As a hairstylist, Jody Michlouski has had some ups and downs over the course of the pandemic. As a mom, she also became a de facto teacher for both her children, Gavin, 10, and Ellie, 8, doing at-home learning.
Very recently, Michlouski also became a nurse to a COVID patient: her daughter, Ellie.
Luckily, Ellie was largely symptom-free and is now back at school. Gavin however, is still at home, despite the fact that he never had the virus.
It’s just how the isolation system has to work. Because he could contract the virus from his sister at any point during her isolation, his isolation period began on the last day of hers, leaving him at home while his sister was back at school.
Michlouski said the kids did have an initial fear reaction to finding out they had contracted the virus. They had spent time over the weekend with a family member who then tested positive after an outbreak at a workplace. The family member was unvaccinated. Michlouski has had both vaccines, and was happy to have the added layer of protection, especially as she needed to care for her daughter and getting sick herself wouldn’t help.
Gavin spent the first two days in his bedroom out of fear. He then donned the improvised PPE you can see in the photo above: a shop respirator, a plastic shield and a carefully positioned camouflage hoodie, and wore it for another day. But then, as he noticed his sister not becoming overly sick, he gave up the gear.
Ellie, upon finding out she had contracted the virus, immediately asked if she was going to die. When Michlouski explained how the novel coronavirus affects different people and answered her questions, her daughter felt much better, but did get an unexpected reaction when she went back to school.
Michlouski told Sudbury.com that she explained to her daughter that she didn’t have to tell anyone and that her school hadn’t either, but also, she had nothing to be ashamed of and could choose to tell someone if she wished.
Sadly, the schoolmate Ellie told immediately began to tease her, saying “Get away from me, you have COVID.” But Michlouski was relieved, and more than a little proud, when her daughter relayed the story that evening. “I said, ‘what did you say?’ and Ellie said: ‘I told him it’s no big deal, I wasn't even sick, and I isolated’.”
Ellie finished with a warning to her classmate, one alluding to a kick in a sensitive area should the child continue their teasing. Michlouski said she didn’t know whether to chastise her daughter, or give her a high-five.
While the kids have been healthy throughout, that doesn’t mean it has been easy. Michlouski has tried to fill the time with outdoor activities and changing up their routines with ideas like breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast, it has been very hard on the family, especially with the kids not being able to see their friends, and Michlouski having to rely on her support system to get through.
Though she could work as she is vaccinated, she owns her own salon in her home and therefore can’t bring clients in. It has helped a little though, in trying to get the kids through their at-home learning. Very different from virtual schooling, the kids are now being taught by Mrs. Mom.
“We're doing fractions today and my brain hurts,” said Michlouski. “I'm not smarter than a fifth grader. Call Jeff Foxworthy, I am not smarter than a fifth grader.”
Though she is grateful to Public Health Sudbury and said their information has been clear and easily available, it has also been a bit excessive.
“They were calling everyday three times a day,” said Michlouski. “It was either Public Health Sudbury or Public Health Ontario.”
She said that it appeared to taper off near the end of the isolation period, but at first, each person in her family received a call, and each call was for a different reason. First, they learned of Ellie’s positive result, then a call for both mother and son about their status as a close contact, both different calls.
Then, the calls were checking on everyone’s health and tracking their isolation, reminding Michlouski at each opportunity of the consequences for violating self-isolation.
“Self-isolation is punishable by law and comes with a $5,000 fine if found non-compliant and I started to feel rebellious walking in the backyard,” said Michlouski with a laugh.
She said Public Health will also suggest you keep small children behind closed doors and only allow them to exit rooms to use the bathroom, and that all members of the household should be masked during that time.
Then later, calls came in tracking symptoms, and a call would come for each person separately. “The phone was a bit excessive, but everybody was friendly and polite. They're all just doing their jobs.”
She also noted that it seemed the calls were a bit behind their actual status, the call letting Ellie know she was out of “COVID jail,” as Michlouski calls it, came at the end of the day, on the day after her isolation period was over.
This is another reason she said she was glad she had rapid tests, part of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce’s initiative that includes free rapid tests for small and medium businesses.
When she heard a close contact had tested positive, she performed a rapid test on herself and the two kids — a test she said was much easier on the kids — and learned almost immediately that she and Gavin were negative and Ellie was positive. She believes this should be available to parents as well.
“The rapid test should be available to everybody,” said Michlouski, who took the family for full testing the next day. “We knew right away so we didn’t need to worry about waiting for the tests, we could keep friends and family safe.”
She thanks her support system for helping her throughout, even those who understood when they too had to isolate. As well, there was guilt her children felt for the uproar their diagnosis caused, but no one made them feel that way, said Michlouski.
She also told Sudbury.com there were things she said to her children that she never thought she would say. “Ellie, did you just breathe on your brother?”
And though Gavin is still at home, the family is healthy and that is all that Michlouski said she could ask for. That, and for everyone to be safe, be kind, and “for the love of God, wash your hands.”