When COVID-19 hits home: It’s personal now for WAVY’s Don Roberts


NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — I’ve long passed the stage in the COVID-19 saga where the numbers really didn’t mean anything to me. As soon as the pandemic broke out, back in February, infectious disease experts Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx got my attention. They said people in their 60s and older (Hello!) were at higher risk of catching this potentially deadly virus.

My wife and I have taken steps to stay safe. And, so far, so good.

Days, weeks, and then months went by. The numbers of infected kept climbing up while we kept locking down in the effort to stay COVID-free.

According to NBC News, the U.S., which has more virus cases than any other country, surpassed four million cases less than 24 hours before Dr. Birx appeared on a network program Wednesday, just 15 days after reaching the 3 million mark.

Well, in that 3 million was one patient that made COVID-19 personal for me.

Our daughter Dawn learned in June that she has COVID 19. It’s been a battle. So far, the mother of four of our seven grandchildren has won the fight to stay out of the hospital, but barely.

This talented cosmetologist and hairstylist, used to standing on her feet for eight hours a day, is now in the bed for 20-plus hours. Thankfully, her husband Cochise, who delivers for a national company, is there to help with every need. And, yes, the most basic ones. He and their four children, twin 12-year-old girls, Symone and Sanaia, 16-year-old Christion, and 19-year-old Leila want to help, but can only offer encouragement and an occasional corny joke — virtually — over the phone.

Jokes aside, the children know they have to seriously consider the responsibilities that await them, come the third week of August: the start of school in Roanoke. And, like every community here in Hampton Roads, school leaders there debated in-person, verses virtual learning, or a hybrid combination.

“I (too) am personally scared,” said the younger twin, Symone. “And I don’t understand how this idea (going back to school) was brought up because at first they were forcing people to stay at home and didn’t want anybody leaving the house and now they wanting us to go back to school? I wouldn’t be surprised if classrooms were empty.”

Christion understands the need to be home to help his mom recover. But, at times, he feels helpless.

“Whether she’s been in her room or traveled to the bathroom or just getting out of the house once or twice in the past three to four weeks or so, we haven’t been able to come in contact with her, not once, not for anything. If she needs something to eat, some help or some assistance in her room, my dad will go in and help her out.”

Sanaia continued: “The fact that, yeah, Mom has it, we can’t see her, we do call her on our phones so we can see her virtually, but I want her to get better. I don’t want a chance of catching it. I’d rather stay home all my life until she gets better than go to school just to take a few classes.”

What a summer vacation this has been. Memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“We haven’t been able to really go many places,” said Christion. “One, because the smart thing to is to stay home if you don’t need to go anywhere, and two, we don’t want to risk bringing anything worse into the house and it preventing mom from getting better.”

Dawn’s experience with COVID-19 means daily bouts of various symptoms: joint pain that discourages getting out of bed, low energy that helps dismiss thoughts of moving around. Appetite? Can’t hold down solid food.

The good news? Dawn seems to show some improvement, every day, even if it’s just talking about feeling better in between gags. And, all four children and their dad have tested negative for the virus.

Another day. Renewed hope. Lots of prayer that we’re a step closer to Dawn’s recovery.

Meantime, it’s time for her children to at least start thinking about the new fall semester. I’ve got a feeling Dawn and Cochise will have them ready to work from home online.

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