In a time when fear is running rampant, hope and inspiration are more important than ever. While many feel paralyzed by the thought of enduring COVID-19, that is a reality many people are facing. Some of the first Nashvillians to test positive for the coronavirus, Tait Flint — along with her husband and three daughters — are counting their blessings, knowing the scary struggle so many are facing. The Flint family is eager to spread a message of hope rather than panic and, without minimizing the seriousness of this time, gracefully show how love, humor and positivity can help us push through the challenges ahead.
First of all, how are you and your family doing?
We’ve been symptom-free, as a family, since last Monday, so we’ve been enjoying all that means. We live across the street from a park, and we haven’t been able to go, which is torture for the kids. The youngest, especially! But we can’t complain too much. We have played a ton in our backyard — more than we’ve ever played in our backyard.
Can you talk about how you first discovered COVID-19 was in your household?
My husband Hunter and I were at a fundraiser where we didn’t know anyone. We went in and thought, “Let’s just stay for a little bit.” So, we talked to a couple of people and mingled and left early. The thing is, it was sort of like an infectious disease study in and of itself. Everyone was in a small space where hors d’oeuvres were being passed around on a plate. Basically, it was like a mini-cruise — we were all sharing the same food in a tight space, using the same utensils, and that’s pretty much the ingredient for a lot of COVID cases.
We heard about someone else who had it who was at the same event, who tested positive after, so that meant we needed to be aware. Then we found out one of the three people we talked to at the event had it. So, when my husband spiked a fever, we got curious. He was tested, and we found out a few days later, then we quarantined for 14 days.
What did you do next, and how did you manage with your young daughters?
Once you test positive, the public health department starts calling you daily and guiding you in the process of how to quarantine — what you can and can’t do. If you want to separate yourself from your kids, you can. My husband could’ve chosen to quarantine himself in our backroom for seven days, and he would’ve been done with the quarantine. But we decided it was a lot more sustainable to be together as a family and go for the 14 days.
We were cognizant of our language in front of the kids because we didn’t want to scare them unnecessarily, and we got some great guidance on how to talk about it. We tried to stay upbeat with the kids and text a lot of family to garner support.
When we decided we were going to dive in as a family, it was such a relief. That’s when my husband and I started watching a lot of “Schitt’s Creek” at night after the kids went to bed and just laughing as much as we could. We started doing a lot of dance parties with the kids and having as much silliness as possible going on in the house because there’s a real heaviness to the season. So, we tried to stay positive and stay in touch with family and reach out.
Did your children show signs or symptoms?
They complained of stomachaches, but it’s hard to know. I showed symptoms after Hunter and decided not to get tested because I didn’t want to take one of the limited quantities of tests available at that time. Our representative from TN Public Health Department affirmed that decision since we could all assume exposure as we lived, breathed and ate alongside Hunter from his positive test result on out. As you may remember, in early March there weren’t test kits for kids; they didn’t exist. Tummy aches were our two older girls’ experience — nothing manifested for our youngest, but I’m not sure that’s trending for everyone.
How long between when you were at the event, and the time your husband developed symptoms?
Five days. It was fever first — low grade, like 101.5. It just kind of hung out for about two days. On the second day, he went to get tested because we thought it was weird. The results came within 36 hours. Once public health contacted us, we started contacting friends we’d seen two days prior to him fevering. They say T-minus two, T-plus 14 — you can be infectious from two days before showing symptoms. We had to text anyone he’d spoken to from less than six feet away, for more than 10 minutes. The public health department wanted their name and phone number, and my husband was asked to follow up with them. Then they followed up to make sure they didn’t show symptoms so that we can control this thing. That was hard — to start texting people to say, “I’m so sorry … ” but we had to remember the same thing happened to us. We showed up at a fundraiser — we didn’t plan to pick this thing up, it just happened. We can’t blame each other. Luckily, no one we were in contact with got it, so we’re really thankful for that.
Hunter fevered for two days and then started having an upper backache. When he was finishing the backache, I started feeling it in my lower back, and I had a headache — kind of lingering aches, all manageable by pain reliever. Hunter was quarantining in our back room at the time, so I was cooking for all five of us, trying to keep the house running and trying to do activities with the girls. It was still doable with the achiness, but after two days of that, I was like, “I’m done. We’re going to do this together; it just doesn’t make sense.” Then I lost taste and smell on day two. The achiness stopped, but I lost my taste and smell for six days.
So you and your husband experienced different symptoms?
Yes, I had a milder case. It’s so interesting — what we’re learning in this chat room we’re on, with other people who were infected, is it’s different for everyone. Most of the cases have been very mild, but there were a couple of men who went to the ER with respiratory issues. In our group of people we’ve been talking to, it seems to be the men who are being hit harder, and they’re healthy men. And then it’s the women — not always, but mostly — who are losing taste and smell.
They’re starting to look into our blood types. Is there something in the antibodies in our blood that makes us more immune? We’re actually going to be part of a Vanderbilt study — they’re going to take our blood and see what it is about my blood that made the symptoms less difficult for me.
As we were consulted by public health, it felt like the guidance kept changing because the virus is changing. They’re learning more about it every day and simultaneously trying to guide the people who have it. We felt so much compassion and empathy for these public health people who are holed up in some building downtown, working their asses off, calling all these people and collecting data. Every day, we had to submit our temperatures — ours plus the kids — to make sure we weren’t going into that problematic zone of high-grade fever. They’re doing the best they can to support folks who are positive and keep this thing contained.
Thankfully, someone took the initiative to start a Marco Polo (a messaging app) group, which gave us more information. Imagine all of these people trying to figure things out — all of us being guided by different people within public health, and all of us with varied symptoms. It was like an information crowdsource. So, we were watching and learning from each other. We literally figured out the loss of taste and smell was a symptom when we were on Marco Polo. Someone Googled it and found a doctor in Italy who’d written about it, and that was before The New York Times posted about it. We’re all learning and having to be patient with each other.
What have you been doing to ease anxieties for your children?
Moving our bodies. Cosmic yoga, dance parties, Go Noodle, playing in our backyard, jumping on our trampoline … We all felt better on days when we were outside. The rainy days were tough, so we had a movie and dinner night every night, and we rotated who got to choose. We’re actually still doing it.
I think prayer, too, because there’s a level of anxiety, especially in our oldest daughter. Showing that we are turning to prayer and that we trust in a greater power through all of this — I think modeling that is really important. And modeling body movement, too.
How are you holding up?
I’m doing well. Thank you for asking. It’s hard, and it has been really revealing in terms of where we put our hope and our comforts. I’m really looking forward to getting out more — walking more. We realized how social we are, how much we crave being with other people. Quarantining has brought us together, but it has also made us realize how much we long for that community and interaction.
What are you doing to remain positive in the face of this challenge?
Waking up before the kids wake up so I can wake up for them rather than to them. I feel like I tried to do that in normal, pre-coronavirus life, but now that’s essential. And I’ve just been trying to let go. I feel like so many of our reactions — mine included — have been to try to control. And I have to do something in the morning to let go of control intentionally. I go into the day with some sort of me-time, whether it be yoga or reading. That has been critical. And then I’m making little dates with friends, now that I can, to take walks. We wear headphones and talk, walking in the same neighborhood, but we’re not actually together. Super weird, but I’ll take it!
What is the best piece of advice you’ve been given to help you through?
If I had to choose one, it’s to keep our bodies moving. There’s something about a quarantine that feels very paralyzing and cabin feverish. It sounds so simple, but coming up with creative ways to keep moving, and move together, has been key. Similarly, if I could make them tie in, funny ways to laugh together as a family. It’s totally the little things — it usually is with little people, but especially so now.
What advice would you give others who are in your shoes?
Reach out for support to whatever community you find yourself in. We could not have done this with the lightness that we felt like we were tapping into without friends, family and the Marco Polo group that was formed, because there’s a certain level of taboo about having the virus, which is why I posted about it. I think the more we link up with people who are being positive, the more we feel less alone and less afraid. I hope more people will come forward and share their experiences, and we really hope we can use our experience to help other people. I’ve already had four or five people text me from all over the states saying, “I’m feeling this, “or “My son has a fever, and I haven’t told anyone.” You know, there’s so much fear — people need to know they’re not alone.
We just had to get to a point where we accepted it and made the best of it. The support made it a lot easier to accept. That’s key, too, to have people who are not only in your support network but also that you can be 100 percent real with.
I think there’s enough fear to go around — we’ve got enough of that going on right now. I think the more we can do to spread hope and have a level of coming together in this, as a city and as a community, the better. We already feel alone and self-isolated, so what can we do to feel less alone during this time? Whether we have the virus or don’t, we have to pursue community in more creative ways; we are made for that as human beings. I believe we can do it.
Is there anything you want people to know about having COVID-19 they might not otherwise know from watching the news?
Some people may not know there will be very varied symptoms, even within your household. I think it’s also important to mention the loss of taste and smell because so many people would probably go about their lives and go to work and the grocery store and infect others. So, I hope that’s out there. What I would say to people who get it is it’s OK to be scared. I get it. I was there, too. There’s a great relief that comes from getting through it and being on the other side — I can say that now that we’re on the other side. Like I said, we really hope our experience can be used to help other people.
Thank you, Tait, for sharing your experience, and we’re glad you’re on the mend.
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