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Lake Geneva virus survivors share their ordeal — and a word of caution

Lake Geneva virus survivors share their ordeal — and a word of caution

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It was a Thursday morning when Karen Dover woke up with an unexpected cough.

The Lake Geneva woman did not know it at the time, but her experience with the coronavirus pandemic was just beginning.

Over the next few weeks, Dover’s would ride a roller-coaster of symptoms, recoveries and setbacks. And she would make the unsettling discovery that her teenage son was infected, too.

Dover and her family now are urging others in the Lake Geneva region to recognize that the coronavirus is a serious health threat that can strike anywhere — and can turn a household upside down.

“Respect the virus,” her husband, Ryan Dover, said. “And respect the fact that we don’t know how serious it is.”

For Karen Dover, being infected by the virus was a complete surprise.

The 53-year-old mother of three had no relevant pre-existing health condition. She works almost entirely from home in computer software sales. And she is diligent about wearing a face mask and taking other precautions in public.

She and her family members are not sure whether her teenage son infected her, or she infected him, or both of them contracted the virus somewhere else.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” she said.

The illness hit Karen Dover first, starting on the morning of June 18 when she woke up with a bad cough. The next day brought the chills, a temperature of 102, and finally the body aches.

The body aches hit mostly in her back and legs.

“I felt like I ran a marathon, but I didn’t,” she said.

Two days after her first symptoms, Dover was in a doctor’s office being tested for coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. When the results came back positive, her husband rounded up the kids and got the entire family tested.

The couple has three children, all living at home: Molly, 21, Hannah, 18 and Quinn, 16.

Only the youngest, Quinn, tested positive. A junior at Badger High School, the teen began experiencing the same sort of cough, as well as headaches.

Quinn recalls that the cough and headaches became severe, and the fatigue left him feeling more tired than he had ever felt before. He described the headaches as migraine-level.

Once he learned he had the COVID-19 virus, it was hard not to feel fearful about the unknown.

“I was definitely a little scared,” he said. “I was like, ‘Is anything going to happen to me? Am I going to be fine?’”

In the family’s home on High Street in Lake Geneva, Karen and Quinn both were isolated in their bedrooms and were kept quarantined from the rest of the family.

Ryan, the father, who manages a small manufacturing firm in Illinois, took time off work and got busy transforming the house into something resembling a hospital ward.

Everyone wore masks and kept their distance. Surfaces and countertops were disinfected regularly. Meals were delivered carefully to the two isolated patients. And Ryan pored over as much COVID-19 information as he could find.

In addition to caring for his loved ones, Ryan had other reasons to be careful. As someone living with diabetes and high blood pressure, he worried that he could be susceptible to complications, if he caught the virus himself.

Still, Ryan’s main concern was helping his wife and son recover. He tried not to think about the horror stories of people battling the virus who had landed in the hospital — and even worse.

“It was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “It was a little scary. You just power through it.”

After a few days in bed, Karen Dover was feeling better. So she did something she now realizes was a mistake: She ventured outside and started working in the garden.

Her symptoms returned fast and hard. Her body felt exhausted. She lost her sense of smell and taste. Back in bed, she remained quarantined for another 10 days, staying dedicated to the recovery, even as she struggled with being isolated from her family and with not knowing what would happen next.

“It got a little bit surreal after a while,” she said. “I think the unknowns were what was frustrating about it.”

Ultimately, neither Karen nor Quinn experienced the severe respiratory troubles often associated with the coronavirus. Both young and healthy, they were able to overcome the virus and recover at home.

When their 10-day quarantine was over and both went another three days without symptoms, their coronavirus experience was over.

But the after-effects of being part of a historic pandemic were not.

Quinn’s infection caused his workplace, Claw’s Hot Dogs in Lake Geneva, to close down temporarily. He soon was on the receiving end of some not-so-gentle ribbing and “shaming” from acquaintances.

Karen said she, too, has found that not only are other people reluctant to be around her — even after her illness has ended — some also react as though she must have done something wrong to become infected.

She hopes people will try being more understanding toward those touched by the pandemic.

“You just need to be tolerant,” she said. “You need to be empathetic.”

Her husband recognizes that the family was fortunate that neither Karen nor Quinn was impacted more severely by the virus.

Ryan wonders, however, whether his family’s infections could have ripple effects in the community. Although they did their best to contain the situation at home, it is possible that they inadvertently transmitted the virus to others.

Looking around the Lake Geneva region at how many people are going without face masks and other precautions, Ryan said, he hopes his family’s ordeal persuades others to work harder to control the virus.

“I think the lesson is, if you have just one symptom, don’t risk it,” he said. “Take it seriously.”

Added Quinn: “It is definitely something to worry about. It’s not just a small problem.”

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