Speaking from personal experience….

As the members of the Culver Pediatrics Center family already know, my son tested + for COVID earlier this week. The rest of us tested negative, including my two tests 24 hours apart as per CDC recommendations for a test-based return to work strategy for healthcare workers. We are all quarantined at home, but as long as I remain asymptomatic and negative, I will see patients in full PPE for essential care.

I wanted to share this experience so families know what to expect if one of their children tests positive for COVID19 but also to destigmatize the illness. Patients have told me that when they disclose to close contacts that they tested positive, they have been met with hostility. This baffles me. Remember it is the responsibility of contact tracers to do the contact tracing. If your child attends school or daycare, do let them know if your child tests positive. Other than that only tell people with whom you feel safe. 

Anyone can get this disease. We were wearing masks before it was mandated. We use hand sanitize like crazy. We don’t go out to eat like we used to. We don’t have monthly dinners with friends like we used to. I am not going to say we “never go out”. Trust me, I faced that harsh truth because I had to tell the Indiana State Health Department contact tracer all the places we have been. 

I fully expected to be the first one to bring COVID19 to our house. I am a physician and I have taken care of positive patients. Chris and I are the ones who goes out to buy groceries and other essentials. Other than a visit from cousins in late summer, our son did not interact with another child from March to August, when cross country and school started. He chose to do cross country instead of soccer partially because we thought that was an easier sport to maintain social distance. 

By no means are we perfect, but we followed all the rules. At the start of lockdown, we cancelled a cruise with my mom and sisters. We cancelled lunch dates, our daughter’s graduation party, all of her post-graduation trips, and other fun stuff. And COVID managed to make its way to our house.

He woke up feeling chilled on Wednesday morning. No fever and no other symptoms. I tested myself first, and it was negative. His was positive. We both felt shell shocked. His main concern was that his friends were going to have to quarantine because of him.  

That morning was a flury of activity. After the initial denial, “Can you test me again, maybe its wrong?” and grief, we did what we had to do. I checked his oxygenation and listened to his lungs. I tested Chris, who was negative. He called work to let them know, and he is teaching online during the quarantine period. I reported our test results to the health department using their online testing system. I emailed the school. I called his after school care facility. I drafted a letter to my Culver Peds families to let them know and list the options for continued care. I made the decision not to attend my yoga classes and I cancelled a lunch date I had that Friday with a friend. I texted our clinic build-out contractor who made the responsible decision to keep his crew out of our house/clinic for now.

There were tears. Not because we are afraid Tristan will get very sick. He is a young healthy kid who ran five miles the day before he tested positive. We were grieving going back into lockdown. We all understood why intellectually, but after returning to a modified “normal” life in August/September, we were not ready to go back into quarantine.

I got calls from the Marshall County Health Department (to get more information) and his school principal (to wish him well) that day. I felt I was on the phone all day, and it really felt like a blur.

Within 24 hours, I received a text in the early hours of the morning from the Indiana State Health Department, asking for me to call on Tristan’s behalf to do the contact tracing interview. If your child (or you) tests positive, be ready to answer these questions when the contact tracer calls. The phone call lasted about 90 minutes. They ask the following:

Demographic data, including race (always fun to answer for my multi-ethnic kids)

Symptoms (yes/no questions)

Past medical history (yes/no questions)

Where he had been the last 14 days including school, restaurants, bars (none that I know of!), retail shops, tattoo parlors,  festivals, churches, group/family gatherings, sporting events, organized classes, weddings, funerals, any other events of more than 200 people.

Close contacts in the previous 2 days, besides the school

His only close contacts other than school and school-related activities in the last two days before diagnosis, were the three of us in the household with him. I gave the contact tracer our names and phone numbers. Within minutes, we all received a survey by text as part of the contact tracing program. The survey takes about 5 minutes to complete. 

Other than school and school-related activities, in the previous two weeks he had gone to one restaurant, and I had taken him to get a haircut. I felt ashamed and guilty when I answered those questions as a yes, even though it was “allowed” for us to do so within the Indiana Back on Track guidelines and we wore masks and social distanced as much as feasible and use hand sanitizer like no one’s business.

Now that we are 72 hours out, we are in the acceptance stage of grief. We are making jokes. We are all healthy. On Friday morning, I ran three miles with Coco and did yoga with Coach Sandy, which she was kind enough to let me Zoom in. Tristan’s plan for now is to go on a run on Sunday.

I am also aware that ours is not the typical COVID experience compared to many American families due to the resources available to us. This is a new concept to me. I grew up in Hidalgo County, one of the poorest in the country as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Healthcare access was an unaffordable luxury when I was growing up. I still cannot wrap my head around our privilege because deep inside I am still that Mexican girl who felt the American healthcare system was for other people only, not her.

I have no words for the death and suffering this pandemic has unleashed on the world. We are a family that thinks globally and acts locally. We have used our privilege to support local business and community organizations focused on helping local families affected by the pandemic.

We are OK. A little humbled and shocked, but otherwise OK. If that’s the worst of it, I will gladly take it. I am sharing this story with Tristan’s and my family’s permission, so others know that the whole mess of emotions you will feel, are completely expected.

One last thing: Be kind to the contact tracers when they call you. They are doing an essential job to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

If your child is a member of Culver Pediatrics Center and you suspect they may have COVID, text us to schedule an appointment. We have rapid tests available at no cost to our enrolled patients. If your child is not yet part of the Culver Pediatrics family, sign up in the email opt-in below to learn more about our boutique pediatric services.  

Resources:

CDC Children and Teens with COVID19

CDC Contact Tracing Information

Test Based Strategy For Return to Work for Health Care Workers

CDC Guidance For Rapid Antigen Testing For SARS-COV-2