BURRILLVILLE – As state officials begin to loosen restrictions aimed at curving the spread of Covid-19, and some locals argue for even more leniency, a member of one Burrillville family that caught five cases of the virus – including two hospitalizations and a fatality – is speaking out.
Jennifer Prosser says she was the first of her brood to test positive for the the virus that has shaped how the world interacts since its discovery in late December.
“I had the worst ‘flu’ I’ve ever had in my life,” the 45-year-old, who tested positive in late April, said of the experience.
Soon, Prosser’s twin sister began to show the flu-like symptoms, along with severe breathing problems – an issue that months later, she continues to treat with an inhaler.
Next was her 14-year-old son, who had tightness of the chest, difficulty breathing and a headache.
Then Prosser’s husband became ill with the virus, and ended up on a ventilator for three weeks.
“They didn’t understand why he was so bad because he has no medical conditions,” Prosser said.
Once her husband, a previously healthy 48-year-old, was finally released from the ICU, he was sent to another floor of the hospital for a week. He was then scheduled to go to a rehabilitation hospital but was told he would have to travel to Newport, as it was the only place taking Covid-positive patients.
“They didn’t have a bed so he came home and has PT, OT, speech therapy, and nurses come to the house to help,” she said. “He had to use a wheelchair, walker, shower chair. I had to shower him, and he shakes when he tries to do anything. He has a long road ahead.”
Next, the virus attacked Prosser’s father, an 82-year-old who, at the time, was still working four days a week more than an hour from home at Bristol Toyota. She notes her father also served as the maintenance man at Echo Lake Campground, and held a side job helping out at a local auto body shop.
“He was a very active man,” she said.
After two weeks on a ventilator, her father was sent to another unit at the hospital. There, he suffered a heart attack.
“They got him back with CPR, and then he went back to ICU, and back on the ventilator,” she said.
Two weeks later, he was again taken off the ventilator, but he had a stroke.
Prosser took her father home on hospice care and he died three days later.
The Burrillville woman, who works as a nail tech, says she is unsure how the virus first got into her home. Prosser has been out of work since March 23, and notes that other than a few trips to Walmart and Family Dollar, the family has stayed home.
While her husband and sister are now testing negative for the virus, Prosser is still testing positive, and she’s speaking out because she says she doesn’t want other families to go through a similar fate.
And she has a message for those who question the restrictions put in place in Rhode Island and beyond to keep people safe.
“This is real,” Prosser said, noting that she believes wearing a mask is a critical way to protect others, including medical workers on the front line of the pandemic.
“Protect yourself and protect those around you,” she said. “Don’t be ignorant.”