will be here in 2 hours. So starting midnight is when the self quarantine for arriving people begins. News is a little crazy. I am guessing this is what you are referring to? We made it under the deadline and do not have to self-quarantine.” I texted back. 

“Yes the quarantine was what I was referring to.”

I paused and thought of my sweet mom. I’d better let her know we are ok. I tried to call her. She did not answer so I called Eli. I filled Eli in and counseled him regarding how to share this information with Wawa (my mom). Eli is super cool and grown up. (Eli, we are very proud of you!) He also took my mom to buy toilet paper today. Unfortunately, they were not able to find any. (Anyway, I am also sure he would love dinner while we are away. Thank you kind souls.)

Us, Queenstown, New Zealand

Then Dave and I retrieved our luggage, rented our car, then we both melted down in the rental car lot when we saw the unsanitary condition of the car we were assigned. We exchanged our dirty car that had a booger on the touch screen (true story). Yes. Of course we washed our hands like seven more times. 

We made our way to the Countdown grocery store. Dave hummed to himself, “It’s the final countdown!” (*note Dave’s awesome edit here.) They still had toilet paper in stock. There were people shopping and they were calm. 

Me & Kyle, Queenstown, New Zealand

We made it back in time to find Kyle waiting outside for us. We hugged hard and then Kyle showed us the “Wuhan foot shake.” In the past few hours we have learned that anyone arriving in Australia after midnight tonight will have to self quarantine for fourteen days. All of Kyle’s belongings are currently in Sydney. He could go home. It is possible that school will have the students self quarantine for fourteen days and then go back to regular classes. I am proud of him for sticking it out this far. I know he has a lot of voices in his head pulling him all the directions. I don’t want to make this choice for him. I want to create a space where he can finish his assignments, get some rest and clear his head. I am amazed by both of my sons. They are rad. And yes, you can tell us we are crazy. You would not be the first. Alas, before you get all judge-y, I would gently caution you to first ask us why? Or talk to us. Or walk try walking in our shoes and we sincerely promise to do the same for you. I know there is always more to it. Like my grandma used to say,

“Bethy, you just don’t know what is going on in their hearts.”

Great advice! (Man, I miss my grandma. She would totally have the toilet paper situation under control.)

Kyle, Countdown Supermarket, Queenstown, New Zealand

We will keep you updated. If we get trapped in New Zealand, will you guys keep in eye on Eli? He is amazing and very self-sufficient. I just want him to know how much his mama loves him too. 

PS We went to the grocery store later on. The toilet paper section was substantially more depleted since it had been this morning: nearly sold out. I compulsively grabbed a package. Dave protested. He even went as far as to pull me aside and demand that “we have a serious talk.” Then insisting that there is no way the toilet paper will fit into our luggage. Well, after our “serious talk,” and after resisting the urge to bluff and say that I was getting it for Kyle, I bought a four pack.  

Kyle, Rammy and our new toilet paper, Queenstown, New Zealand
Tagged : / / / /