It was the Thursday night before Memorial Day weekend when Rebecca Drobis, a 43-year-old mother of an infant daughter in Northwest Washington was suddenly awakened by a faint feeling of chills and wondered if she might be getting sick.
Drobis, a freelance photographer (she has previously worked for The Washington Post), had done everything she could think of to avoid the coronavirus. Her experience, recounted in a recent interview, captures how even a mild case of covid-19 can still be a harrowing ordeal – and how the myriad unknowns of the illness leave its victims without a clear sense of closure or control.
The following account has been edited for length and clarity.
We took the pandemic very seriously right from the outset. My husband’s brother was stationed with the Navy in Beijing, so we’d been following the pandemic very closely since January. My daughter, Rosie, was 7 months old in March. Babies under the age of 1 are considered in the high risk category. My parents are in their 70s, and we’re very close with them. They used to watch my daughter once a week, and we decided right away to have them stop coming over.
My father is a retired doctor, so we’ve always been hyper-aware of germs and washing our hands, and after you have a newborn, you’re just crazy about wiping everything down. I ordered masks right away. We stopped going to the grocery store. We had everything delivered. We took the stay-at-home orders very seriously.
We were only leaving our house to go for a walk. Sometimes, to maintain distance, I would push Rosie’s stroller into the bike lane or the street. You make these decisions every time you go out: Is the danger from an oncoming car or from all the people around us walking their dogs who aren’t wearing masks? We do our best, but you can’t always stay six feet apart on the sidewalk.
I remember going to bed on Thursday night, May 21, feeling a little more tired than usual, and I had a little bit of an upset stomach, but nothing significant. And then I woke up in the middle of the night and I definitely felt a little bit of chills, but not so much that I even got out of bed. When I got up in the morning, I was positive I had a fever. So I took my temperature and it was 100.5 – low, but definitely a fever. I was immediately terrified.
I called my health-care provider at 7 a.m. Because I had the fever and I was also breast-feeding, I was able to get scheduled for a test at noon that day.