Pregnant mother of two's COVID-19 ordeal a lesson in patience and diligence
MONTREAL -- A radio host in Kahnawake is advising those who contract COVID-19 to remain calm, track symptoms and rest. The advice seems simple enough, but for Abigail Jacobs, 29, practicing her own advice was not easy due to her complicated circumstances.
Jacobs is 24 weeks pregnant with her and her husband's third child and found out mid-March that she had come in contact with a person who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Having already been given the option to stay home from work as a host at the community’s radio station, K1037, she decided to stay put and be with her children, a one-year-old girl and three-year-old boy. Her husband was already working from home.
When she noticed minor cold symptoms, she decided to go for a screening test at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu’s screening facility March 20 with her two children.
“On the weekend, the 21st, I started really getting lethargic, no appetite, rolling fever, I had shivers, I couldn’t get warm,” she said. “It was like all-of-a-sudden it just hit me, and I started to get really scared.”
She thought the symptoms may have been due to her pregnancy, but when chest pains began occurring regularly, it was clear something was wrong.
“Like right in your sternum, every time you took a deep breath, it was like a sharp pain,” said Jacobs. “I couldn’t sit up from the couch. I couldn’t walk around the house without having little breathing attacks.”
She was certain the tests would come back positive, but the call came March 25 telling her that the entire family was negative.
Jacobs knew something was off though, as she had lost her appetite and five pounds, so she contacted the local Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) in Kahnawake. A nurse told her the symptoms may be panic attacks caused by anxiety.
“Which was really kind of upsetting because you’re in such distress at home and I can’t help take care of my kids. I can’t do anything. I feel so in distress and I’m being told, ‘Well, you’re doing it to yourself,’” she said.
In addition, being exhausted, lethargic and pregnant with two young children made isolation incredibly difficult.
“They want to nap with you, they want to be with you,” said Jacobs.
When Kahnawake’s drive-thru screening clinic opened, Jacobs went the first day, March 29, and took another test.
She received the news April 3 that she was COVID-19 positive.
“It was like hitting a wall,” she said. “Especially because I had started to doubt that I had it, and I started to believe that I was actually fine. Then it was like, ‘Did I go see anybody?’ I had stopped by my sister’s and talked with her in her yard. How close was I? How close was I to her kids?”
Though she had practiced physical distancing, Jacobs felt guilty about even leaving her house and being anywhere near people. She even began to feel nervous about a birthday party she attended at the beginning of March before she became sick.
“Now a week-and-a-half, two weeks later where I’m starting to feel sick and my mind starts going crazy,” said Jacobs. “A month later I get told I am positive and how am I supposed to know if those people were safe or not?”
Jacobs said her friends, family and community have been supportive and she advises those who contract the illness to keep records of everything, which she did since falling ill.
“If you start feeling a cough, if you start having any trouble breathing, if you start having no appetite or things like that, start writing it down and track the dates, and keep that mindfulness if you did go out or come in contact with anyone,” said Jacobs.
She has now recovered completely, and received excellent care from Health Canada follow-up specialists that tracked her and her family’s symptoms as she began to feel better.
“I feel awesome,” said Jacobs.
Ironically, it was Jacobs’ lack of panic that helped her heal, and she advises those unlucky enough to contract the virus to manage with their internal tools.
“It’s an illness,” she said. “If you’re going to get it, just try and stay calm, wash your hands and track your symptoms. I lived through it, and came out the other side. You just have to be smart about it.”