How one Newfoundland family coped when COVID-19 spread through their house

John Bennett and his family take a picture before quarantining. (Submitted by the Bennett family)

It’s a nightmare scenario for many families in Newfoundland contending with the latest rise in COVID-19 numbers: Parents testing positive and having to divide their home for self-isolation, all while taking care of young children.

For one St. John’s family that’s already a reality.

John Bennett’s 10-year-old son, John, has cystic fibrosis, a chronic lung disease. Last week, Bennett, his wife Gillian, and their other son Noah, 6, all tested positive for COVID-19.

Bennett initially booked a swab after visiting Bigs Ultimate Sports Grill in Mount Pearl, around the time the B117 variant started its spread through the metro region. While his first test came back negative, Bennett said he and his wife developed symptoms a few days later.  

“She just wasn’t feeling all that well — a little bit under the weather,” said Bennett. A day after her test, she got the result: positive.

Bennett said the news came as a shock to his family, and soon after, he and his two sons got tested as well. Bennett’s returned positive that time, though both of his sons’ results came back negative. Noah was tested again on Monday, and the result came back positive.

The Bennetts have two boys, John and Noah. John, the oldest, has cystic fibrosis. (Submitted by the Bennett family)

Right away, the family tried to divide the house, with Bennett’s sons, wife, and himself each taking separate parts of the home. But having young kids, especially one with a lung condition like cystic fibrosis, made staying apart a challenge.

“It feels like a bit of a yo-yo effect. At one moment you’re feeling OK, the next minute emotions are kind of all over the place,” said Bennett.

“You’re trying to take care of yourself, you’re also trying to take care of your kids, your wife, and then trying to figure out some logistics of all living in the house together.”

Cystic fibrosis heightening anxiety

Bennett’s foremost worry at the moment is John falling ill, too.

Since the pandemic began last year, Bennett said, they’ve learned a little more about how the virus affects those living with cystic fibrosis.

“I’m certainly not minimizing it whatsoever, but from what we’ve seen over the last year, it doesn’t necessarily have a bigger impact,” Bennett said.

While there’s no evidence to show conditions like cystic fibrosis make individuals more susceptible to contracting COVID-19, people with the condition may be susceptible to more serious symptoms.

Meals delivered by friends and family have been a big help, says Bennett. (Submitted by the Bennett family)

Bennett described his son as healthy and active, a kid who diligently follows a cystic fibrosis treatment regimen. The uncertainty of the virus, however, is still a cause of concern.

“It’s been worrying. We don’t want him to have it,” Bennett said. “But if he does have it, and sometimes I guess you just have to mentally prepare yourself for those things, we’ll deal with it the best we can.”

John was tested again this week and his results came back negative: welcome news for Bennett and his family. For the time being, Bennett said John is in isolation with plenty of games to keep him entertained.

“He’s been in kind of his own isolation mode; he’s got his Xbox, and he’s got some friends online that just kept him company and whatnot.”

A father’s advice? Get tested

While they never expected the pandemic to hit so close to home, Bennett said, they shared their story over social media in order to keep friends and family informed, and encourage others to get tested.

“I tested negative and had some symptoms probably three or four days after. Hindsight is 20/20. I should have probably gotten retested,” said Bennett.

His overall message is no matter how mild your symptoms may be, he hopes others take them seriously.

Bennett, whose family has been vocal about John’s condition in the past, said they’ve received overwhelming support.

“All of the support from family and friends to be quite honest with you has helped us get through this,” he said.

“Messages of support, food being dropped off, snacks being dropped off. Just the outreach has kind of left us sometimes a little bit speechless.”

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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