Editor’s note: This is part 2 of 3 in the series by Katie Donnelly about her experience with COVID-19.
The search for where to stay was the next step. I couldn’t stay at my place in Emporia because my two roommates were also living there. They already had to miss work without pay until their tests came back negative because they were exposed by me. I figured I could live in my basement but my mom is a healthcare worker so any exposure and she would have to quarantine for two weeks, even if we were on two separate floors and separated by a door.
“I know!” I thought, “I’ll stay in a tent in the backyard!”
Making impulsive, super sweet lemonade out of lemons—my speciality. I drove the 30 minutes to my home in Kansas City from the testing office and called my mom down the street requesting she leave the tent outside for me to swing by and grab. To my surprise, she wasn’t as excited as I was. She was quite the opposite. The conversation included a lot of, “Why are you being so stubborn?” from both sides. The essence of the argument was the same as it has been for the past 22 years.
Lots of: “I’m responsible enough to do what’s best for me,” which obviously isn’t true or I wouldn’t be in this predicament, “Why don’t you understand you need to be taking the situation you’re in more seriously?” and “You guys are mean.” It always ends the same, me taking a step back long enough to realize through my frustration my parents are in fact correct.
I failed to realize exactly what got me into this mess and several others in the past. My inability to acknowledge I am not the only person on the planet that matters and I am a mere mortal rather than invincible is tried and true.
Once again, I was reminded of my self-centeredness on the drive back to Emporia when my roommate called. I, of course, assumed it was about my positive COVID test because everything is about me, but was startled to hear tears.
Doing her best to speak through choking sobs, she informed me she would not be home when I got back to Emporia. Our other roommate was driving her back to her hometown because she received a text from her older brother saying there was a car accident and his sons, 13 and 15-years-old, weren’t doing well. He didn't know if they were going to make it. I wanted to go with her, hug her, and be there for her and her family like she had been for me through everything in the past, but I couldn’t because I let a co-worker drink after me and vise-versa days before.
I stayed the night at home with my boyfriend, who also had to quarantine from spending so much time with me. As we sat on the porch that night processing everything my dad said. He let me know if I needed to stay at home I was more than welcome to, but that was the absolute last option. My dad, mom, brother and sister would all quarantine in a hotel if that was the case. They were willing to let me have the house, re-locate in a hotel, and spend that money so I could be as comfortable as possible while sick.
Okay, so not only do I have the privileges of being so self-centered and believing I’m indestructible, but I’m also blessed with a family that would make such an intense sacrifice for me after I had a bitch-fit on the phone over not being able to camp out in a tent while COVID positive. The reality check was long overdue.
While out weighing my options, I remembered sitting outside of the La Quinta a few months before with a large poster board reading, “My name is Katie Donnelly. I have COVID-19 questions. Please email me.”
I was desperately searching for someone to give me any information on the isolation hotels to write about for The Bulletin, the ESU newspaper I’m the managing editor at. I never could get an interview, but an ironic opportunity had just presented itself. My ability to make lemonade out of lemons is partially due to my positivity and partially due to most things just working out for me, something I constantly feel anxious and guilty about.
I remain to be one of the most blessed people I know. If I sound like an asshole, it’s because I am. Even after testing positive for COVID-19, I was able to use the virus as an opportunity I had been searching for to not only start writing again, but to start writing about the isolation hotels. I felt the familiar anxious, excited choke I get in my throat when I know I’m about to do something that may not go exactly as planned, but needs to be done. It’s the feeling I get when I’m about to ask a risky question during an interview. The feeling makes me think of my mom. She often says, “The most difficult choices are always the most rewarding.”
The next day, I called the health care department and within two hours they had a room ready for me. My quarantine ended in six days, so I would be staying at La Quinta with anyone else who tested positive.
All I knew going in was that food would be provided. I nervously packed several days worth of t-shirts and shorts, makeup in case I wanted to practice, I didn’t, a towel, a yoga mat, a few books, my computer, my journal and a candle. In hindsight, I don’t know why I brought the candle, I don’t know what I was thinking.
I was most worried about nightmares. I teared up at the thought of waking up in a cold sweat to a nightmare. I was also worried about needing someone to talk to and no one answering their phones. Or the double zinger, what if I tried calling someone because of my nightmare and no one answered? I dropped my boyfriend off at home, said my goodbyes, and was hit with another symptom, a migraine.
Driving down Highway 50 with a migraine was scary. The last time I drove with a migraine I ended up swerving into another car on the highway. I knew it was coming when I was having difficulty seeing out of the left side of my eyes. Soon my entire vision was blurred, the left side of my head was raging with a pulsating pain, and the numbness that began in my fingertips moved all the way up my arms to my lips and tongue. When I finally reached La Quinta each symptom had taken turns as my shotgun rider. One minute the pain was unbearable, and the numbness was faint, the next minute I could hardly see, but I only felt a slight sting.
I finally pulled up to the La Quinta at around 6 p.m. The entrance was covered in caution tape, and I was greeted by a note saying the entire facility was closed. I read the sign warning the entire hotel was closed, nearly turned around, but walked through the glass doors.