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Petaluma mom’s COVID-19 fight is a cautionary tale

Mary Moore had been cautious. Perhaps to some, her strict quarantine seemed overly vigilant. It was summer, after all. COVID-19 cases were lower, downtown was open for business, and social media feeds filled with photos of beach days and camping trips.

But still, Moore stayed exceedingly careful. She and her family always wore masks outside the house and adhered to social distancing requirements. They hadn’t seen relatives for months, and they kept a small bubble, including the nanny that helped care for their 4-year-old, Amelia.

Still, 38-year-old Moore contracted the coronavirus, as did her husband and daughter.

“One thing I feel strongly about is that in my experience, it didn’t come from a random person or at the farmer’s market like I thought it would,” she said. “It came from within, from seeing people inside.”

Looking back, Moore points to Friday, Aug. 21. The skies were suffused with smoke, as apocalyptic wildfires snatched public attention and sent residents indoors.

That’s when Amelia began complaining of a headache. Her parents first thought the stifling smoke was irritating the toddler’s nasal passages. The following day, Amelia had a dry throat, and took a long nap with Moore. That’s when she thinks her daughter passed the virus to her. That Monday, she noticed she felt sore and tired, at first attributing it to her morning yoga workout. But by the end of the day, the Petaluma mom knew she was sick.

“Initially we thought it was something else, but we all still isolated to be extra safe,” Moore said of that August weekend. “Good thing we did that, because two days after Amelia had that headache, I started feeling so sore that I could not get out of bed.”

Although Amelia had started to feel healthy again, Moore spent the next few days getting progressively worse. Shifting around in bed was painful, she said, her body so lethargic and fatigued that simply lying down seemed to require a steady dose of Advil. She could barely walk around the house, let alone go get a COVID test.

“I had to go to the emergency room one night. They had me wait in the car because they wouldn’t let anyone go inside the waiting room,” she recalled. “That’s when I got tested and knew for sure it was COVID. It was probably one of the worst experiences of my life.”

On Wednesday, Aug. 26, her husband, 38-year-old Pablo Redondo Sanchez, began exhibiting flu-like symptoms as well, though like Amelia, never tested positive for the coronavirus.

Among the three of them, Moore suffered the most.

Within a week, she had lost her appetite and dropped 10 pounds, she started to notice respiratory symptoms that she likened to the winded feeling that occurs during a panic attack. She was given a steroid inhaler, she said, remembering how routine things like grabbing a glass of water felt Sisyphean.

But for Moore, the worst part wasn’t the pain, or the fatigue or the trouble breathing. It was not knowing what would come next.

“There is this type of trauma I experienced when I got COVID,” she said. “I got really stressed, wondering if I was going to suddenly go downhill or even die.”

She credits a loving community of friends and family with keeping her going, often dropping off meals and small gifts. One day, she opened the door to find a small bouquet of hand-picked flowers on her doorstep, a gesture that was so touching it led her to burst into tears. She had been bedridden for two weeks.

“It was all frightening, so it was also really helpful to speak to my health practitioner too,” she said. “I needed that support.”

Moore thinks she got the virus from her nanny, who later found out she had been exposed to the virus through a family member, despite taking many precautions herself.

After three months of recovery, Moore says she’s feeling back to normal again. But like before, she still remains cautious, afraid she may be able to catch the virus again or expose others. The Centers on Disease Control say reinfection can happen, but such cases remain rare.

“I would not wish my experience on anyone,” she said. “I just urge people who are my age to just keep your mask on.”

(Contact Kathryn Palmer at kathryn.palmer@arguscourier.com, on Twitter @KathrynPlmr.)

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