Virus hits home for veteran teachers

WARREN, Mich. – “I’m just glad it’s over.” 

That’s what Dr. Laura Rigby, a science teacher at De La Salle Collegiate, had to say about recovering from COVID-19. 

Now, back leading her science classes through distance learning after a nearly three-week battle with coronavirus, Rigby believes she contracted the virus from her husband who may have had a form of the virus in early March. 

“He came home and had a bit of a cough,” she said. “He didn’t really feel terrible, and never got really sick. But he did lose his sense of smell and taste and was super tired. He slept for two days.” 

While her husband got better, she spiked a fever, which is a common symptom of the global virus.

“I had a 102 fever on March 27,” Rigby said. “Everything ached. I was too weak to do anything. I was short of breath if I got out of bed.” 

Rigby was tested and told results would take a week. 

“I knew I had it,” she said. “I lost my sense of taste and smell. I was sleeping so much. My husband said I was sleeping 20 hours a day.” 

Rigby used a pulse oximeter to measure her oxygen levels. 

“I had to stay really still so I wouldn’t have to go on oxygen,” she said. “Any movement affected my oxygen levels. … I had four or five rounds of thinking I was better, and then it would come back. I was the sickest I have ever been.” 

Finally, the day after Easter, Rigby felt good enough to get out of bed. She tried to work but was still exhausted. 

“I was so happy when I got the chance to come downstairs,” she said. 
Colleagues Jackie and Tom VanThomme, both science teachers, handled Rigby’s online classes: biology, honors biology, and anatomy and physiology. 

“When we first went to distance learning, we all worked in the science department to get all our assignments on Google Classroom right away,” Rigby said. “Everything was ready to go. I am so thankful that Jackie and Tom handled questions with all of my students so that there wasn’t any class time lost.” 

Rigby is back at the computer now, meeting with her students in their virtual classroom. 

“I feel good now, and hopefully it’s gone for good,” she said. “As soon as antibody testing is up and running, I want to get tested. It’s pretty scary. I could get sicker later. I am so glad I am better. A lot didn’t get better.” 

De La Salle English teacher Annmarie Michol experienced coronavirus in her home as well. Her husband Joe was diagnosed with double pneumonia, hospitalized for 24 hours, and then sent home with oxygen, and stayed isolated in the family basement. 
A few days after returning home, Michol called EMS when Joe had difficulty breathing. 

“I had so much anxiety,” Michol said. “He was extremely sick. He didn’t have the strength to feed himself. His oxygen levels were low, and all of a sudden he had a 103 (temperature).”

Michol followed the ambulance to Beaumont Hospital in Troy, but couldn’t go in.

“Dropping him off was the worst feeling in my life,” she said. “I didn’t know when I would hear from him.”

Joe was released a few days later and returned home to Michol and two daughters. A third daughter lives out of state.

“It was very difficult for them to see their dad sick for so long,” she said. “Joe had to limit his steps. We used an office chair to roll him to the bathroom once he got up the stairs. This was a very emotional time.”

Michol was putting in long days. She was meeting with classes during the day and lesson planning and checking papers at night, while constantly heading to the basement to check on Joe’s oxygen levels and temperature. 

“I was doing what was necessary to keep my students going,” said Michol, who teaches freshman and sophomore English classes, as well as a few International Baccalaureate classes. “This is all new to them. I didn’t want them to suffer because of the personal things I was dealing with.” 

Joe is off of oxygen. A nurse checks in on him once a week, and Michol and her daughters regularly check their temperatures. 

“We’re quarantining ourselves,” she said. “We don’t want to harm anyone else.”

Michol plans to hire a company to sanitize the house.

“The main thing is for people to be safe, and to be smart,” she said. “We’ve never fought anything like this.” 

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