Ingrid Chen McCarthy is a mother of two and co-owner of Breadservice in Greensboro. We initially highlighted her for our first installment in the Pandemic Life series at the end of March. We reconnected with her through Facebook video chat on Wednesday afternoon. She has been self-quarantining since April 10 after showing symptoms consistent with coronavirus. McCarthy told her story to Sayaka Matsuoka, associate editor for Triad City Beat.
by Ingrid Chen McCarthy
I’ve been fever-free most of today and most of yesterday. Hopefully, if I’m free most of tomorrow, I can break quarantine. I haven’t worked in two weeks. I’ve been trapped in my bedroom for almost two weeks. It’s crazy; it’s been really difficult.
It was a Thursday when I started to feel it. It was just a regular day. I was working upstairs in our bedroom, and I was feeling kind of tired. I thought it was just lethargy from being exhausted from regular parenting, so I laid down for maybe 20 minutes and then I got back up and I noticed I was feeling weird and kind of achy. It occurred to me to check my temperature, and it was 99.6, which was weird for me because when I get sick, I don’t usually get a fever.
After dinner, I told Jeff I was going to go lie down.
I tried to go to bed at like eight o’clock, but I was so achy that I had to take an ibuprofen to get to sleep.
I woke up the next morning and I didn’t have a fever. It honestly didn’t even occur to me that it was coronavirus at all until Friday.
I was feeling fine and then around noon, I started to feel itchy in my throat and started to have a cough. But I was doing some of that coughing because of tree pollen already.
So, I was working that day and then I went down for a nap and when I woke up, I had a 100.5 fever, a full-on sore throat, cough, fever and body aches.
And the two things that were really weird for me were the fever and the headaches. I don’t ever get headaches, and it’s very rare that I get a fever.
Jeff and I were kind of in this back of forth of, What do I do? Do you think this is coronavirus?
At first, we were kind of in denial.
Then when it didn’t get better, we made the decision to quarantine.
I haven’t seen my kids since then. I haven’t really seen Jeff much since then.
I’ve left the bedroom three times I think while they were out of the house to go sit on the front porch with a mask and gloves.
We figured out that we can see each other if they hang out in the side yard and then I poke my head out of the window but otherwise I am FaceTiming with them. We also moved a video monitor into the dining room so I could see them more.
That’s honestly the hardest thing about this whole thing is not being able to be with my kids and be with my family. My son is at that age when he’s learning so much and he’s expanding his vocabulary and it’s so fun and I know that in the grand scheme of things, two weeks is not a big deal, but it’s been really hard.
I also feel for my husband. He’s been watching our kids every day. It’s honestly too much to ask of anybody right now; it’s crazy. He doesn’t get a break and there are nights when my son doesn’t sleep so that means he also can’t sleep.
I know I have it so much better than some. We’re lucky that we have this space to quarantine effectively and Jeff is able to watch the kids at home and my symptoms haven’t gotten worse.
But this is the longest I’ve been away from my family. We’re in the same house, but we’re not together.
And I’m just like trying to reconcile the fact that we’re doing the right thing.
Ultimately the reason why we’re being so careful is because Jeff has asthma. Also, I don’t know what risk the kids are at. They seem healthy, but we just don’t know.
Because my husband has asthma, I was doing all of our errand running. I was going to the grocery store twice a week, depending on what we needed. I think it must have been on one of those grocery store trips. Up until the last time I went to the grocery store, I saw very little people wearing masks. I know the masks do very little to protect you, but I would put one on before I would go into the store and I would bring my own bag. I wouldn’t touch any of baskets or carts, I would just load all groceries into my own bag. I would use the self-checkout and I would put on a glove to touch the screen and then I would take off the glove and throw it away before I got in the car. I was very diligent, so it’s a surprise to me that I got it, but there were times at the grocery store when I would turn a corner and there would be someone right there and they weren’t wearing a mask.
On Monday or Tuesday of last week I did the free Cone Health e-visit thing on their website. It’s kind of an automated thing where you punch in what your symptoms are, and they give you an evaluation within the hour. It came back and said that my symptoms show that I likely have coronavirus but unless my symptoms get worse, they said that testing is unavailable unless I have trouble breathing or need to come into the ER. They told me: “As long as you can recover at home, we need you to stay there.”
And I get it. It’s risky for me to go out and possibly spread it to other people.
I called my sister and her husband immediately after I got coronavirus because her husband tested positive for coronavirus, too. They’re living in Brooklyn, and he recovered relatively quickly in about a week. I called them because I wanted to get their experience of what to do and how to take care of myself and to have some solidarity.
It just felt scary going into it alone. I needed to talk to someone who’s actually been through this, so I know I’m going to be okay on the other side of this.
On social media, I’m seeing that it’s taking a long time for people to recover, and it tricks you into thinking that you’ve recovered, which is apparently very common in the coronavirus cycle. You’ll start to feel better and it tricks you and then it kicks you back down.
At this point I’m trying to be cautiously optimistic.
My friend made some lung therapy exercise videos that actually helped a lot. It’s really simple stuff like holding your breath for five seconds and repeating every hour. It’s not anything complicated. I’m hydrating a lot; I’m resting as much as I can. I’m sleeping as much as I can. I have an electric tea kettle in my room so I’m drinking lots of tea, and I got a bunch of snacks from Instacart. My mom has made me a couple of Chinese herbal teas and Chinese herbal medicines. We’ve had a lot of offers of help. I feel really supported in that way.
I have been pretty public about sharing through my social media because I want people to know what it’s like. It helps me feel less alone because it’s really isolating being alone in my bedroom. I’ve had people tell me that it’s helpful to have a personalized account of what’s happening because it is scary what’s happening.
The illness itself hasn’t been that bad but the isolation, the quarantine, being away from my family, has been much more difficult. It makes me think about the health care professionals who aren’t getting a break from this and won’t until this is over.
This isn’t like any other sickness I’ve ever had.
The biggest thing I want to say to people is to stay the fuck home and wear a mask if you go out even if you’re super healthy. I think I got it from an asymptomatic carrier. I think that’s the only way I could have gotten it. We didn’t have any contact with anybody else.
I’m really struggling with the Reopen NC people. They keep saying that it’s not that bad, that it’s like the flu. No, this is not like the flu. My case has been mild, but I can’t focus on anything. I can’t take care of my kids even if I want to. You can’t function like a normal person. The CDC website says that the median recovery time is two weeks, which is about what’s happening with me, and that’s a really long time for people to be down, especially for people who don’t have paid time off.
I don’t want people to downplay the mild version of coronavirus, because I have a mild version and it sucks. It’s not a game.
Follow Ingrid’s coronavirus recovery on social media on Facebook and at @ingstagramming on Instagram.