Stephanie and Rich Abatangelo are busy working parents of four children, ages 3 to 10. She’s a teacher and he’s in law enforcement, so they should be able to handle anything, right?
Tell that to COVID-19.
The family spent two weeks in the clutches of the virus as it hit mom and dad hard. And while none of the kids had any symptoms, older kids Xander, 10, and Eva, 8, tested positive but youngest kids Xavier, 5, and Zane, 3, did not.
Despite the parents’ illness, the family’s needs were ongoing. Everyone still needed to eat, the older kids had school (remotely) to attend and little Zane needed diaper changes.
“That was really, really hard because both of us were sick,” Stephanie said. “It was kind of a free for all. They would watch TV and do what they wanted because we were too sick. There was a lot of unhealthy eating. We relied a lot on Uber Eats.”
Still, there were some bright spots, Stephanie said, like Eva and Xander displaying responsibility by making sandwiches for the family.
Stephanie isn’t sure there’s anything they could have done to be more prepared for being stuck at home, sick and contagious, for two weeks. But there are other things she learned from the experience.
Rich had more flu-like symptoms, with fever and chills, but Stephanie felt like she was coming down with an ear infection or sinus infection. The differences in symptoms, plus the fact that the kids were asymptomatic, has really struck her.
“The [COVID] symptoms are so deceiving,” she said.
In addition, she was surprised at how the illness ebbed and flowed over the two weeks. She felt terrible upon waking, would sometimes start to feel like she was overcoming it, and then it would hit her again with extreme fatigue and body aches. Despite how tired she was, sleep was not easy.
Rich felt his worst around day 10, prompting a call to his doctor, who sent him to the ER. The fever, chills and sweats had left him dehydrated, despite drinking lots of water, so he needed intravenous fluids to replenish his electrolytes. Luckily, he was not admitted.
The anxiety of trying to get a test appointment and then wait for the results, while feeling lousy, was also unsettling, she said.
Now that the family has recuperated, Stephanie said she wants others to know that COVID is not to be taken lightly.
“It’s easy to brush it off and assume it’s nothing, to think that it’s just a cold,” she said. “If kids are sick at all, you have to take that serious because it could be something big.
“The other part was it’s so persistent of an illness,” she said. “You get a flu or sinus infection, and you start to feel better in a few days. Nothing has ever lasted two weeks of my life.”
Stephanie said her older kids were quick to wish COVID away when talking about hopes for the new year. And while she and Rich share that sentiment, she also knows that it’s important for families to continue to be vigilant: maintain 6 feet of distance, wash hands, wear masks.
Learn more about the ways to prevent the spread of COVID here.