In a hundred years, I bet you didn’t think you were going to need an ultimate guide for self-isolation because of an actual pandemic, did you? Welcome to your first Zombie apocalypse. It’s been one hell of a year, hasn’t it? Lots of upheavals, change, tragic loss, murder hornets, no travel, the planet burning, and flooding in response to our careless destruction. It’s the sort of scene you’ve read about in science fiction novels. Well, here we are.
Like hundreds of millions of people around the world in the travel and tourism industry, my business dissipated in the wake of this pandemic. And when our childcare facility closed up shop permanently, I went back to being a full time stay at home Mom. It felt like I was taking 10 steps back career-wise, but, in the wake of a pandemic, having my little guy at home, I THOUGHT, would help minimize the risk of exposure to Covid. And it did! From March – October, other than a gastro-bug, this little family unit didn’t get so much as a SNIFFLE. We kept our bubble small, washed our hands, wore masks, did everything we were supposed to, but our stretch of good luck came to a grinding halt in early October.
To be honest, I wavered on whether or not to share our diagnosis publicly. I felt an overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment. I cursed myself for not being more careful. I felt like a horrible mom for not protecting my son better. And it’s not that the shame or guilt passed, I just felt that after seeing a slackening of due diligence in and around my community, watching too many folks “forgetting” their masks in the shops, and with the second wave threatening to take us all out, it was important to share our journey. I am NOT here to scare anyone. And unless you’re one of those horrible humans who buys into the conspiracy theories and refuses to wear a mask, there should be NO GUILT OR SHAME..AT ALL! What I hope to accomplish with this post, is to encourage everyone to take as many precautions as they can, and eliminate unnecessary risks because the implications of contracting this virus are not just physical, it can put a massive strain on every single aspect of your life. So, in the interest of information sharing, here are a few things I’ve learned that I think will help you prepare for self-isolation.
The Time Line
On September 30, I was driving home from an appointment, and my son’s dad phoned to say our son had woken up from his nap sick. It was odd. He was perfectly fine when I put him to sleep a few hours earlier, but you know pre-schoolers, things can change, fast! Like any Mama, I was concerned. I ran through the door, up the stairs to find a very pale-faced, docile little boy cuddling his dad on the couch. He was congested, miserable, and tired. No fever. To be honest, Covid hadn’t entered my mind yet. Our complex had been hit with a nasty cold just a couple of weeks prior and our family is a Venus flytrap when it comes to coughs, colds and flus. We were veterans. Last year, we had several colds, the flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, and croup. So, I battened down the hatches, raided the stockpile of pediatric cold and flu meds, dragged out the humidifier, busted out the eucalyptus oil and HydraSense, and went to work nursing my little guy back to health.
At 12:36am on October 2, something woke me up. I stumbled to the washroom, took a few sips of water from the tap, and reached for a couple of antacids to tame an angry ulcer. As I was walking back to bed, chewing my tablets, I noticed something odd; I couldn’t taste anything. Shit. I’ve got his cold, I thought. But something wasn’t right. I wasn’t congested at all, and I couldn’t taste or smell. I peeped in on my little guy and then crawled back to bed. I swiped my phone on and Googled ‘Covid symptoms’ (yeah, yeah, I know, don’t use the interwebs to self-diagnose!) but your mind starts to race and it’s almost impossible to resist the urge to worry. One of the very first symptoms on the list was the loss of taste. Now I was freaked out.
I could barely sleep that night. I was up several times with my son who also suffers from bouts of croup, and I was worried. As soon as day broke, I made a few inquiries about where to get tested for Covid in our town. I loaded up my son and drove to the nearest drive-thru test site. I was asked a series of questions upon arrival, given a pamphlet and 45 minutes later, after my information was taken and our symptoms were recorded, my son and I had the tests. I drove us home and we waited for our results. I had signed up for the texting service which sends you a text if you are negative. If you’re positive, they call you.
On Saturday morning, the day after our test, I felt like I had been hit by a truck. I could barely move. My limbs were heavy. My skin hurt. I was completely congested. And by now, I had a fever. On Saturday afternoon, a little more than 24 hours after receiving the test, I received a text. Negative.
Phew! Thank Goodness.
I was both relieved, but ugh the flu. How could we have contracted the flu, almost a year to the day as last year. Oh well, ’tis the season. I went about my day, caring for my sick little guy, dragging myself around the house thinking at least this would only be a few days of misery. No big deal. We’ll stay away from everyone for a few days, I’ll get his negative results over text shortly and everything would be fine.
Then the phone call;
“Hi, is this Jordana?”
“I’m really sorry, but your son has tested positive.”
How could this be possible? I paced about the house, flabbergasted. Where the hell could we have gotten it from? How? We’ve been so careful? Who? What does that mean? Is he going to be okay? If I don’t have it, what the hell do I have? I blurted the questions out, rapid fire into the phone as if I was expecting the poor nurse on the other end of the line to have the answers. She was warm, compassionate. I could feel the tears well up. I looked at my son’s dad across the room. I was wide-eyed and afraid. I tried to focus on the calm voice on the other side of the phone. Carol, our nurse, walked me through the at-home treatment plan, explained the interview process that would take place over the next couple of days, and went over the contract tracing process. I had lists to make and networks to map out. Places we had been, people we had spent more than 15 minutes in close contact with. People we had touched. And right before we hung up, Carol went over my symptoms again, then again. She didn’t like it. She was sending me for a second test.
When I put the phone down, I felt light-headed but also weighed down. It was as if someone had climbed on top of my chest and perched themselves there for good. I started making phone calls, sending out flurries of text messages, scribbling notes down. The tight-knit group of friends we kept in our bubble was shocked. Our son was the first person they knew so close to them who had tested positive. They mobilized, and everyone either began testing, self-isolating, or closely monitoring themselves and their little ones. I can’t describe to you the guilt, shame, and fear that sneaks into the very crevices of your conscience. What if we had infected someone else. What if we made someone else ill. What if someone else dies. Sure, you see the irrationality in hindsight, but at the time, I was nearly crippled by it. One my of dearest friends had JUST packed up her life and was already on the road, home to Quebec just 48 hours after we got the news when I messaged her to tell her. And because of that, they had to hunker down in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, get tested, and remain there until their results returned.
The Second Test
By Sunday, October 4, I was even more ill. I still had a fever, I was completely congested (which is not necessarily a Covid symptom btw), I still had no taste or smell, and my body felt bruised to the touch. I returned to the same drive-through site, and had a second Covid test. The results to that test came back two days later. Negative. Now, by this time, I had spoken to two nurses, every day. One nurse for my son, and one for myself, so my deteriorating health was being closely monitored. The day before I received my second test results, they were in the midst of getting me “epi-linked” to my son. There is a set of criteria for this, one requirement being you have a fever of over 38 degrees, and you are in close contact with a confirmed Covid case.
Epi-Linked & Covid Confirmed
The day after my negative result, Public Health phoned to say they had reviewed my symptoms, and they were deeming me an active Covid case. I was also given my quarantine period – 20 days. Now, if you’re wondering why, it’s because I have Lupus, which is an auto-immune disease. There are many complications that can occur in those of us who suffer from auto-immune diseases such as flare-ups, increased respiratory risks, viral loads being manipulated so Covid can be masked by the disease, and various other wildly inconvenient, and sometimes deadly complications. If you do have an auto-immune disease, Covid can remain in your system longer, which is why the isolation can be 20 days instead of the standard 14 days.
My son’s dad also tested negative and was also epi-linked because of his exposure to us. He had a bit of a scratchy throat and some fatigue but was thankfully spared the full gamut of symptoms.
If someone tests negative, you won’t get generally get a phone call from Public Health, you just have to wait for the text, or you log in to your myEhealth to get your results. Because I had symptoms the day I tested, Public Health was assigned to me immediately. And ever day after that, our family was contacted daily, sometimes twice a day. A nurse from Public Health would check on our progress, log any new symptoms and make note of ones that may have dissipated, but the discharge date never moves. In fact, depending on the severity of symptoms, it can actually be a moving target. If there are underlying conditions, there could be complications that could elongate symptoms or worse, send you to hospital which is the absolute last thing you want
An important tip to help Public Health track your progress – Keep a symptom journal. From the day you went for your first Covid test, record your symptoms, even if you have none. Just make sure to write it all down. It helps Public Health to track the progression of the virus, record any new symptoms that may not be in their database, and keep an eye on anything concerning. My son developed a rather frightening looking rash on his neck and Public Health was concerned about it spreading to other parts of his body. Luckily, it didn’t, but if it had, they would know to report it and if necessary, request us to visit a hospital.
How Did We Prepare?
The honest truth is we weren’t! I mean, my son’s dad runs a digital marketing agency and works from home 3-4 days a week anyway, so that wasn’t a difficult transition for him. But because everyone in our bubble needed to get tested, and had to go into isolation while they waited for their results, there were a couple of days where we had to wait for a household re-supply. We had all the medical basics, and we were definitely ready for cold and flu season, so that gave us a head start to manage symptoms for both my son and I. However, I cannot even begin to explain how absurdly fortunate we are to live where we do, to be surrounded and cared for by our community and our friends. When our bubble tested negative and was able to leave isolation our family wanted for nothing. From grocery drop-offs, to mail collection (we have to pick-up our mail from the post office usually), to prepared meals, free dog-walking services (we have a four month old Australian Shepherd), to donated toys and books to keep our little guy entertained with new activities, it was incredible. I spent many a night in tears, overwhelmed by the generosity and outpouring of support. I’ve worked hard to cultivate a community, to build an extended family, and these are the times when I felt so profoundly vindicated by the love I poured into my community.
And while I’m shouting how lucky we are from the rooftops, I recognize that not everyone has that safety net. I worry for my loved ones around the world, living in cities (like Vancouver) or in more rural areas, on their own, and who don’t have family nearby or don’t have a relationship with their neighbours.
With the holidays coming, as the second wave rages on, now might just be the perfect time to be introducing ourselves, albeit, from a distance to our neighbours. It could be something as simple as leaving a note with your contact information and letting them know if they ever need a grocery delivery, or pharmacy run, or a few great Netflix recommendations while they’re in isolation, you would be delighted to help. Let them know they are not alone. For many, self-isolation is crippling in ways you may not have thought of. Some people just need to feel…seen. Check-in on your elderly neighbours, those with children, and anyone living alone.
19 Things to Organize Before You Go into Isolation
Because we didn’t have all of our ducks in a row, this experience taught me a few things about preparedness. If you think I’ve forgotten any, leave a comment below and I’ll update this list!
- Establish a support team! These are going to be the people who will be picking up your grocery order, collecting your mail, walking your pooch, calling/Face Timing/Checking in on you while you’re in isolation. If you live alone, now is not the time to be an island. Reach out. And if you live in the Sea-to-Sky Corridor or in Vancouver, you can reach out to me!
- Grocery stock up – Soups, canned goods, fresh fruit & veg, clear fluids (don’t go crazy, but if you have favourite meals you’d like to cook, or comfort foods that will make isolation more bearable, make sure you have some extra kicking around your pantry or fridge). Alternatively, you could sign up for one of those meal prep programs and try it out. We’ve been cooking with Fresh Prep and Hello Fresh for a few months,
- Minimum 30-day prescription supply – Sit down and organize your medications so if you weren’t able to get to a pharmacy, you have enough to get you through. You can of course designate someone to pick up your prescriptions, but if you’re running low and you require a referral from your doctor, get it done ASAP.
- Cleaning supplies – bleach, anti-bacterial hand soap, hand sanitizer, hard surface disinfectants, surface sanitizers, laundry supplies, dish cleaning supplies. One of the top directives from Public Health is to keep your house sanitized as much as possible, especially if not everyone in your house tests positive or experiences symptoms.
- Bolster your medical kit – Make sure you have at least a two week supply of Cold & Flu meds, dry cough meds, pain & fever management, anti-inflammatories, a good thermometer, humidifier, Eucalyptus shower steamers (and oil), heating pad or hot water bottle, first aid kit
- Know your health history – As someone with an autoimmune disease, I have a pretty good handle on the minutia of detail that sits in my medical records. I also researched the possible complications I could potentially suffer if I contracted Covid. But not everyone is so in-tune with their health history. If you test positive, you are interviewed by Public Health, and they ask you a series of questions about your health history. This helps them determine whether or not you need to seek immediate medical attention or are just safe to isolate and self-manage at home. If you have children, they’re going to inquire about their history, so have that on hand.
- Stock-up on intimate products – feminine hygiene products, condoms (hey, you may feel well enough for some bow-chica-wow-wow), pregnancy tests ( just in case the bow-chica-wow-wow is successful!) In all seriousness, you and your partner may be on a baby journey and you may not want someone else picking up something so personal for you.
- Stock-up on personal care products (hair care, body care, toilet paper, tissue, anti-bacterial hand wash and a reeeeeeally good hand moisturizer. If you thought you were washing your hands a lot BEFORE, just wait until you’re isolating under the same roof as someone with Covid.
- Stock-up on Baby/Toddler supplies – diapers, wipes, formula, wipes, foods etc. And if you’ve been using a cleaning service for your cloth diapers, you may need to wash them yourself while you’re in isolation, so make sure you have the appropriate laundry detergent for that.
- Stock-up on Pet food supplies (If you have a puppy, be sure to stock up on extra toys, treats, and brain puzzles because they most likely won’t be outside getting as much physical exercise, you need to tire them out mentally. There are some fantastic YouTube channels that are full of ideas to help you keep your pup stimulated. Alternatively, consider hiring a dog-walking company to take your pup for short walks.
- Invest in Streaming services (Netflix, Disney, Crave, Amazon Prime) – You probably already have one or more of these services in place, but if you don’t, for those days you don’t feel well enough to get out of bed, or if you have a rambunctious kiddo you need to keep occupied, you may want to sign up for the month. And for all of you parents, DO NOT beat yourself up if the kids are getting more screen time than usual, these are tough times, and throwing Frozen 2 on for the umpteenth time that week doesn’t make you a bad parent…it makes you a survivor.
- Will you need any special home office equipment? (Make sure that you are able to have any special drives, laptop equipment, cameras, audio equipment, and anything else you might need to conduct your job as you would at the office is on hand in case you go into lock-down. Or at least be able to arrange to have someone drop it at your door.
- Upgrade your internet (if you haven’t already) – As winter sets in, we’re spending more time indoors anyway, which generally means we’re streaming more which can affect speed. If you end up in isolation, and you have to work from home, slow internet is the last thing you want to put up with. Also, if you haven’t encrypted your wifi, and you are working with sensitive work documents, you’ll want to do this immediately.
- Complete any necessary house repairs! Most folks don’t think about this one, but if you have a hot water tank that’s about to go kaput, a washing machine that’s on its last legs, or a nagging plumbing problem the last thing you to deal with is something happening while you’re in isolation because guess what, no one is coming to fix that while you’re sick with Covid! Get ahead of the issues and start knocking those things off your to-do list.
- Discuss Covid work-from-home protocols with your employer – I was surprised to learn that many people don’t fully understand what procedures are in place at their jobs if they contract Covid, whether they work from home or not. It’s important to have a discussion with your employer now, so you have some peace of mind in case you do become ill, especially if you have an extended isolation period like I did.
- Stock up on fun activities/toys for the kids – For those of you with little ones at home, especially pre-schoolers, and toddlers, isolation can be extremely stressful (trust me, I just did 24 days of isolation with a three-year-old!) Now would be a great time to start collecting fun little activities like puzzles, sensory kits, games, toys, dress-up costumes, and art projects. Tuck them away in a cupboard and then bring out a new activity every day, or every other day to keep things interesting.
- Get your affairs in order – NO ONE wants to think the worst and again, I’m not trying to fear monger. And plenty of people will comment with something like, “you could be hit by a bus tomorrow.” That’s true, which is all the more reason to make sure you have your will and testament all squared away so there’s one less thing to worry about. Covid is a completely unpredictable virus, I want us all to do what we can to be prepared.
- Create a family work/play schedule – Obviously, this only applies if you’re in isolation with your significant other housemates or family. Everyone is going to need their space, their time, their slice of sanity. If there are childcare duties required during your isolation, try and make it as EQUAL as possible. Looking after cooped up children 24/7 is no easy task (hell, it’s exhausting when they’re in daycare part-time and get to spend half their day outdoors) Raising littles is the toughest job on earth. So BEFORE you get hit with isolation, draft up a potential work/play/me time schedule for everyone in the house, because taking care of your mental well being is as important as treating your physical symptoms.
- Amend custody agreements – This is not something my son’s dad and I had to worry about as we’re still cohabitating, but if we were living in separate homes, we would have to draw up an alternative custody plan in case one of us came down with Covid. Again, this isn’t something anyone wants to have to think about, but if the issue is discussed and planned for in advance, it’s (hopefully) one less thing to cause conflict during such a stressful time.
The Recovery Period
In the following weeks, thankfully, my son made a decent recovery, but he’s still fatigued and a bit weak. Only 16 days after recovering from Covid, he fell sick again (not with Covid), and a cold that would usually take him 5-7 days to recover from took him 11.
A few days before I left isolation, I developed a dry cough, and though I didn’t develop any serious upper respiratory issues, to this day, 42 days after first feeling ill, I wake up every morning feeling as if there is a 30lb weight on my chest. My body still aches, and there’s a heavy fog that sits in my brain like an unwelcome filter. The fatigue is so mentally and physically challenging that some days I find myself struggling to finish the smallest of tasks (like finishing this blog post!)
Covid recovery for many, will be quick and painless. For others, it’s a marathon, not a race. And for some, it will take their life, and that is something I want to prevent, in any small way I can.
If you have any questions about our journey, pop them down below. Wear your masks, wash your hands, check in on your friends and loved ones, and stay safe.
Wondering if your mask is the right mask? Check out this study here:https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/marketplace-masks-test-1.5795481
For information on Covid symptoms, testing, vaccine news visit here: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/symptoms.html
Mental Health Support for BIPOC Communities: https://www.self.com/story/bipoc-mental-health-coronavirus
Mental Health Support for British Columbians: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/symptoms.html