Shock, separation, thankfulness: One Puyallup Tribal familys COVID-19 story
Photo courtesy of the Anderson family
Puyallup Tribal Member Aimee Anderson (red sweatshirt) and her husband Josh (pictured with their children Navaeh, 14, Shamani, 8, and Joshua, 11) hope by sharing how COVID-19 affected their family, other people will want to take extra precautions to prevent it from spreading in the Tribal community and beyond. “The worse part for me was the fatigue,” Josh said. “It just hits you. Some days I didn’t even want to get up and walk in the yard for fresh air.”
As told to Puyallup Tribal News Correspondent Rosemary Ponnekanti by Josh and Aimee Anderson
How did you first find out you tested positive?
Josh: It was Aug. 20. I was at work – I do public safety for the Tribe. My boss told me there was a positive case in the building, and we talked about the level of risk. They were doing their job to keep us safe, but we did all share a bathroom. I always had the opportunity to get tested, any day. So I went to the clinic and got tested, and within an hour the nurse called me to say I was positive.
I hadn’t been experiencing any symptoms. In fact, I’d been working out at the track that morning. So I was kind of blown away. I asked if Aimee could be put into the call; I’m a combat veteran and suffer from PTSD, so she remembers stressful things like this better than I do in the moment.
I called my boss, and left work immediately. They shut down the building, did a deep clean, everyone got tested.
I was in shock. I headed home, called my parents in Montana to tell them. My dad said I had to be strong when I told my kids, that they would act however I was acting. I arrived home to find Aimee outside talking, with our daughter Navaeh, who’s 14. She was really scared and crying, she thought I was going to die. My son Joshua is 11, he suffers from anxiety anyway and has had a really hard time all through the pandemic. Our younger daughter Shamani, who’s 9, was also scared. All they hear about COVID-19 is that people are dying, so that’s what they think will happen to you. We reassured her that I had no symptoms right then, and that I would take care of myself.
I isolated myself, and we scheduled everyone for a test the next day.
It sounds like a shock.
Aimee: It was. We had tried really hard since this started to social-distance and not go out in gatherings. Josh only went out to work, I mostly worked from home. I only saw my mom. Our son Joshua only went outside a few times, just for fresh air and exercise – he was so worried about it.
What did you do next?
Aimee: We all got tested the next day and the girls and I were negative, but our son was positive. That scared me a little, as I’d spent all the last evening with him, watching movies. The doctor at the clinic told me I’d had a higher level of exposure. So we sent the girls to stay with my mom, I isolated myself in the master bedroom, and Josh and Joshua stayed in the rest of the house.
We spent more than a week like that. It was so hard on our daughters – to be away from us, out of routine, only Facetiming each other.
And we kept getting different information from the Tribal health clinic and the county health department – it was really frustrating.
What did it feel like to have COVID-19?
Josh: Our son had some stomach issues, some headaches, but it was not too bad for him. The worst part for me was the fatigue. It just hits you. Some days I didn’t even want to get up and walk in the yard for fresh air. It just makes you so tired, and always running out of breath.
And the waiting…you start worrying about symptoms. I had an oxygen monitor and just kept checking it in case it fell below 90. Every day you just hope and pray it won’t get worse. It’s the mental battle. People are dying from this, and getting long-term issues they’re not even sure about yet.
How are things now?
Aimee: After 10 days the doctor said they weren’t contagious, so the girls came home. The three of us tested again and the results were negative. I’m glad they were able to come home with school starting – it’s been frustrating not being able to get them fully prepared like we’d planned.
Josh: On Day 15 I was cleared to go back to work, although my boss was great and gave me the rest of the week off to be with my family. I just went back to working out, but I can tell I’m not where I was. I can’t do as much, I get out of breath quickly even just carrying things around the house. The county calls every day asking about symptoms for the contact tracing.
How will this change your life, going forward?
Josh: There’s so much misinformation out there from the federal government, it’s so politicized. I’m going to stay away from the TV, just not listen to as much of it and keep doing the right things that science and the doctors are telling us.
Aimee: The girls will definitely take this more seriously. All summer they’ve been frustrated at not going places, hanging out with friends. Now they realize. We’ll continue to do what we were doing: keeping out circles small and only going out in public when absolutely necessary.
What advice would you give others, based on this experience?
Aimee: I would hope that more people would realize that they are not invincible. Even before the coronavirus my husband was using hand sanitizer all the time – he was almost a germophobe. If someone like that can catch this virus, anyone can. That’s what I would tell people. We got extremely lucky that his and our son’s symptoms were minimal. I’m so thankful they weren’t isolated in hospital.
Josh: The Native American community has been hit especially hard with this, although luckily our community here has not seen as much infection as others. But there is so much misinformation. I would tell everyone they need to wear masks, to social-distance, to follow the mandates.
Aimee: And you have to be honest. It’s not something to be shameful of – it’s a virus that you happened to get, and it might not be deadly to you but it might be to someone else. We told everyone we’d been in contact with. You have to let people know.
Josh: I’d really like to thank the clinic and the doctors there: They were so personal, they cared about us. Also my bosses Mike Young for being so understanding, and Dennis Young for calling to see how we were doing and if we needed anything. My counselor, who helped me get through this. And our friends and family, who dropped off food and checked up on us. Thank you.