St. Clairsville Family Tests Positive for COVID-19; Sends Message of Hope
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Members of the Bodkin family of St. Clairsville are counting their blessings this Easter Sunday and are sending out a message of hope to the local community during a time of crisis.
All four family members — Lori, 48, and Bob, 47, along with their children Cory, 20, and Alyssa, 16, — are continuing to “shelter in place” at home like everyone else at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, their life in quarantine this past week changed in dramatic fashion after one by one, all four of them tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Bodkins were reluctant at first to reveal their diagnosis to people beyond close family and friends, but Lori said after she became the fourth person in her house to be confirmed positive for the virus, she felt it was time to put a human face on the pandemic.
Bob was officially diagnosed Monday, mandating tests for everyone in the household. Cory, who is a first responder and deemed a “critical worker,” had his test fast-tracked; it came back as positive Tuesday night. Alyssa’s test came back positive on Wednesday night, and on Thursday morning, Lori found out that she, too, had tested positive.
“After we found out Bob was positive, and we had all the same symptoms, we knew,” Lori said. “It was just a matter of formality.”
Lori said she struggled with the idea of coming forward publicly about having the coronavirus because it’s a situation of being “vulnerable” at a time when it’s important to project your strength.
“I knew that if I can help one person change their behavior or not be afraid, then it would be worth it,” she said. “When we developed this virus, I just really felt like people needed to hear from somebody who is a normal, everyday person. They needed to put a face with this virus. I’m blessed to know a lot of people, and I felt that people weren’t taking it seriously because they didn’t have a face to put with the coronavirus.”
Lori said when you see reports of the coronavirus in the media, it’s always about celebrities or people you don’t know somewhere else in New York or California. It’s always about deaths or the rising number of cases, and there’s not much about regular people in the community who are living with it, managing it, embracing a positive outlook and recovering from it.
On Friday, Lori decided to post a video online to share her family’s story and show everyone what the coronavirus looks like from their first-hand perspective.
Within 24 hours, thousands of people viewed the video.
“Cory’s friends said, ‘Dude, your mom’s virus video is going viral!'” she noted.
Although there have been tough symptoms — particularly for Bob, who developed pneumonia — the family has been able to remain at home and deal with the illness so far.
“It’s been our faith over the fear of this virus,” she said. “There’s a healthy level of fear — to take care of yourself, to stay home, to wash your hands and do the things that you need to do. But I don’t want people to think that everybody who gets the coronavirus ends up at the hospital on a ventilator. That’s not a true picture of what having this virus looks like to everyone.”
Faith has helped them keep a positive outlook and get through the toughest times, Lori said.
“You can’t be scared,” she said. “You have to be strong — and for us, that’s our faith in Jesus. We have prayed, and I know there’s a lot of people who have said they are praying for our family, and that just strengthens my belief to know that God, who is bigger than all of us, is taking care of healing our family.”
Being under a virtual lockdown, friends have been able to reach out and help — at a socially acceptable distance, of course.
“We’re so blessed with friends in our area who care so much about our family,” Lori said. “We have had porch drops of groceries. People have picked up prescriptions for us. We have people who have brought us meals. We’ve had more offers than we could use right now. They want to be able to help us, but really there’s not much they can do beyond helping to take care of us with food or supplies and things like that.
“So we’ve air hugged and virtual kissed through the window, which breaks my heart. If anyone comes and does a porch drop, they are wearing a mask and gloves. It’s hard. But it makes us feel so loved.”
For Easter Sunday, the Bodkins planned to start the day with online church services, and before dinner, they plan to have an online gathering on Zoom with the extended family. Lori’s father is expected to carry on a tradition by leading the family in prayer.
“Technology has been a wonderful thing through all of this,” she said.
A POSITIVE DIAGNOSIS
Lori said the illness first developed with her husband, who came down with cold and sinus-type symptoms. Bob, who has asthma, called his doctor, who suggested he call for coronavirus testing. But he didn’t have a high fever or respiratory issues at that time.
“He got rejected,” Lori said of Bob’s first attempt at getting a coronavirus test, noting that when he first inquired, the criteria to be tested had not been met. So Bob stayed home in quarantine before returning back to life as usual. Then he developed pneumonia within a period of 24-36 hours, Lori noted.
“Because he took a downward spin so fast, a friend of ours who is an emergency room doctor ordered the corona virus test for him,” she said. “That was last Friday when he was able to get tested, and we got the results this Monday that he was positive.”
In the meantime, when Bob was experiencing cold symptoms, Lori also developed the same type of symptoms.
“I called my doctor when Bob had pneumonia because I was concerned, and my doctor felt that I probably had a sinus infection because I did not have a high fever and didn’t have respiratory involvement,” she said. “None of us ever had a fever over 99.8 degrees. That’s the big thing. They keep saying, ‘You’ll have a fever.’ But none of us ever did.”
Bob and Lori both were given Z-packs (the antibiotic Zithromax) to treat their respective pneumonia and sinus infection symptoms during the week that April arrived. At the same time, their children developed low-grade fevers and dry coughs.
“Since then, Cory’s had absolutely nothing — he’s been asymptomatic,” Lori said. “Alyssa started with all of the same symptoms Bob and I had.
“The tell-tale sign for all three of us was we lost our sense of taste and smell, and that was really strange because we could breathe fine. We just couldn’t taste or smell anything.”
By the time Bob had been tested Monday, they were informed the testing criteria had been relaxed, so the rest of the family most likely could have been tested based on their symptoms and with a doctor’s recommendation. But with a positive test in the house, their testing was mandated anyway.
Lori said the worst week was actually the week before their testing and results came, which was when the majority of the uncomfortable symptoms of headache, low-grade fever, body ache and dry cough had been most prevalent.
“By the time you’re at a place where you know you need to get tested, it’s almost like you’re at the height or the peak of it,” she said. “By the time you’re waiting for the results, your body is starting to turn the corner, hopefully.”
Health-wise, this past week was an improvement for Lori, who is able to work from home as a continuous improvement coordinator for Fyda Freightliner Pittsburgh Inc., and Alyssa, a sophomore at St. Clairsville High School. Cory, a sophomore in the paramedic program at Belmont College, remains asymptomatic despite testing positive, and Bob, an operations manager also with Fyda, has had the most severe symptoms.
“Unfortunately, Bob is still really struggling with breathing issues,” Lori said Saturday. “Last night, he had a really rough breathing night. I am so grateful we have a nebulizer and he can do breathing treatments here at home. It’s really what has kept him out of the hospital at this point.
“There have been times that I’ve been worried because if Bob’s breathing did not get under control, I knew that it was very possible that he could have ended up — and still could end up — in the hospital, and none of us could be there with him. I think that was one of our biggest concerns.”
THE TESTING CENTER
After Bob tested positive, the rest of the family’s drive to the testing site was very emotional, Lori said. But they wanted confirmation.
“Driving up to the testing center is so eerie and surreal,” she said. “We went to the one in Wheeling. Bob had gone to the one at Reynolds. They are all so kind, but it’s so movie-esque. It’s a tent, and it’s tarped, and they’re completely covered head to toe, which they should be to protect themselves.
“You go through a myriad of emotions. There’s some fear. Alyssa was very scared of the test itself, but thankfully the three of us had a throat swab, like for strep. Bob had the nasal swab, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
Because the family had been practicing “shelter-in-place” measures already, the process of back-tracing people with whom they have recently come in contact was easier to navigate than most after they tested positive. Those who were in contact were required to quarantine as well. Lori said local health officials have been very helpful with the whole process.
“At first when this was all happening, I was mad, sad, confused, and just trying to make sure we were doing all the right things to take care of our family,” she said. “By the time the diagnosis came, my reaction was that we really finally had an answer. Of course, there is a level of concern. Even though we were all doing our best to take care of ourselves. I think there’s still a little bit of fear because of all we’re hearing on the news is about all these deaths and all of these hospitalizations.”
While maintaining a more positive attitude, Lori stressed the importance of following the recommended social distancing guidelines in order to keep others safe.
“You can show people love by staying home and not being out and about,” she said. “I really believe that there are many people who have the coronavirus and don’t know it, and are walking around with it.”
Lori said she still thinks people are nonchalant about the pandemic because most people don’t know anyone close to them personally who has it.
“The biggest misconception is that you have to have a high fever and respiratory reactions,” she said. “That is not true. Everybody’s body is different and unique, so everyone is going to have different symptoms and reactions.”
For her, it’s hard to get out of bed and start the day when she is feeling ill from the effects of the virus, she said.
“But you’ve got to keep breathing, and you’ve got to keep moving,” Lori stressed. “Do what you have to do to help yourself feel better emotionally, and that helps you get better physically.”
SHARING ‘MENTOR MOMENTS’
Lori first shared her family’s story online by way of a video blog to which she has been posting in greater frequency lately despite the whirlwind of health drama, though she had not broke the news about her family’s COVID-19 diagnosis on the video blog until Thursday night. In the face of her own crisis both before and after the announcement that took her friends by surprise, Lori has continued to provide inspiration and encouragement to others through these videos and other posts on her own website and social media pages.
“I’ve had a strong desire to be a motivator my whole life,” she said. “I’ve done public speaking engagements, I wrote a book and I’ve done blogs in the past.”
She decided to explore a new format to share encouragement after being told by people for years how appreciative they are of her positive attitude and optimism. With her endeavors in motivational speaking being so well received, she was persuaded to record “little videos” so people could hear a positive voice and receive a positive message in their in box or news feed on social media.
“With so much doom and gloom out there, I thought it could be refreshing to a lot of people to hear someone offer some words of encouragement,” she said. “It may be the one thing that day that helps people stay positive, too.”
She has a website at lifementorlori.com and a Facebook page under Life Mentor Lori as well. You can view the “mentor moment” post about her family’s diagnosis here.
“People want to hear stories about normal people who are recovering from the coronavirus,” Lori said. “There are so many messages and news stories about people dying, and they’re not talking about people who are recovering. People want to hear about those things. We want to raise awareness about that.
“We as humans have gotten to a pace that is unattainable to maintain for any length of time without the stress or the strain affecting your health even on a good day. When this (pandemic) is all behind us, I hope people hold on to some of the lessons this has taught us and don’t allow themselves to slide back into old habits that were self-destructive.”
EMBRACING THE SILVER LINING
After being on lockdown for 14 days and when each has three days of showing no symptoms, the Bodkins will be released from quarantine and deemed recovered. In a way, Lori said she is glad to know her family will “supposedly have immunity to the coronavirus” once they reach that point. While they will still be concerned about other people’s health, at least they will not have to worry about catching the illness themselves.
“People do recover,” she said. “There is hope in this. We’re grateful we are managing this at home together, taking care of ourselves. We believe we’re going to be OK. We have strong faith, we’re doing what our doctors tell us to do, and we’re using common sense.”
When the pandemic is over, Lori said she hopes people will recognize the good things they have experienced during their self-quarantine and the whole coronavirus ordeal.
“Being forced to stay home, it allows you to slow down and reevaluate your priorities,” she said. “It’s letting families actually spend time together, eat dinner together, have game nights together and rediscover each other. There’s so many blessings in the moment that seem like they’re challenging and difficult.
“You should not be out trying to have a social life right now. You’re not stuck at home, you’re safe at home.”
When the pandemic finally comes to an end for everyone, the Bodkins look forward, like most people, to getting together with loved ones.
“We probably won’t be able to do that for a while, but we really miss getting to hug and see our friends and family,” she said. “That’s the best thing. And also, I know it sounds odd, we kind of all want to go to Chick-fil-A.”