Avoiding COVID-19 Exposure Is Like a Game of Dodgeball

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by Alyssa Silva |

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While most of my elementary school days are a bit fuzzy in my head, lately I can’t stop thinking about how we used to play dodgeball during gym class. Our class would split into two groups, we were given red and blue Nerf balls, and the last person standing would win. I was never able to throw the ball and instead had a partner who’d throw the ball for me. However, I was in charge of dodging them.

Dodging balls in a wheelchair is no easy feat. For starters, I couldn’t move as quickly as the other kids. My wheelchair was an easier target as it was bigger and offered more opportunities to get hit. I couldn’t hop, dive, or duck. In other words, I had no other choice than to fend for myself with circumstances not on my side. I simply had to hope for the best.

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These days, my life feels a lot like those games of dodgeball, except I’m around 25 years older and those Nerf balls flying at me are people with COVID-19.

Yes, that’s right. With the current uptick in cases in the U.S., I feel as though I’m dodging the virus everywhere I look. I desperately wish I could sit this one out, take a breather, and watch from the sidelines. But such is life, and I must remain proactive and on high alert.

False positives?

A few weeks ago, my mother came down with cold symptoms. To be cautious, my dad gave her three rapid COVID-19 tests over the course of a few days. Each time, her results were negative. Regardless, she quarantined herself in her bedroom with the intention of not getting me sick with any virus.

After all, living with SMA means I’m unable to fight off respiratory illnesses very well. My respiratory function isn’t nearly as strong as it should be, so illnesses like the common cold can put me at a higher risk of pneumonia and hospitalization. With that in mind, my parents and I take extra precautions when someone is sick. For example, the person who isn’t sick cares for me full time. They pick up the slack around the house. They basically take on the role of two parents and a caregiver while the other is quarantined to their bedroom for five to seven days.

This time, my father thought it’d be smart for my mother to go for a PCR test to ensure she was negative. We all kind of laughed because she had not been around anyone in a few weeks, but agreed it’d give us peace of mind. Twenty-four hours later, her results came back positive.

Other than our stress levels, nothing changed. The COVID-19 protocols of quarantining, mask-wearing, and social distancing are something we’ve had in place for as long as I can remember. Even so, if my mother had it, that meant I was exposed the day she first got symptoms. We canceled weekend visitors, contacted my doctor, and over time, grew more perplexed about how she could have caught it.

The following day, my mom went for a second test after the rapid tests were still coming back negative. Though she was definitely sick with a virus, it didn’t make sense that she had COVID-19. If we hadn’t left the house, where could she have gotten it? When her second results came in, it was safe to say we weren’t all that surprised to learn it was negative. Her first test had been a false positive, and we finally breathed a sigh of relief.

Another close call

Feeling relieved that I had averted one dodgeball, I received a text from a friend who was supposed to come over that weekend saying he had COVID-19. If my mom hadn’t gotten her false positive forcing me to cancel plans, I would have definitely been exposed then. Another ball was dodged.

Right now, I’m still in the game. The uncertainty of what’s going to happen next is a bit unsettling. It seems there are Nerf balls flying at me in every direction these days, and I desperately wish to call a timeout. But at the end of the day, I still continue to play.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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