Happy Birthday, Mom. I can’t breathe.

It’s a bit past midnight on what was my forty-first birthday. I’m not the biggest fan of birthdays. I wonder, sometimes, if they are cursed. Well, maybe that’s just mine. Anyways, I’m sitting here at my computer after a long day of work on an even longer birthday.

We’ll back it up a little and start earlier in the week. Monday was typical. It was Monday, and nobody likes Monday, but we got through it. Tuesday rolled around. Tuesday afternoon just as we started getting ready for work, my son started throwing up. He’s got a bit of a nervous stomach, and we weren’t too terribly worried. He called in to work and stayed home to rest.

Wednesday he wasn’t feeling much better, but the vomiting and diarrhea had slowed. There wasn’t any signs of respiratory involvement, so covid-19 didn’t even cross our minds. We’ve, of course, been taking the typical someone in the house is sick precautions.

When I got home from work on Wednesday, it was just past midnight on Thursday. It was technically my birthday. Son was feeling a little better when we got home. He joined us for dinner.

“Happy Birthday, Mom,” he said to me.

This (Thursday, aka my birthday) morning, I knocked on my kids’ doors to wake them like I always do. My son got up and went to the bathroom. When he’d finished, he collapsed on the floor outside of the bathroom and just sat there. I asked him if he was alright.

“I can’t breathe,” he managed to wheeze out.

I asked him if he was having an asthma attack. He said it doesn’t feel like asthma at all. It just feels like a heaviness in his lungs.

We started with an on-line self assessment for coronavirus. With some of his symptoms coupled with his pre-existing conditions, it initially suggested that we dial 911. He felt that was a little excessive, and he didn’t seem that sick to me.

I backtracked and tried again. This time leaving off the things I was certain were triggering the emergency response. It suggested he needed to be tested. I called the doctor’s office.

They set him up with a telephone appointment with the covid doctor. Yup, they have one of the doctors specifically assigned as the day’s covid doctor. I spent the hours before work wearing a hole in the carpet.

The doctor called on my phone because my son could hardly speak. I answered all of her questions. She said that he is showing all of the classic symptoms. (boss asked me how could there be classic symptoms for something so new? good question)

She called him in a few prescriptions. A prednisone taper to help with the inflammation in both his gut and his airways, a rescue inhaler because he needed a new one, and an anti-nausea medication (that I can’t remember the name of) incase the vomiting returns.

She said that it could. She said that for many it does. She said that he appears to be in one of two places in the course of coronavirus. She said he could be in the lull before the storm, or he could be on the mend. She said he needs to be tested.

She said that the lab they are working with will send a tech out to the house. That tech will take his specimen. We should get the results within 24 hours, she promised. I kept my phone in front of me all night at work. I’m still awaiting their call.

I inquired as to whether or not Clark and I needed to be quarantined. We live together, we work together, we dine together. She asked about our symptoms. Neither of us have any to report. She said that we were cleared to work as long as we continued to remain symptom free. She said they’ve treated spouses who share a bed where only one tests positive. This thing is so unpredictable.

The doctor said she’d be faxing a note to work. She said it would excuse our son on suspected covid-19 pending a test result. In the event of a negative test, he should be able to return to work Monday. In the event of a positive test, the doctor’s office will reassess Monday.

Off to work Clark and I went because the doctor said we didn’t need to quarantine. We had to be there fifteen minutes early for a meeting. Hey, I’ll take fifteen minutes of overtime. Though these meetings are held in the breakroom which is rather small, our shift only has six people at the moment, so it’s less crowded than other shifts.

My dad kept in touch with the pharmacy, and (as soon as they were ready) he picked up the prescriptions. He (wearing a mask) dropped them off to my (also masked) daughter. She texted me and passed them along to her brother. He said he would wait until he’d eaten before taking his prednisone because it said to take with food.

Daughter sent a quick text when he took the steroids. A couple of hours later I checked in on him. He said he’d just woken up. I asked how his breathing was. He said it was heavy. I asked if he’d used the inhaler. He said he thought that he wasn’t supposed to use it because it didn’t feel like asthma.

I explained to him that sometimes inhalers are prescribed to people without asthma (such as the handful of times he’s seen me with one during a particularly bad bout of bronchitis). He used it after that and said that it did help a little.

The customer order was nearly finished as my shift was drawing to an end. I put another fifteen minutes of overtime on the end of my shift so they wouldn’t have to find someone to cover the press for that last handful of parts. To be honest, I would have stayed without the overtime pay. It took me thirteen minutes to close the order.

I came home, showered, and sat down to write to all of you. I can smell the smell of dinner coming from the kitchen. Clark’s in there cooking, now. It smells delish. Son came out a little while ago and inquired about dinner. I’m glad to hear he’s interested in food.


Though the doctor was talking like his is basically a confirmed case already, the truth is that he hasn’t been tested yet. It could still come back negative. Maybe he picked up the flu or some other stomach/respiratory bug that is going around right now. Still, the following begs to be heard, thought out, and considered by all.

We suffered a loss early in the pandemic. We lost my mother-in-law in early April. As a result, we’ve been particularly careful. While those around us dangle their masks beneath their noses, we always keep ours firmly over mouth and nose.

My son has a job that takes him around everybody. He keeps his mask firmly in place. He eats lunch in his office. This office is shared with other shifts but no one on his shift. He obsessively uses the sanitizer any time he walks past a bottle. He uses the community Keurig machine, but he brings his own coffee pod, cup, and sugar. The water comes from a giant jug left near the machine.

He’s a home body by nature. The pandemic hasn’t had any real affect on that. He never used to go out, so why would he start now? He didn’t even join us for the Magic of Lights, our first outing since the pandemic began.

There’s six people on our shift – supervisor, tool and die guy (aka my husband, Clark), quality (aka my son), and three operators (one of which is me). Of course, he does come into contact with a handful of people during the shift change at either end of our eight hours. He has to receive and hand off the quality department from those shifts. It’s a small department, but they come into contact with every person on their shift repeatedly.

One of those people is currently in quarantine. She’s voluntarily quarantining because her husband tested positive. She works under the same supervisor as my son. They didn’t have any direct contact that he can recall. The doctor said that’s typical of the paths of contagion that they’ve been seeing.

So, how did an extremely cautious guy who never leaves the house except to go to work end up with a bug that the doctor suspects to be coronavirus?


That pork chop dinner my husband was cooking was delicious. Son came out with a mask on. We set him up with a table in the corner of the room and got him a plate. He was more than six feet from each of us, but he was still able to feel like he was eating with us. Poor guy blew his nose a hundred times during the course of a thirty minute meal.

I came back after that dinner to read and edit this post. I think I’ve got it all down and maybe it makes sense. There’s a birthday cheesecake calling my name. Frozen cheesecake (Sara Lee, I think) that’s been thawing just a couple of hours in the hope that it will be that perfect blend of cold and warm.

Be safe out there everyone. Coronavirus is scary and it’s dangerous and it’s lurking around every corner. Just hours apart my son went from wishing me a happy birthday to wheezing to me that he can’t breathe. Now all we can do is wait with bated breath.

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