As Coronavirus Whips Through A Missouri Family, A Mom Hopes For The Best

Apr 5, 2020
Originally published on April 5, 2020 10:22 am
Misty Donaldson-Urriola and her former husband Edgar Urriola pose in a selfie with...TK
Misty Donaldson-Urriola

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The new coronavirus is spread through proximity, which means families can be at higher risk of getting the disease. NPR's Maria Godoy has the story of a Missouri mom who's trying to keep life feeling normal for her family after one member is infected and others start to show symptoms of COVID-19 soon after.

MARIA GODOY, BYLINE: Misty Donaldson-Urriola and Edgar Urriola are recently divorced, but they remain close friends as they raise their three sons together.

MISTY DONALDSON-URRIOLA: We have a great relationship. I see him every day. We have done great co-parenting through everything.

GODOY: Misty says just before St. Patrick's Day, Edgar told her he was starting to feel run-down.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: When Edgar first got sick, we were like, oh, you just got the flu; don't worry about it, you know?

GODOY: Edgar had a fever but no cough, so they weren't too worried he might have COVID-19. Besides, he's 46. He's healthy. But just four days after that first fever, Edgar started experiencing shortness of breath. By the next morning...

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: He was really concerned, so he went into urgent care.

GODOY: From there things, spiraled quickly. Edgar had developed pneumonia. His oxygen levels were dangerously low. An ambulance raced him to a local hospital.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: And he was there. Within two hours, they were like, we're going to intubate you. It was that fast. He said he loved the kids and things. He got to talk to the three boys. And then they sedated him, and it was - we have not had any contact at all since then.

GODOY: Doctors put Edgar on a ventilator. Misty was told she and her three boys would have to quarantine themselves. But the coronavirus hadn't finished ripping through her family. The day after his father went to the hospital, 7-year-old Matthew (ph) spiked a fever overnight. The next morning...

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: I heard a big bang. And I walk into the bathroom. He's laying on the floor kind of twitching.

GODOY: Matthew had passed out.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: Once he passed out, he was, like, kind of gibberish and not really talking correctly and just kind of, like, out of it. I was worried about concussion. You know, you think about everything as a mom when you're freaking out.

GODOY: Misty called an ambulance. When the paramedics arrived, she warned them that the family was under quarantine. At the hospital, doctors checked Matthew out and gave him fluids, then sent him back home. They told Misty to bring him back if his symptoms got worse.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: He had a fever that day, a little bit the next day. We had a lot of sleep. And he didn't have any other fever since then, so thank goodness.

GODOY: Misty says Matthew's two older brothers have also shown signs of illness - headaches, fatigue. But with tests still in short supply, there's no way to know for sure if they, too, are infected with coronavirus. Misty says she's also felt unwell.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: But I don't know if it's stress, or I don't know if it's symptoms. It's so scary it's hard to say.

GODOY: Whether she has it or not, doctors say it's not uncommon for the coronavirus to spread quickly through a family. Dr. Vineet Chopra of the University of Michigan Medical Center says, sometimes like in Misty's family, the virus can move before you even know anyone is sick.

VINEET CHOPRA: If you don't know you have it, there's really not much you can do to protect yourself.

GODOY: But he says if someone in your house shows signs of illness, it's important to designate a room or space where you can isolate them from everyone else.

CHOPRA: So a designated space, a designated bathroom where, you know, people don't share stuff with you.

GODOY: He says you should wash your hands frequently if you're living with someone with symptoms of COVID-19. Wear gloves and a mask whenever you interact with them, and keep at least 6 feet away.

CHOPRA: You know, we're humans. We're social creatures. We want to interact with our loved ones. But you know, in a time when somebody has an infection, we really have to resist that urge and keep our distance from people.

GODOY: It's been two weeks since Misty and the boys began their quarantine. Edgar remains on a ventilator. Misty says she's got no choice but to stay strong for her boys and for Edgar.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: There was a time where I kind of wavered, like, oh, this is - thinking the worst. And that made stress and everything worse. And I said, I can't think like that. It's hard, but we're trying to, you know, stay positive.

GODOY: She's also trying to keep life as normal as possible for the kids. That means a regular routine for meals, schoolwork, family game nights and finding reasons to celebrate. Last Monday, Misty and Edgar's youngest son Matthew turned 8. Friends and family stopped by to wish him well from a safe distance in the yard. Meanwhile, the family is keeping hope alive that Edgar will be able to come home.

DONALDSON-URRIOLA: So we're just trying to hang in there and, you know, hope he's still fighting, you know?

GODOY: Maria Godoy, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.