On May 5, 2020, Naomi Ulici Watts was one of the first people to get a COVID-19 antibody test. She knew the antibody test results would be positive (they were).
Back in February, however, when she thought she just had a bad case of the flu, Naomi couldn’t have begun to imagine the havoc that the new coronavirus would soon wreak on her life — and the resilience she would develop because of it.
A bad case of the flu
It was the second week of February when Naomi, who recently returned from a trip visiting family in California, got what she describes as the worst flu of her life.
Her fever lasted nearly a week. She couldn’t keep any food down and became starved and dehydrated — even drinking water made her feel nauseated.
“I’m the person that when I’m sick I’m still cleaning the house and cooking. I knew it was bad because I didn’t have energy to do anything except lie around,” she says.
Once her fever broke, the chest heaviness, cough and exhaustion set in. Though she felt somewhat better, she wasn’t fully recovered. She wanted to slowly return to normal life, like work — but was also somewhat reluctant.
“I never usually go to work sick, but this time I did,” she says.
She works at two separate locations. One is a private office — she kept the door shut while she was there. But her other workspace is a cubicle in a shared area.
“I went against my instincts by going in. I’m lucky other people didn’t get sick,” she says.
Then on February 28, Naomi finally starting to feel better and, with her fever long gone, she visited her visited her 70-year-old father, Paul.
Her father’s life, in danger
Twelve days after her visit, her dad started feeling sick and feverish.
It was already a stressful time for the family. Naomi’s sister, who their father lives with, was suddenly out of work when her employer’s hair salon closed due to the statewide stay-at-home order. Worse, the beginning of March marked a year since Naomi’s mother had passed away.
Her father went to the doctor to get a COVID-19 test. In the early stages of the pandemic, testing took much longer than it does now, so he was told he would get a call with results in four or five days.
Before that could happen, however, Naomi’s sister found him collapsed one night on the floor.
“My sister took him to ER and he took the COVID-19 test and got results 4 hours later; it was positive. They deemed him able to recover at home, so he went home for a few days and then got way worse,” she says.
After a second ER trip, he was admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 pneumonia.