April 14, 2020

Hope for living and surviving COVID-19

Jennifer F., one of our research participants, chronicles her time of self-isolation because of the Coronavirus and the things that helped her get through the illness

Maya and Jennifer

As of this writing I am on day 14 of my quarantine. Unfortunately, I had direct contact with a person with COVID-19 and five days later, I had full-on symptoms. Every state is different regarding protocol for the virus, but at that point in Michigan I was to call my primary care or ER to find out what to do. Since I am relatively young and do not have any other underlying conditions (by the way, bipolar and anxiety do not count!) I was to quarantine myself at home unless symptoms progressed and I needed emergency care. Tests are scarce so none were ordered, instead saving the precious few tests for the critically ill and first responders. In my case, we know that everyone exposed to patient X came down with some form of COVID-19 within a week. Not all of us are so lucky and may never know where they contracted it.

It is a scary illness, no doubt. The fevers are intense and the cough can be painful. In my case, the body aches and headaches were the most problematic followed close behind by the exhaustion. I only have enough energy to make my meals and make sure I stay stable.

Jennifer and Hope

I want to share with you the things that have truly helped me stay calm and almost thrive in this crazy environment.

First, I have to admit, that I share my home with my incredible service dog Maya and the coolest cat named Hope. These two have done their best to love me through the intense times of loneliness and have provided endless opportunities for entertainment.

I am also tremendously blessed to have a vast network of friends and loved ones that check in on me regularly. Among them is my psychiatrist, who also is dealing with this illness but still seeing patients over the phone! I check on him regularly too. Every day I get at least one phone call from a friend, family member or neighbor just checking in. I do the same for them and was doing so before I got sick. You don’t feel so alone when you hear another voice or see another smile.

I began a card writing campaign for all my friends when the crisis started. Doing something for someone else helps take the focus off your current situation and gives you something to live for.

My faith and my church also play a huge role in my stability, keeping me calm in this crisis and time of isolation. Many of my deacons and elders check on me regularly with phone calls and cards. My pastor emails me regularly. I have taken this time of quiet as a time to enrich my soul and spend a great amount of time studying God’s Word and listening to solid messages online that focus on hope, trust and not fearing.

My church also does a live stream of the service every Sunday. I get dressed up (good excuse to get out of those PJ’s!) and since Maya goes everywhere with me she is used to the routine of the service. She even stands and bows her head when listening, just like being at church! She, and now Hope too, worship beside me at home as the church family gathers online and we leave comments for one another as the service is preached. My faith and hope are in Jesus and I trust Him to guide me through all of the chaos of this crisis. I know, in the scientific and research worlds, people don’t often talk about faith, but I will tell you that without mine I would not be here today. That is another story for another day but I encourage you to look outside yourself for guidance in this time.

On top of my support system of friends, family (furry and human) and church, I have been doing the things necessary to ensure I recover. Before I was quarantined, I loaded up on frozen fruits and veggies, frozen fish (not breaded, but raw salmon and haddock), beans, canned veggies and nut milks that last a lot longer than regular milk. In most grocery aisles fish was left alone, but fish has our Omega 3’s! Having only healthy foods in my house allows me to feed my body well. I also take all my meds as prescribed and monitor my moods very carefully so I know if I need to get professional help.

I sleep about 9-10 hours a night (I’m in repair mode so this is longer than normal). I can’t exercise now but as soon as I’m cleared I will be walking Maya – with social distancing of course. I cut myself off from all social media except trusted friends and only pay attention to trusted news sources for info on this crisis. I try to encourage at least three other people every day and instead of TV (unless I’m too tired, and then only prerecorded) I read. That is how I have kept myself mentally stable while living with COVID-19.