Don’t Downplay the COVID-19 Virus Unless You’ve Experienced it
Is COVID Real or Just the Flu?
COVID struck in my family. As much as some of us tried to steer away from crowds and gatherings to protect our 81-year-old mother, it wasn’t enough. Mom caught the virus, and it was not pretty. It frustrated me to hear people downplaying it like the flu and saying Mom was pretending. People who did not bother to check on her while sick in her apartment, call while she was at the hospital, or even inquire about her health. It’s okay to believe whatever, it’s each one’s choice and we are all individual beings. But to downplay a condition when they know nothing about medicine, are not healthcare workers, and were not there to see what was going on is downright wrong.
Mom Does Not Feel Well
On February 24th, Mom told me she was not feeling well. I asked her what were the symptoms? She said she felt a lot of body ache, sore throat, tiredness, a lot of coughing, and a weird metallic taste in her mouth.
“Do you have a fever?” I asked.
“No, I don’t have a fever,” she responded.
It concerned me because she lives alone in an apartment with only her dog as a companion. My thought was she had COVID. Although I live quite close to her, the thought of me contracting the virus and spread it to my family worried me. But I needed to help Mom. I continued to call a few times a day to check on her status and brought over foods she requested or I knew would help nourish her. I took her dog, Precious, home with me thinking it’d be less work for her since she did not have to feed or walk Precious. But Mom called asking me to bring Precious back home because she missed her, so I did. I always wore my mask and never got near to Mom, hug or kiss her even though I wanted to. It hurt to see her so sick.
“Mom, let’s go to the doctor,” I said a few times.
“No, I don’t want to go, but I’ll call my doctor and let her know what’s going on,” she promised.
Mom made good on her promise and contacted her physician. They sent Mom for a chest x-ray, which she did the following Monday.
About a week into Mom’s illness, when I called her, she did not answer the call. It was about 9:00 a.m. I figured she’s asleep, and since I had two appointments that day, I thought I’d call her after my first appointment. The phone rang and rang, but she didn’t pick up. “She’s probably taking Precious for a walk. I’ll call after my second appointment,” I thought to myself.
It was 3:00 p.m. when I tried ringing her again and no answer. I worried me she wasn’t responding, so I drove directly to her home. It’s a good thing I have a key to her apartment and could enter without problems. However, in my rush to check in on Mom, I forgot to wear a mask.
Precious was barking incessantly as I walked in. “Mom!” I called out, but no answer. I dashed straight into her bedroom where I found Mom all bundled up on her bed. “Mom,” I yelled out and nothing. “Mom,” I called again and nudged her until she finally opened her eyes.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
Not realizing how long she had slept, “I’m okay,” she responded.
“I’ve been trying to reach you, but you didn’t answer the phone,” I told her.
“I didn’t hear the phone,” she said. “The doctor gave me a prescription for the cough and it makes me sleepy.”
“Okay,” I replied. “So what was the chest x-ray diagnosis?” I asked.
“She said my lungs are clear,” Mom responded.
“Did she send you to get tested for COVID?” I asked.
“No,” Mom responded.
“Mom, I think you should get tested. I’ll take you and get myself tested too,” I told her.
“I don’t want to get tested. Besides, I’m feeling better,” she responded.
“You don’t look better. Did you eat?” I asked.
“I’m not hungry, Mom replied.
“Mom, you need to eat something. Tell you what. I haven’t had lunch yet. How about if we order something to eat? What would you like?”
“I’m not hungry, but some soup sounds good,” she said.
“Okay, I’ll order some soup for both of us from Panera Bread,” and I placed the order.
Caring for My Ailing Mom
We sat down together and chatted while we waited for our lunch to arrive. She was not her total self but was happy that I was there with her. When our order arrived, we sat together at the dining table and ate. Unfortunately, she could only eat about three spoonfuls of soup and wanted no more. She claimed the metal taste in her mouth made her nauseous. It concerned me she wasn’t eating properly.
Looking in her refrigerator, I saw that the meals I had brought over for her to eat during the week were half eaten or not even touched and still in her fridge. I spent a few more hours with her until she could no longer stay awake and wanted to go to sleep. I stayed until Precious ate and I could take her downstairs for her walk and made sure Mom was not needing anything else, then I went home. Once at home, I realized that while I was with Mom; I did not use a mask. There was nothing I could do now. How long was Mom contagious, I didn’t know. I could only pray I didn’t catch whatever Mom had.
It was not easy but I continued to monitor Mom and tried to help as much as possible. Between work and my home, I couldn’t spend much time with her. It worried me to see how much weight she had lost. She was not eating at all, and I doubt she was drinking any water since she complained about the metallic taste.
We Need to Get Tested
That weekend I could finally convince her to get tested with me. So on Sunday night, I told her I’d pick her up after work on Monday and we’d both get tested. However, she claimed she didn’t want to go because three family members told her that if she got tested, she would definitely test positive because everyone that gets tested, comes out positive.
I was livid! How dare they impose their beliefs on an 80-year-old? They were not there to see how sick she looked, how much weight she’d lost, and how much she needed a diagnosis to properly care for her healing. I contacted the persons who misinformed her and demanded they corrected their wrongdoing. They promised they would speak with her if they needed to. Fortunately, she accepted to go with me the next day.
On Monday, March 8th, after work, I picked Mom up and headed to the testing center. Mom was so weak and could barely walk. I felt terrible to see my Mom like this but was glad she accepted to be tested. We wouldn’t get our results until Wednesday, so I dropped Mom off at her home and went straight to mine.
I Trusted My Intuition
That night was quite restless for me. I am a very intuitive person and something kept telling me to go over to my Mom’s house. I was up by 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Therefore, I prepared myself and was about to leave when my husband asked me, “where are you going?”
“I’m going to Mom’s house,” I responded.
“Aren’t you going to eat breakfast first?” he asked.
“No, I’ll make breakfast over there and hopefully she’ll eat with me,” I replied, and I was off to Mom's.
Even though I had spoken and seen her during the week, I had not been inside her apartment since the previous Wednesday and I was in shock at what I walked into.
Another Sign Mom Was Not Well
Mom is a clean freak. Her home is always super neat, clean, and aromatic. But as I walked in, I was struck with a horrific smell. There were dirty dishes in the sink, the garbage needed taking out, and all those times she said she was taking Precious out for her walks-well; it wasn’t true. The garbage bins in her kitchen and bathroom were full of pee-pee pads, which were soiled-a sign Precious was not walked. Mom was a bit confused when I walked in with the breakfast groceries. The first thing I did was take the garbage out and disinfect the apartment, feed the dog, and take her out for a walk before beginning breakfast.
Confusion and Delirium Began
Once back, I began with breakfast. At that moment, Mom told me she had not paid the rent and asked if I could take the check to the office, to which I replied I could. She got up from the sofa and walked into her bedroom when suddenly I heard a loud thump.
I ran into her bedroom and there laid Mom on the floor. She had lost her balance and fell. I tried helping her up, but she had no strength and I couldn’t get her up. She kept her right hand as if she was holding something. I monitored her, thinking she might have a seizure because of the way she was moving her hand.
“Is your hand hurting Mom?” I asked.
“No, hold this,” she said, but there was nothing in her hand.
“There’s nothing there, Mom. What do you want me to hold?” I asked.
“Here, hold it!” she yelled.
I didn’t know what was going on and I couldn’t help her get up, so I contacted my husband to stop by before he left to work. But Mom was so weak, she couldn’t sustain herself for us to get her up, so I had no other choice than to call 911. I stayed with her while they arrived. She seemed confused and didn’t look well at all. The paramedics arrived in less than 15 minutes. They could not get any straight answers from her. She seemed confused, delirious, very weak, and her vitals were a bit off. She’s a diabetic, and if she was not eating, that was not doing her any good. The Paramedics transported her to the hospital.
She Tested Positive
I was glad that Mom went to the hospital because I knew she would get the proper care she needed. Other than vitals taken, they tested again her for COVID, but the results would be in on that same day. However, I noticed she was very forgetful. I thought maybe she was tired but there was also the incident at her apartment which told me something else was going on. Then the results came in. Mom tested positive for COVID and was going into isolation. The nurses changed Mom into a hospital gown and gave me her clothes. They did not allow me to go into Mom’s room or even say goodbye to her.
“Can I at least hand the cell phone to her?” I asked.
“I’ll give it to her,” said the nurse, and she handed me a sheet with instructions to follow in order to see Mom the next day.
Once home, I called the number on the sheet and scheduled an appointment to see Mom. The hospital policy was one visitor per day for 30 minutes. I had to be suited up with protective gear provided by the hospital and follow certain rules before going in and after exiting the room. I was okay with that just as long as I could visit Mom. Once done with scheduling the appointment, I returned to her apartment to clean and disinfect it and took Precious home with me. I was not about to leave her alone in the apartment. Also, I had to make sure that Mom’s apartment was in optimal condition before she came home.
That Was Not My Mom
The next day I visited Mom. She seemed so frail in that hospital bed. She was silent and said she felt extremely tired. I spent 30 minutes with her until they kicked me out. Once at home at around 5:30 p.m. I received a call from Mom. Since my son was with me at that moment, I put her on speaker.
“Hi Mom, how are you?” I asked.
“Why did you leave?” she asked.
“Because they didn’t allow me to stay any longer,” I responded.
“But, how am I going to get home? I don’t know my way home,” she said.
At that point, both my son and I noticed this was not Mom. “You’re staying there tonight, Mom. Don’t worry, I’ll pick you up tomorrow,” I replied and changed the conversation. “Did you eat, Mom?” I asked.
“I’m eating now,” she responded.
“What are you eating?”
“Mac and cheese, and, umm, umm, I don’t know,” she said.
We said a few more things and hung up. However, that conversation was puzzling to me and my son. It was as if she had dementia or something like it.
The next day, Thursday, March 11th, the ringing of the phone awakened at 6:00 a.m. It was Mom’s nurse calling. Apparently, Mom tried leaving and was yanking the tubes off so she had to be restrained. The nurse didn’t want me to be surprised when I got there. It was disturbing to me to hear this. Mom was not a belligerent person. My appointment was not until 2:00 p.m. and they did not allow me to go in any earlier. However, when I arrived at the hospital, she was no longer in isolation. Further testing showed her plasma levels were higher than expected, which meant she had COVID for some time and therefore no longer contagious. I could stay with her for as long as I wanted.
The Moment I Panicked the Most
However, as I walked in towards Mom, it broke my heart. They physically restrained her arms from the bed. I understand it was for her own good, but it was horrific to see. She didn’t know who she was, or who I was. Even though she joked with the nurses and doctors, it wasn’t my Mom. I did not know this woman, and she did not know me. It devastated me. Mom was seeing things that were not there. She kept talking as if her dog was there with her. Kept fumbling with the sheets as if actually doing something and would ask me to hold whatever imaginary thing she had in her hand. I told her a few times that she’d be out of there soon and I will take her home, but she said she didn’t know me and wasn’t going home with me. She kept on trying to sit up and get off the bed but had no strength to do either. And she talked so many incoherent things.
I asked the nurse what happened to her, to which she responded, “You mean she’s normally not like this?”
“Not at all!” I replied. “My Mom is an independent woman who lives by herself, has family get-togethers where she cooks, lives on a second floor with no elevators, takes her dog for daily walks twice a day, does arts and crafts, and drives!”
“Oh no,” responded the nurse. “We’ll have to get a neurologist to see her.”
Trying to Bring Mom Back
It was killing me to see her like this. I contacted my siblings and family members and asked them to call her through FaceTime. We needed to jog her memory. I wanted my Mom back! Many family members called and even though she did not recognize them, she associated them with the correct family, so that was good. But it wasn’t enough. Mom kept on trying to pull herself out of the bed and constantly yanked on all the tubes and cables. The weekend seemed like an eternity. I cried and prayed so much and spend the weekend with her at the hospital. I wanted to stay overnight but, again, hospital policy did not allow it. But I was there as soon as visiting time began at 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. when they kicked me out. During that time, I talked to her a lot, trying to jog her memory, tried to feed her, gave her water, and tried everything possible to help her regain her strength. It was frightening not knowing what might happen.
The neurologist came by and could not believe that this woman was an independent person. He truly believed she had dementia and told me not to get my hopes up because at her age, even if she didn’t have dementia before, but after what she’s been through with the virus most likely she would never recuperate and never be independent again. That was devastating news, and I knew I had to prepare for anything. She was turning 81-years-old on March 21st, so maybe the neurologist was right. But no! My Mom comes from a long-life family line. Her dad died at 96 and his memory was perfect until the day he died. And my grandmother will turn 98 years old in July and her mind is perfectly well. Heck, my grandma will recite poems from when she was 8-years-old. I could not fathom my Mom becoming senile at 80. I summoned all my prayer warriors and healers for my Mom’s health and I know they all put in their best efforts.
Feeling of Joy
On Sunday, March 14th, I arrived at the hospital as usual. I took a photo album with me to show her. I needed to try everything possible to help her regain her memory. She was asleep when I arrived. Once she opened her eyes, I noticed she would not move her arms or legs. She wouldn’t speak either. I tried to feed her breakfast, but she refused. So I offered to show her some photos to which she nodded yes. I began showing her the photos-especially the ones of her. I noticed tears streaming down her face from the corner of her eyes while she struggled to speak.
“Why am I here? Why am I like this?” she asked.
“Because you tested positive for COVID and were very sick,” I responded.
“I was?” she asked.
At that moment, the nurses walked in.
“Yes, you were. Do you know who I am?” I asked.
Mom nodded yes, and the nurse asked her, “Who is this lady?”
“She’s my daughter,” Mom responded.
I was so happy to hear her say that. Then I asked, “What’s my name?”
“Debbie,” she replied.
It was such a joyous moment. Even the nurses were tearing up. They took the restraints off. She still could not get up, but seemed to get better. She was still too weak. However, on that day, the Physical Therapist helped Mom to the chair in the room. Followed by taking a few steps the next day and so on. On Tuesday, March 16th, the doctor discharged Mom from the hospital with home care help until she regains her strength. Her mind is 98% back and is getting stronger each day.
Returning Back Home
My Mom is a stubborn woman and didn’t want to come back home to my house. She was adamant it had to be to her home. Therefore, with little strength and the help of my son, she walked up those stairs to her apartment. I moved in temporarily with her so I could care for her. A week in and she kicked me out of her apartment. My Mom was finally back! Never have I been so happy to be kicked out of any place!
Oh, and by the way. My test came back negative. See? Not everyone tests positive!
NOTE: Further COVID research shows that delirium and confusion are also side-effects of the virus among the elderly or as young as 50 years old. To read about particular cases go to COVID — Delirium, and Confusion for the latest CDC updates.
Originally published at https://debbiesreflection.com on April 5, 2021.