Isolation and COVID-19

E-learning, March 20, 2020

I don’t need to write details about what a crazy time this is. Because if I do, it will probably change by the time you read this, things are evolving so quickly. Today is March 20 (and we flew home from California a year ago.) What I am going to do is write about some isolation protocols.

As you know, we have lived through a “stay-at-home” lock down before.

December – April of 2018 we lived in isolation in our yellow house. We quickly learned how to really sanitize a house. We had to rethink simple tasks and judge their riskiness. Little things. Each time a cardboard box came in the mail, the surface where I opened this box was diligently sanitized and the box disposed of, in case it carried germs. I did this with mail this morning and it brought me back to this time, the time when germs threatened life. It’s a wild thought, isn’t it? A germ that comes into your house on a box can threaten life. (This is a good time to mention that the Coronavirus can live for 30 minutes on cardboard, 3 hours in the air, and 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel.)

Yellow House- Claire, Reese, and Quinn April 2, 2018

April – December 20 of 2018 we lived in isolation in the UCSF bone marrow transplant unit. This is when I was introduced to the “two minute scrub”. (The amount of time it takes to diligently clean your hands and rid them of all germs, in theory.) We were so blessed to be at UCSF, a hospital that values the emotional well being of the patient. For this reason, Quinn and Claire were able to be an integral part of Reese’s recovery. We worked hard to ensure that they did not carry something dangerous with them to the BMT unit.

This kind of visiting would not be the case today, oncology and transplant units are on intense lockdown, for good reason. Please say a prayer for these warriors, this is an added threat to their already difficult recovery.

BMT Isolation Unit- Reese and Quinn, November 14, 2018

December – March 20 of 2019 we lived on campus near the hospital, at the UCSF Family House, with dozens of other families of children fighting life-threatening illnesses. Here I learned about the importance of being aware of EVERY surface you touch, even doing normal things like pouring a glass of milk. We shared a kitchen and common space, and every surface had to be considered a danger.

The Family House- Quinn, Reese and Claire, February 9, 2019

March of 2020 Lockdown

This intense understanding of isolation is something I am practicing today, now that we are officially in a lockdown state, again. It’s a lifestyle, and one that I take very seriously.

Is Reese vulnerable? Or rather, is she more vulnerable than Quinn, because in reality, we don’t really know who among us is vulnerable. There are so many unknowns with COVID-19. There is no clear answer to this question. Our doctors don’t even agree. What we know for sure- immunocompromised people have not fared well in China. Is Reese’s immune system still in a state that is more threatened by this unknown virus? It is unknown. Because of this, we have to assume that it is, so we have adopted an isolation protocol to protect our little warrior. But this time, we are not alone. Our nation, rather our planet, has to think about the vulnerable among us. Each night we pray for all those infected and all those who are the protectors. Those who make the right choices for humanity. This is big stuff.


I am going to share 2 stories to get you thinking about germs like a BMT mom. If it helps anyone, then I have done my job for the day.

  1. Always be thinking backwards. Tonight is a Friday in lent, so my husband drove to Culvers to pick up fish (it’s a family favorite.) He would never go in. He wore an N95 face mask at the drive up window (we have these from our days at UCSF, I realize the average person does not and should not have this.) He handled the paper bag and credit card with a sanitizing wipe. When he got home, I had the oven preheated to 400. I disposed of the bag and boxes, sanitized the space they sat, and put the fish and fries into the oven to kill germs. I have to think – how many opportunities did this foreign package have to get contaminated? The person who packs the fish. The person who packs the fries. The person who handles the bag and brings it outside… you get the idea. We can get takeout. But we do our best to eliminate risk.
  2. Your vehicle. When you stopped at the gas station to pump gas yesterday, you touched the pump. When you left the grocery store, you grabbed the handles of the bag that someone else put in your cart. When you stop at the post office, you use the pen to sign for your credit card. All of these things have something in common. Potential for germs. And, after you did them, you got in your car and touched your steering wheel, the controls on your radio, your car door handle. Then, maybe you did sanitize your hands (this will protect you for exactly two minutes after you do it, by the way.) Then you touched the things in your car, again, then you grabbed a piece of gum or itched your eye. You get the idea. I suggest sanitizing your car and then treating it like a clean space (and sanitize your hands before you get in.)

Stay safe. And say a prayer for God’s guidance, knowledge and safety for the medical professionals, and please add one for all of the JMML warriors, including Reese and little James (link HERE.) He has severe chronic GVHD now, and he can use a breakthrough (and protection from COVID-19.)

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