“Two weeks ago I was happily going about my daily life in Paris,” Michaela Stock said of her lifestyle studying abroad. “Now I’m in an Airbnb in Lansing, Michigan.”
Stock, 22, from East Lansing, is a student at the Paris School of Business through an international education program facilitated by Hope College. Stock, who became symptomatic March 15, was tested that same day and received positive test results for COVID-19 on March 20.
Because France was slower to respond to the threat of the virus, Stock notes that she was unsure how to react since she was living in Paris and Italy shares a large border with France.
“I have kind of been living in this weird ‘how scared should I be?’ mindset about a month before my friends in the U.S. started talking about it,” Stock said of the distress Europe faced weeks before the states did with regard to the spread of the coronavirus.
France merely issued a Level 2 advisory for travel to “exercise increased caution” but did not discourage it. Considering that her school in Paris was not issuing additional guidelines, and she received no instruction from her “home university,” Stock decided to continue traveling.
“I hopped on a plane to Copenhagen a couple weeks ago,” Stock said of her spring break plans.
While staying in a hostel her first night in Denmark, Stock awoke at 3 a.m. to a frantic person outside her door.
“She was yelling and she was really upset about something,” Stock said. Although the girl was speaking in English and with an American accent, Stock couldn’t quite understand all that was said, just that she was talking about “Trump and the coronavirus or something.”
Minutes later, Stock’s sleep was disturbed again. This time from a phone call by her mother who lives in East Lansing. She was informing her the President Donald Trump was going to be closing the borders to Europeans. Although Stock is American and would be permitted to enter the states, there would be significant screening for her to do so after Friday, March 13 at midnight.
“I spent the rest of the night calling people in France and my parents in the U.S. trying to get a flight home,” Stock said. Before she could return to the states, however, she needed to return to Paris and pack up her apartment.
Within a day and a half, she traveled from her hostel in Copenhagen to her flat in Paris to a layover in Dulbin, to Toronto where her dad picked her up and drove her back to East Lansing. She was unable to purchase a direct flight to the U.S. as they were sold out at this time. “Cultural whiplash” is how she described it.
Stock rented an Airbnb to self-isolate. Shortly after returning to the states she became symptomatic. While recognizing that she was quite jet-lagged from her travels, Stock said it was “hard to be a human being in any capacity.”
“It felt a lot like a pretty bad flu at first,” Stock said of her beginning symptoms. “The chills and aches were the hallmark quality of the flu that I was experiencing.” Additionally, she said she had a fever that peaked at 101 degrees, she was weak and exhausted, and had a bad headache.
Typically with COVID-19, patients experience a progression phase where the symptoms tend to increase. However, since this was not the case with Stock, doctors believed she didn’t have the virus.
“I felt completely, 100 percent healthy until it all hit on the 15th,” Stock said. After speaking with a doctor via video chat, “She said, ‘Well because you didn’t have any lead-up symptoms I just think you have the flu.’”
Although Michigan did not have many cases reported at this time, Stock was able to be tested the day she became symptomatic considering her travel history. For her, the testing process was effortless.
“I got tested from a drive up appointment so I didn’t have any contact with anyone which was really great,” Stock said of her testing experience that took only 10 minutes.
The waiting period is what proved to be challenging.
“I was pretty much better by the time I got the results,” Stock said, “which is a dangerous place to be in because I was having some breathing problems and we weren’t sure if it was related to coronavirus because I wasn’t confirmed (at the time).”
Stock fears that if her breathing problems had progressed, she may not have been able to be treated by the hospital because she was “young, healthy and not confirmed.”
“It wasn’t until the coronavirus was confirmed that I really started getting a lot of attention from the health department in Ingham County,” Stock said. “I have a case worker who calls me everyday because I’m completely alone and symptoms can escalate very quickly.”
Other than a lingering cough, March 24 was the first day of no recorded symptoms for Stock and she felt like her “breathing was back to normal.”
During this period, Stock focused on maintaining her health as best she could. Breathing exercises and yoga was what she focused on while taking hot showers and drinking hot tea as that helped to suppress pressure on her lungs. She also took vitamin c, zinc, and drank a lot of water.
Cognizant that people of all life stages and socio-economic statuses are at risk, Stock said that social distancing measures are to help all citizens.
“It’s not just to protect the elderly or the immuno-compromised. It’s to protect your friend at school who you didn’t know had asthma,” Stock said… “Maybe it’s (to protect) your friend who doesn’t have health insurance.”
Stock notes that the “immense power” young people have to stop the spread of the virus cannot be underscored enough.
“If you stay home now for a couple weeks, you’ll be able to get back to life sooner,” Stock reminds people. “If you go out and you meet one of your friends at their house, that’s not social distancing. If you do one tiny thing that could somehow disrupt the flow of isolation, you are prolonging this for every single person that needs to go back to work and school just as much as you do.”
In a plea with people violating the governor’s orders to stay home, Stock said, “If you’ve ever wanted to change the world, start by staying home and start by staying home now.”