Welcome to my lair. It is actually the Majlis (family room/office/meeting place) now converted into my bedroom. Since my Dear Husband (DH), a physician, received a positive diagnosis for Covid19 early this week, it has also been to where I am exiled.
No worries for his health though at this time. He is asymptomatic. While he usually does minor procedures (biopsies and similar under imaging guidance), he is trained as a Body Radiologist. So ostensibly he could work from home, given a strong/fast enough internet connection. At present, most radiology is cancelled and his staff is able to carry on without him so he has immersed himself in adminis-trivia while waiting the virus out.
Because we are so fortunate in our current quarantine at home situation without a sick person, I thought I might share a few ideas that we have happened upon as a family. If, God/s forbid, you find yourself working on setting up a quarantine situation at home, here are some hopefully helpful ideas.
- It made most sense to give our master bedroom over to quarantine. It is much easier to clean a bed than a couch or pull out sofa. The sheets can we washed on hot, the hard surfaces wiped down with Clorox wipes, the mattress flipped. Since time is the ultimate disinfectant, flipping our mattress when this is over will be the second best option (the first being buying a new bed and we are not interested in doing that). Also, of all your rooms, the master is the most likely to have its own bathroom. Which leads to #2.
- Our master bathroom was donated to the big Q effort. Not everyone will have that luxury. In our Muslim majority area, bathrooms are usually NOT shared and even maids room have their own. Our majlis has its own bathroom so it wasn’t difficult to abandon ours to DH.
- Our master bath also became a make shift kitchen of sorts. It turns our the infected still have to eat and the issue became what to do with the dishes. For the moment, we are trying to use up our disposable delivery products. But flatware is superior to plasticware by far. So we distributed him a small jar of dish soap and a fresh scrubber and an extra hand towel to dry dishes on.
- Garbage bags. While your instinct might be to stock up on toilet paper, I would also suggest getting an extra roll or two of garbage bags. We had some black and some clear bags. The clear bags are proving the most useful. DH is using these for his laundry, which needs to be washed separate. The clear of the bag helps us not to accidentally throw out his dirty clothes. He uses the others for regular garbage which he double bags while wearing gloves and a mask and then leaves outside his door. It isn’t great for the environment. But it is pretty good for infection control.
- When DH was diagnosed, one of things we ended up doing is designating a place to leave him food and supplies. We put a small table outside his door. We knock and yell (or text) and he waits a solid 30seconds minimum before opening the door from his side and retrieving our offerings. If he doesn’t take something, it is STILL considered his and infected. He has a Kind Bar sitting there now that only he can eat.
- Exposure. Even prisoners usually get daily outside time. For all of our mental healths, we have worked out what seems to be a good method for checking in with each other. Once a day, DH masks and gloves up and heads to our front patio. He takes his designated chair – way over at one end of our patio. Then the kids and I, masked, go sit at the other end of the patio. We try to do it just before sunset so DH can get some Vitamin D and enjoy both a bit of day and night. It gives us a chance to chat and SEE each other and act like a family. This works, admittedly, because we don’t have young children. Our teenagers are compliant with staying away from Dad.
It never lasts long though as it is warming up in Abu Dhabi and we can’t eat or drink in each others presence. So thirst usually cuts these forays short.
- PPE. Despite having a medical professional in the house, we did not have a big supply of masks at home. We did as the government asked and did not buy any. What we had were some leftover N95 from 9/11 days (18 years old now) and dust masks that we use to walk our dog during sandstorms. When sending DH home to quarantine, the hospital gave him what they could – a handful of surgical masks, a single N95, a stack of gloves, a thermometer, and a bottle of hand sanitizer. These are his. HE must mask to open his door. HE masks and gloves to do anything that will come in contact with US. We use our flimsy masks as further deterrent not to touch our faces or rub our eyes. But infection control is ON HIM. When we see him, we orbit each other, staying 2 meters apart. It can be funny to coordinate – “You going now? Or are we? We will stand over here? And leave the door open for you? And you go up the stairs and then we will close the door?”
- The exception to barriers being the Infected’s responsibility is laundry. We do DH’s laundry in an otherwise empty laundry room, in full mask and gloves, last thing in the evening. To give time the opportunity to inactive any stray virus, we do his laundry/towels at night, taking off our clothes and showering immediately after. Given the joys of time and soap, the clothes are put out in the sun to air dry in the morning.
- Speaking of pets, we do have a small dog who is kind of a jerk but loves the DH and my youngest son to bits. It has been hard on him. We have no idea if virus can be transmitted by his fur so we act as if it can. He gets no petting from a gloved or not gloved DH. He doesn’t get the rules so cannot be allowed in the Master to see the Master. He is dejected at this rejection but hopefully it will only be for a short while.
- Lastly, prepare a suitcase. If you do end up at the hospital, you might not think you’d care about a fresh change of clothes. In fact, you might be stuck in one of those backless sheet things for a while and be grateful for it. Still many people are recovering from being ill but then are unable to leave the hospital because they are still testing positive and might be carriers. If you are going to be isolating in a hospital but feeling well, you might care to have a spare change of clothing, a toothbrush, a book, phone/ipad and charger, and medicines you take regularly. Be sure to pack your bag before you need it and label it clearly in case it gets separated from you.
It has been hard to imagine how an unwell quarantine patient would manage what I suggest above. That said, your local hospitals and clinics will all have different capacity, open beds and thresholds for when symptoms need to be treated by them. Follow those guidelines. As a general rule, if you are ill and cannot manage these simple quarantine precautions, you are likely too ill to be home. If the virus comes for you and you do seem able to manage these precautions, you might be okay to convalesce in place but I am not a Doctor! We have talked this over with medical professionals frequently in these last few days. If the virus is going to be bad for you, it seems to be a sudden onset of serious symptoms. So the moment you cannot do something simple, call for an ambulance/get to the hospital. But do everyone a favor, including the doctors who will treat you, and take infection control seriously and try to think of it as YOUR responsibility not to get your Caregivers sick. Mask, even bandanas, will reduce the virus you shed into the atmosphere.
Obviously, we know we are super lucky to have someone on quarantine who is not actually sick. The only bright spot in this is that DH MAY have acquired immunity when this is over and will be able to work in the Covid tent with less stress (to him and us) that he might contract it. “Less” stress since immunity is not assured and relapses are always a possibility. I feel for my Emergency, Medicine, and Specialty Medicine physician friends and their families who are so in the thick of this. Many caregiving parents have moved from their self-imposed home isolation into specially designated (but still costly) hotel rooms to protect their young children and immune compromised spouses.
Some politicians have called this a war. But it isn’t. It is history in the making, though not the good kind. With modern medicine, vaccines, and antibiotics, we had a brief respite in the 20th century from the pandemics that have ravaged the world through time. Now we might be paying the piper or the world may be returning to a normal it knew though we did not. From our family to yours, please be safe. Be well. Be careful. Be happy.
Here is a little ditty from one of my favorite singers, Randy Newman, from his isolation. https://safeYouTube.net/w/7Sr5