How one family made it through the pandemic and came out the other side

How one family made it through the pandemic and came out the other side

How one family made it through the pandemic and came out the other side
Unlike many families, the Spear-Ucciferri clan was able to spend the 2020 holidays together – but only because they all had survived COVID-19. From left, Charlie Ucciferri, his fiancé Mary Kennedy, Bryce Brown, Frannie Ucciferri, Tony Ucciferri, Peggy Spear and the unwitting super-spreader, Mick Ucciferri.

CONCORD, CA—I don’t think my son intentionally tried to kill us.

But then again, neither have thousands of other people whose families weren’t so lucky.

It started as a trip to Seattle in September he had planned with friends, in lieu of the college graduation he was cheated out of in June because of the coronavirus. He also wanted to check out the job market.

He’s a smart kid and promised not to take any unnecessary chances with his health. And he didn’t, but unfortunately one of his traveling companions was exposed to COVID-19. She began exhibiting symptoms masked as a simple cold. But it wasn’t.

The night my son returned home, there was a lot of kissing and hugging – especially because my 93-year-old mother was visiting. We all gathered together and talked about his trip, not knowing we were at our family’s own little super-spreader event.

Early testing proved ­incorrect

His symptoms started the next day: a sore throat, fever, chills and body aches. It was a Sunday, and by Monday, he had been diagnosed with COVID-19. His father, grandmother and I were all tested, just to be safe. We were all negative, so my son was banished to his bedroom to self-isolate.

But the relief was short-lived. By Wednesday morning, I woke up with a sore throat, bum stomach, fever and extreme fatigue. My husband suddenly developed a bad cold. And my mom, who also suffered from COPD, began complaining of a fever and sinus infection.
We went back to the county testing service, and within a day we had the news that by then was expected: We all had COVID-19.

A variety of exposures

We called in reinforcement from my daughter, who had gotten the virus in early summer. She was lucky, as her case was mild enough that she didn’t even miss work from her remote office in Petaluma. Her boyfriend, a member of the National Guard, thinks he was exposed while called to Sacramento during the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests. He tested positive but was asymptomatic.

Later in the summer, my middle son and his fiancé contracted the disease despite what he called “armor-like” protections. He suffered bad flu-like symptoms for 10 days but had recovered nicely by the time we got sick.

Wide range of symptoms

How one family made it through the pandemic and came out the other side
Pat Spear, left, survived COVID-19, despite being 93 and suffering from COPD.

What was so interesting to me was how the disease affected us differently. My husband, who never gets sick, only had to deal with symptoms as severe as a bad cold. Like my sons, I suffered five days of a bad flu, then another five days of slowly feeling better.

Unfortunately, I was also worried sicker because of fear for my mom. Her illness settled in her sinuses, but she seemed to bounce back quicker than all of us.

I think between the four of us, we went through 30 boxes of tissue.

By day 10 after the symptoms began – the magic day the county deemed us well – we were all OK but a little worse for wear. I suffered post-COVID fatigue for a month afterward, when walking to the refrigerator or opening my computer seemed Herculean.

My mom had fatigue too and wondered for almost two months why she was so tired. The explanation, “You’re 93, you have COPD and you just had COVID” didn’t seem to penetrate her mind. “I just feel so lazy,” she said.

The surge continues

We were lucky. Unbelievably lucky. Too many families have had much more devastating experiences.

Here in Contra Costa County, COVID-19 cases have surged due to a variety of gatherings. As of this writing, we know that there have been 44,274 cases recorded since the virus hit and the county began recording cases, with 355 deaths.

The holiday surges have been the scariest. According to the Los Angeles Times, there were 438 positive cases reported Jan. 6 in Contra Costa County, with seven deaths. On Jan. 5, there were 591 confirmed positive cases and one death.

In a macabre way, it was a blessing my family had COVID-19. Since we all survived the virus, we had antibodies built up. We could actually enjoy the holidays together, but not without guilt. There were too many families who couldn’t. And our togetherness was by virtue of sheer luck.

For more information on  COVID-19 in Contra Costa County, click here.

Peggy Spear is a freelance writer and occasional correspondent for the Pioneer. She lives in Concord with her family and two dogs.