MERI Center Blog


“Oh snap,” I muttered as I walked into the kitchen where my daughter and husband were conversing.

“What?” My daughter asked.

“You’re positive,” I said, staring down at her PCR results, rereading them to make sure I didn’t misread them.

“Will I be able to go to prom?” she asked anxiously, horror filling her eyes.

We had just returned from a week in Hawaii, a trip that was postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic – a trip that I wasn’t fully sure we should take given the BA.2 surge outside the US. But I knew of many families, including families of medical professionals, going on spring break, flying hours to various destinations including Hawaii. So we went, knowing we were taking a chance. The result: my teenage daughter contracted COVID just 5 days before her junior prom. Needless to say, she was distraught when we told her of her test results. As I hugged her and wiped her tears away, I simultaneously wondered what I could do to make this better and thought, “Oh my god! What did I do wrong?”

Externally, I went about taking the next steps: notify school, notify any close contacts (thankfully almost all in our household), notify close family and friends, schedule PCR tests for our household, etc. Internally, guilt and anxiety plagued me and I began overthinking everything.

“We shouldn’t have gone. It’s too soon.”

“What if we all get sick?”

“She says she’s a little short of breath after going upstairs. Should I take her to the ED?”

“What if she has breathing issues in the middle of the night and I can’t hear her?”

What if, what if , what if… echoed through my head as we waited for the test results for the rest of the family. Thankfully, those came back negative. And as I reflected on the situation more and in a calmer frame of mind, I realized I had nothing to feel guilty about.

  • We wore masks, as mandated, in the airport when many around us were not.
  • We wore masks nearly the entire flight (except for when eating and drinking).
  • All four of us are fully vaccinated with 1 booster.
  • Although mask mandates have been dropped entirely in Oahu, we masked most of the time when indoors.
  • When we returned home on Sunday, we did rapid tests that were negative.
  • On Monday when my daughter got dizzy at 8:45 AM at school, we picked her up. We took her to urgent care, where she was diagnosed with an ear infection.
  • On Tuesday morning, when she complained of congestion, we gave her another antigen test, which was also negative.
  • On Wednesday morning, after another horrible night of congestion, we swabbed her again and the results were a faint, colorless line. So, we got her scheduled for a PCR test about an hour later, and which ended up confirming my suspicion that she was positive.
  • In the meantime, as noted, the rest of the household was PCR tested and have taken antigen tests as needed. All of them have come back negative.
  • While I wish my daughter didn’t come down with COVID and didn’t have to miss prom, I know that we did pretty much everything we could to minimize our risk. Sure we could have stayed home, though honestly, that probably wouldn’t have changed our risk too much as my daughter would have met up with her friends, gone to mall, etc. The point of vaccinating and boosting was for situations like this where we would be around people who were not taking the same level precautions we were and who might pass COVID onto us. While she couldn’t go to prom, my daughter hasn’t had to go to the emergency room, hasn’t been admitted to the hospital, and doesn’t need to be on a vent in the ICU. So we are not over taxing the health system.

    So, I’ve let go of my guilt because unless I’m willing to homeschool my children and give up going to stores and restaurants, our risk as a family will never be zero. And as long as we’re mindful of the risk to ourselves and others, I’m ok with going out and traveling. I am going to continue to mask when shopping and riding public transportation and in large crowds. I am going to do a rapid test before seeing immunocompromised or unvaccinated people because we all have to live together. I am not going to put our lives on hold because the reality is COVID is here to stay in one form or another. Thankfully we have not only vaccines now, but other treatments to mitigate its severity. And that is why we sheltered-in-place and socially distanced for the last two years.

    From today’s Food for Thought, “Inspired by No Longer Waiting” by Mary Anne Perrone

    For two years we’ve tried to be as safe as possible
    To avoid Sar-CoV-2 and all its variants
    To avoid being the ICU
    To avoid overwhelming hospitals
    To avoid giving our immunocompromised friends and family this horrible virus

    For two years we’ve waited for the time to be right
    To travel via plane
    To eat in restaurants
    – in them, not alfresco in the soggy fog,
              under heat lamps that melt the corrugated roofs of the makeshift outdoor dining rooms
    Without a mask
    We still aren’t there yet

    Then the it happens
    A second line – a ghost line really, barely there– appears
    The PCR test confirms our worst fears
    Despite all our precautions:
             3 jabs and masking even without a mandate
             Hands cracked dry from washing and gel sanitizers
    And prom is missed
    I am bathed in guilt

    Upon reflection, guilt recedes
    Sniffles, cough, mild fever for days
    But no ED visit, no ICU
    Miraculously, the rest of us are -, including grandparents in their 70s
    Things could have been so much worse if we weren’t vaccinated

    For two years we’ve waited for things to return to “normal”
    To go to festivals and parades
    To visit friends with small children
    To introduce the newest members of the family to their grandparents, their great-grandparents

    I’m no longer waiting for normal to return
    Vax’d and boosted, asymptomatic
    Masked for shopping and buses and planes
    Masked in big groups of strangers
    Antigen testing as needed
    This will be my new normal It is time to stop waiting for the time to be right

    It is time to for life to start again

    04.15.2022 GSK