Random Observation/Comment #699: I am thankful to my friends and family who have given great advice and sent best wishes.
My parents tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week and my brain started racing. I’ve mainly done research on preventative measures (e.g. washing hands, wearing masks, and socially distancing) or strategic outlook (e.g. vaccine statuses, economic impact, market trends), but never anything tactical. What happens when your loved ones aren’t feeling well? What can you do as a son? As a friend? As a neighbor?
I write to process information and think more clearly, so hopefully the organization of these notes in my standard engineering style is useful. This is in no way medical advice. I’m just a guy thinking too much.
If someone you know has the major symptoms of a bad flu with shortness of breath and dry cough, then this is cause for concern. Drive-thru testing facilities are available in your area and recommended for both the quick and PCR test.
My friend told me about an excellent walkthrough from a clinic level (Dr. Daniel Griffin clinical update). Within 10 days of start of symptoms, you can provide a monoclonal antibody infusion treatment with 75% less chance of hospitalization. This is something you need to explicitly ask for.
Key Data Points
Thinking about day-specific timeframes for exposure and starting of these symptoms are important for:
- Monitoring your cycle in the illness
- Contact tracing to message others that may have been exposed
This is not an exercise to make this person feel guilty for breaking rules or shame them for being a vector in a pandemic. The infected person likely feels guilty enough and relive their past few weeks of decisions in their head while they’re going through this.
Explicitly say something to this effect: “We know you’ve been safe and careful, but this is a pandemic and we don’t think of you differently. The best thing to do now is to focus on what to do next instead of what you could have done before.”
My parents recently moved to Florida and they don’t know too many people there. Even in situations where someone is close-by, the helplessness of not being able to soothe and reassure is an awful part of this virus.
Ask explicitly for contact information of someone who can help with delivery, or worse case, transportation/calling an ambulance. Have the number of the doctor in case you need to call for help.
Things We Bought
We’re 2,000 miles away and felt pretty helpless, so we relied on eCommerce and technology.
- Forehead Thermometer (Temperature measurement) – I actually think the ear or mouth thermometers are more accurate. They just take longer and not as easy to reuse/sanitize. Consider the more accurate measurement than the faster one. Wirecutter suggests an oral thermometer.
- Pulse Oximeter (O2 Blood Monitoring) – I tried not to buy off of Amazon “Best Seller” recommendations. I know it’s not super accurate, but you’re really just looking for anything below 94%. Med Consumers has a table comparison.
- Hot Water boiler – If they don’t have this already, this could be super helpful for making tea. Staying hydrate is very important.
- Air purifier / Humidifier – My parents had this already, but this is a good idea if they live in a dry climate or can’t get some fresh air with open windows.
We could have done this on Amazon Fresh, but we looked for a nearby grocery store (Publix) that allowed for door delivery.
- Fruits and Veges – We got apples, oranges, and watermelon
- Ginger Herbal Tea (Caffeine Free) – Good for soothing the throat
- Chicken broth – You can also get pre-made soups, but we wanted the option to just drink something clean
- Protein shake – In case they didn’t have appetite, at least they can get some protein
- Oatmeal – Healthy breakfast/anytime food that’s easy to make
- Prepared Food – They may not have energy to cook, so having a few of these meals is super useful
- Honey – This was good to add to the tea
- Coconut Water – Super important to stay hydrated, so this is a good add
Over the Counter Drugs
- Cough Relief Menthol rub – Not sure if this is useful, but we thought it was a good idea for sinus relief
- Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen – We don’t want to mask symptoms, but it can be taken for headaches
- Pepto – For nausea, heartburn, and indigestion
- Aspirin (fast acting) – In case of blood clots, a low dose fast acting aspirin has been proven helpful. We don’t recommend self diagnosis on this, but it’s good to have.
- Emergen-C – Calcium Magnesium supplement that might make you feel better
- Cough drops – My parents found these soothing so definitely add them
- Kitchen Bags – Just in case they didn’t have any (since Chinese parents tend to just use supermarket plastic bags that don’t tie as tightly)
- Facial Tissues – In case they need these for runny nose
- Toilet paper – Because you need this
- Paper plates – I don’t know if this was useful, but we thought it’s better to toss plates than wash dishes
- Cleaner / Disinfecting Wipes – Good to have after beating the virus to clean surfaces
- Hand moisturizing soap – Always good to have this. Still keep washing hands
I don’t think we went too crazy with this. It was delivered to their door and left outside so they can safely pick it up.
Most of what you can do as a family member/friend is treating symptoms and monitoring. We asked our parents to monitor their pulse O2 levels and temperature every few hours. The triggering points would be:
- If O2 levels drop below 92% (even if they’re feeling better), they should go to the hospital for respirator and steroid treatment.
- If fever spikes above 102F, they should go to the hospital
The main pieces of advice during this time:
- Rest as much as possible
- DO NOT do light exercise, but you can walk around the room if you’ve been lying down too long
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat some protein – don’t just eat congee
- Masks can and should be worn in households by infected individuals if other household members are uninfected
- Crack a window to get some air circulation
- If you’re having some trouble breathing, try Prone (laying on stomach) to increase airflow
As the virus subsides, there will be a time of “feeling better.” DO NOT take this as a sign of going back to normal and doing normal activities. Keep resting as the inflammation phase of the virus will often lead to your own immune system over reacting and leading to the Cytokine Storm.
I think it’s important to talk to people if you have the energy. Talk about something you’ve watched on TV. Keep texting. Keep communicating.
This is something you learn from Delivery Day planning when you give birth. Unrelated, this was my hospital bag packing list for Evie’s delivery. In the plan, consider:
- Hospital bag things:
- Change of clothes
- Snacks / Water
- Nearest hospital – Where would you likely go?
- Methods of transportation – How would you get there?
- Contacts – Who do you text/call first?
I think you’ll probably panic and throw things in a bag regardless, but at least some of the major pieces would be handled.
Making Your Plans to Travel
It’s important to have this conversation with your family and existing obligations on different scenarios. Regardless of “what would I do if I get there?” the conversation was about if I could take the next flight if I needed to. The triggering point for me would be hospitalization and need for respirator in case of an inflammatory reaction that would be a turn for the worse.
I worked out:
- Day-to-day logistics – Would my wife be able to handle childcare if I had to leave?
- Work absence – Almost immediate to finding out, I absolved myself from all work responsibility and took a personal week. In retrospect, I still monitor slack and email, but it was good not attending meetings and thinking about deadlines.
- Quarantine Plan – After the flight to the destination and when I return back home, I looked at where I could quarantine safely to prevent any additional infections.
- Packing – I packed for a week. This is normal travel packing for me, but I did get a bit rusty from not work traveling for almost a year.
- Flight schedules – I’m able to get a direct flight within 24 hrs leaving multiple times a day. Saved this already.
- Accommodations – I found a hotel that’s close enough to their house and nearby hospital
I personally know how I destress, but table tennis wasn’t really available. I was reading too much information online and watching too many videos down a rabbit hole of really depressing things. This pandemic is not just about those infected. I still feel helpless. I still feel like I’m not doing enough.
On a whim, I really need a distraction. I went off on a journey to find a good Valentines gift for my wife and just bought a Guinea pig. No real deep thought went into this.
I feel like I needed an emotional support animal. It’s not a great reason to get a pet, but I have to admit that it did work for me. Now I’m reading more about Guinea pig care than coronavirus planning.
Talking with Others
I posted the picture of our new family additions with a thread about my parents testing positive. Over the course of the past few days, I received overwhelming support and advice that has made a difference in my outlook. The conversations are useful. Reaching out is powerful and I do hope others take a step to be more open about this. Thank you for your virtual hugs.
Worst Case Planning
Thinking about wills and legacy is awful. I wrote my post on this in order to better plan my goals ahead; not ask my parents to write one. Funeral planning? Having them relocate? Long term health impacts? All of this thinking was the torture. It’s something I will continue to avoid thinking about because everything is going to be okay.
Everything is going to be okay.
~See Lemons Hopeful
Two things I’d add to the hospital bag, not necessarily for Covid but anytime you are sitting waiting while someone else is in the hospital, I’ve learned always bring a battery pack and charger for the phone, good high energy snacks, a book of short stories (often hard to concentrate on a full book) and a light blanket. Airline blankets are perfect.