HOUSTON — In less than a week, COVID-19 swept through a Houston family claiming one life, sickening three others and breaking the hearts of the rest.
"I want people to understand how fast, how secretly this disease can creep up on you," said Lisa Schwartz.
On March 20, COVID-19 first crept into their lives. It took aim at her beloved father.
"When we were driving to the wedding, he seemed fine," Schwartz said. "When we got to the parking lot, it was obvious there was something wrong. A couple days later it really got him."
In 48 hours, COVID-19 landed Pat Lowry, a loving father, husband and former Baptist preacher and art teacher in the ICU. The virus was just getting started. Three days later it struck her mother.
"My sister and I went to pick her up, and she was not right at all," Schwartz said.
Now her mother and father were both fighting COVID-19 at Memorial Hermann Hospital in Memorial City. Two days later, Lowry passed away.
"You can't have a graveside service," Schwartz said. "You can't have a funeral. You can't gather. You can't be around and comfort your loved ones or family members. It's just a very hard time, physically and emotionally."
While they grieved, they also got tested and quickly learned COVID-19 wasn't done yet.
"You feel like you're on autopilot," Schwartz said. "You're responding as you you can with the next development that hits you in the face."
Her youngest sister, Mona, and her brother-in-law contracted the virus, too.
"I think it's also important for people to understand how quickly and viciously this can race through a community," Schwartz said.
Four family members were sick in less than a week. The glimmer of hope is that her mother, sister and brother-in-law appear to be physically healing.
"We're so thankful. It seems like our family health-wise has turned the corner on this, I hope," Schwartz said.
But the wound of losing a man they love, their patriarch, only made deeper by physical distance.
"I want to gather with my family and honor my father's memory and give everyone a big hug," Schwartz said.
It's still unclear when that day will come. But for now, this beautiful family, still together, while apart.
"It's a very silent, evil disease," Schwartz said. "I don't want any other family to go through what we've been through."
The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.
Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.
But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.
The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.
Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...
- The air by coughing or sneezing
- Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
Help stop the spread of coronavirus
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Eat and sleep separately from your family members
- Use different utensils and dishes
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
- If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
- Follow social distancing
Lower your risk
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.
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