Lorraine Caggiano and family members from New York traveled to Connecticut for a wedding early in March, before calls for social distancing. When they came back, Caggiano's mother came down with a fever, and then her father got sick, and Caggiano herself, as well as her husband and her daughter, and Caggiano's aunt.
"I lost my dad and my aunt within two and a half days of each other," Caggiano said.
Caggiano felt an abstract loss, as if this was a reality that hadn't sunk in yet. But her mother, who lost her husband and her sister so quickly, was angry.
"She sends me a text: 'I want to sue China,'" Caggiano said. She thought, "Oh, Mom, I have no head for this right now." The very next day she saw a news article that people are indeed suing China.
"And I said, you know what, I want to add my name to that. I want to add our names to that, I want to feel like I'm doing something,that I'm not just taking this whole thing lying down, because I do feel like they were not very forthcoming," Caggiano said. She signed on, and added her husband's name and her mother's name.
Two WeeksAfter returning from the March 7 wedding, Caggiano's mother woke up on March 12 feeling wretched and beaten. Caggiano, who works from home and had been following news of the virus, asked about the common symptoms of the CCP virus and whether her mom had difficulty breathing. Her mother had no respiratory issues and so didn't think it could be the virus. Two days later she felt so awful she had to go to urgent care where she tested negative for strep throat and the common flu. She was tested for COVID-19 and told to self-isolate for a week.
"At that point, that was March 14, my husband took her home and took my father here to stay with us," Caggiano said. "My father was 83 years old, and he thought let's get him out of there in case she is sick."
Four days later, Caggiano's mother continued to convalesce, feeling extreme fatigue with a high fever but still no respiratory issues. But her father woke up feeling confused and awful.
"At some point he couldn't even put one foot in front of the other to walk into the shower, and he was breathing heavily, so we said, okay something is wrong here," Caggiano said.
Her husband took her father to the emergency room, and Caggiano remembers thinking her father was just dehydrated. She had even parked her car a certain way so that her husband's car could park close to their door so he and her father would only have a short walk into the apartment when they got home. She didn't realize that would be the last time she would see her father again.
Then she got a call from her cousin telling Caggiano her aunt couldn't breath, and her other cousin's father in law collapsed. They were both in the hospital with pneumonia. About a day later, three positive tests for COVID-19 come back. Then her mother's test comes back positive for COVID-19.
"My aunt then was getting just progressively worse, but she had underlying issues. My father never had any underlying issues, which is why I was very hopeful and I thought for sure he would make it," Caggiano said.
Her aunt passed away late on March 25 and her father died at 2 a.m. on March 28.
"To be very honest, the whole thing is so intangible to me," she said.
"And you know, the first thing I wanted to do as well, when my father died, what first came to my head: 'I want to call Aunt Chickie,'" she said. "And I couldn't go call Aunt Chickie. And my mother said the same thing, 'I wanted to call my sister—I can't call my sister.'"
"It's still unbelievable right now," she said. "You don't get the closure, there's no closure."
"I never saw my father in the hospital because we weren't allowed to go, obviously. I didn't see him in a casket because we couldn't have a wake. We couldn't have anything," Caggiano said. "You could only have immediate family and only 10 people. Well, my uncle who lives in the Bronx here, I would never want him coming near us, for fear of having anyone else infected. So the only logical thing to do was cremate, and we'll do a mass sometime down the road when people can gather again, and from what I'm seeing it's not going to be anytime soon."
Caggiano was sick with a fever herself for 12 days, her husband had fatigue and fever as well, and her daughter had a fever for a day but has otherwise been fine.
"It's very scary and crazy," she said.
"I'm not sitting in reality right now, I didn't get that slap to the face of reality, seeing my father in the hospital laying there with tubes coming out of his mouth. I didn't get to go to a funeral home and see him lying in a casket. So to me right now, the whole thing is very abstract," she said. "You know, I feel like had I known that my father was leaving my house that night to go to the hospital, had I known that I was never going to see him again, I would have held him a lot longer and kissed him a lot longer."