Eleven days after being released from Peconic Bay Medical Center, Kathleen Hauser of Mattituck was sitting upstairs in her ‘quarantine room’ with an oxygen treatment when she heard a barrage of sirens.
“I thought ‘Oh my God,’ Someone else on my block is getting taken away,” Ms. Hauser said, bundled up on her front porch Friday evening.
Instead, a parade of more than two dozen family, friends and first responders lined their quiet block, blaring horns, blowing kisses and cheering her on in her battle against COVID-19.
Ms. Hauser, 54, who works as an X-ray technician at Stony Brook Eastern Long Island Hospital, first began feeling ill with a fever March 22.
By March 27, her condition worsened, but she could not be admitted to the Greenport hospital. “They told me I wasn’t sick enough to be admitted. But I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “The next day, my husband said ‘I can’t watch you die in front of me,’ and called rescue.”
For the next nine days, Ms. Hauser remained in a hospital bed at Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. “I don’t remember the first five days in the hospital,” she said. “I was so sick.”
Her husband, Jeff, and their three children, were left worrying from a distance due to a no-visitor policy enacted by hospitals to limit exposure to the coronavirus.
“It knocked her off of her feet,” Mr. Hauser said, adding that phone calls with hospital staff served as a lifeline to knowing his wife’s condition. She was kept on a mix of antibiotics, potassium, iron and oxygen — but thankful she never reached the next step of requiring a ventilator.
She was released Monday, April 6, and is currently in the middle of a 14-day quarantine period.
“She’s still sick, but on the mend,” Mr. Hauser said. “This is just overwhelming. It’s probably one of the best things for her,” he said, growing emotional as he waved to passersby.
She may have been wearing a surgical mask, but there’s no doubt Ms. Hauser was smiling underneath as the caravan passed by their Gabriella Court home.
Mattituck Fire Department chief Ted Webb led the line of cars. “We transported her [to the hospital] a couple of weeks ago, so I thought it would be a good thing to try and boost her morale,” he said. “These are our front line workers in the hospital, so it’s the least we can do.”
The impromptu celebration caught Ms. Hauser and her family by surprise. “This is so, so beautiful,” she said.
Looking back on the terrifying experience, Ms. Hauser said she’s thankful for the staff at PBMC. “Northwell had such a great, methodical system when it comes to putting on the PPEs, down to the guy that cleaned the floor in the morning in my room,” she said. “I know no one was prepared, but this is how it’s done.”
She emphasized with nurses she’d see in the hospital crying after having to ventilate young patients, in their late 20s and 30s. “This is not just for older people as we thought in the beginning,” she said.
She’s eagerly awaiting the end of quarantine and for a small, lingering cough to subside. Once she’s asymptomatic for 72 hours, she’ll be able to ease back into her normal life and could be a candidate to donate convalescent plasma for COVID-19.
“I can’t wait,” she said. “I want to give my plasma and try to help others.”