PEORIA — After 12 days, Lily Arvin’s fever finally broke on Wednesday, and her mother thinks they might have turned the corner.
But that doesn’t mean an end to Nebulizer treatments every few hours, nor does it mean the 12-year-old girl, who has been to the emergency room three times and who likely was infected with respiratory syncytial virus and the coronavirus, is out of the woods.
“Yes, I think the lack of fever and her appetite returning is her turning the corner. We are still watching her closely for any signs of a change,” said her mother, Liz Arvin, a middle school teacher with Peoria Public Schools.
Lily, who suffers from asthma, is one of those who are particularly at risk during the COVID-19 crisis. But because neither she nor her family, who have all shown signs of the illness, have not been tested because of a scarcity of available tests, she had to gut out the RSV and whatever else was afflicting her.
“If we knew she didn’t have COVID, then we could have annihilated whatever was attacking her with steroids and she’d have turned the corner," her mother said.
But the lack of fever for a day gives the family hope that on April 1, they might be released from their more than two-week quarantine and be recovered.
“I will go to the grocery store like it’s Disney,” joked her mother.
It all started March 13, when Lily began to feel bad. She didn’t tell her parents because, after all, COVID-19 wasn’t in the public consciousness as much then, and the girl didn’t think she was sick. The next day, however, the family took her to the emergency room, the first of three visits.
She was sent home to take Tylenol and monitor her condition. On Monday, Liz and her son, Jake, began to feel bad. Both developed a cough, a fever that lasted for days, and had difficulty breathing. Jake, 15, would have temperatures around 102 for several days.
On Tuesday, they all went back to the hospital, where Jake, Liz and Lily underwent a respiratory array that checked for various things including the flu and RSV. Liz and Jake tested negative for everything, which is why they think they caught the coronavirus. Lily tested positive for RSV, but without a COVID-19 test, she couldn’t take a commonly prescribed steroid treatment.
Steroids, her mother said, can exacerbate symptoms brought on by coronavirus.
“We’ve spent $700 in medicine, and that’s with what I think is really great insurance,” she said. “I can’t imagine what our medical bills are going to be. If we had gotten the COVID tests from the get-go, we maybe could have gotten a $3 steroid and then been on the other side by now.”
Instead, the hospital prescribed self-quarantine. Liz Arvin isn’t so upset about that. She admits her family is more prepared for this than most, given Lily’s history.
“We can run this marathon, as we know the steps to do. I can put her breathing machine together and know what to do and get the angle just right in the middle of the night,” Liz said. “I guess that’s the silver living of what she went through before.”
And thus began the routine of waking up at night, every two hours, to give Lily her treatments. And all the while Jake and his mother were feeling the effects.
“I put it like this: My son and I feel like we were hit by a Mack truck. My daughter has been hit by a Mack truck over and over and over again,” Liz said.
And just recently, her husband began to show signs, a fever, and just malaise.
The family’s been in good spirits. They have a lot of quality time together on the couch watching movies. And Liz has no bad vibes for her family’s medical care.
“We self-quarantined as soon as she spiked a fever and were officially quarantined on March 17. There is nothing the hospital can do I can’t do at home,” she said. “The only thing they could do further is a CPAP machine to force air into her lungs or to do a (tracheotomy). We have kept her fully open, as we are so diligent about keeping her airway open.
“Our individual doctors are amazing men and have been there for us,” she said. Still, there’s a wish of knowing what would have happened all those days ago if a test was available.
“If she tested negative, be over this in a week and so much better off,” she said. “It’s hard to be sick day in and day out and just feel rotten yourself."
In her position as a possible person who recovered from COVID-19 or as a mother of a girl with asthma, Liz has a message for people.
“If you have asthma or if you know someone who has asthma or if you go into the store and run into someone, there is no treatment option. I had to watch my daughter be critically ill for 13 days. I can do this at home because I know what do, but there is nothing they can do for people other than give supplemental oxygen or do a tracheotomy. If you get it and it’s a complicated case, then you have to weather the storm,” she said.
She urged people to stay home, order groceries in if possible and don’t risk interacting with those people who have immune deficiencies. There is no treatment. There is nothing they can do for you, she said.
“We have three nebulizer treatments and inhalers, but it didn’t help her go through this any faster. It was still 12 days of pretty serious illness,” she said.