COVID Diaries: small bonfire leads to big consequences

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Picture of a Mask
Artist-Leslie Chavez

“I wore a mask everywhere. I sanitized my hands and I hardly saw anyone. I was really quite limited…so I didn’t expect that I was going to be someone who got sick,” Megan Roder, a Mount Mary graduate student majoring in clinical mental health counseling said. “COVID wasn’t super real to me until it hit close to home.”

On July 1, 2020, Roder and her boyfriend, Josh Shupe, closed on a little ranch house in Colgate, Wisconsin, near the Richfield Fire Department, where Shupe works as an EMT and volunteer firefighter. COVID was the furthest thing on their minds. 

However, days after they  attended a small bonfire celebration for the Fourth of July. Friends from the celebration reported COVID symptoms. 

On July 5, 2020, Shupe, who normally doesn’t get sick, “got knocked on his butt.” He felt drained and remarked, “There’s something going on here.”

On July 6, Shupe’s COVID test results came back positive. Roder told family, friends and her co-workers, “I’ve been exposed to a positive case. Therefore, I need to be treated as if I could potentially be sick.”

Since she shared a house with Shupe, Roder figured it was only a matter of time before she contracted COVID. She told her co-workers, “If you don’t want me in the financial service office, let me know, I can work from home.” Although they continued to share the office, Roder and her coworkers were rooms apart.

On July 10, Roder experienced generalized body aches and a terrible sinus-pressure headache. She went for testing.

On July 11, receiving the news that she tested positive for COVID, she called her mom, then spoke to a nurse at Aurora. Ten minutes later, she got a call from her work, and soon after a public health agency rang her. “I was amazed how quickly information flowed,” Roder said.

The people on the end of the line positioned themselves as resources. They encouraged her to rest, stay hydrated, take care of herself, track her symptoms, let them know if things got worse and isolate when you’re contagious.

Megan Roder and her boyfriend, Josh Shupe, went into survival mode after testing positive for COVID, getting groceries delivered and trying to take care of each other, and their dog, Ruby.

She and her boyfriend went into survival mode, getting groceries delivered and trying to take care of each other, and their dog, Ruby. Although neither had a fever, they were exhausted, and worried about their symptoms worsening or perhaps being permanent.

Both lost the ability to smell and had difficulty even tasting their morning coffee. Still they commiserated with one another and joked about becoming couch potatoes.

Roder continued to work from her bed, but soon realized she lacked energy to do much, which was the hardest thing for her.

“No matter how much sleep I was getting, I couldn’t get my energy levels back up,” Roder said.

These were Roder’s hardest days as she had to allow herself to be sick and rest while letting others lend her the help she needed.

Then around July 26, about 15 days after her COVID diagnosis, she remembered waking up and feeling significantly more energetic and more like her optimistic self. She’d turned a corner. Instead of functioning at 25%, she rose with 75% of her normal vitality.

Megan Roder and Josh Shupe

Roder returned to her busy life, but she says she has gained “an appreciation for being healthy,” and she’d like to encourage COVID sufferers to focus on getting better while they’re ill and to allow others to help or pick up the slack.