In this April 4, 2020 photo, Angela Konczak holds her newborn daughter Brooklyn at their home in Washington, Ill., where they are quarantined as a precaution following Brooklyn's birth. (David Zalaznik/Journal Star via AP)

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) — It was supposed to be a joyful but cautious welcome home for Reed Fry in mid-March.

The 11-year-old spent almost a year at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis after finding out he had medulloblastoma, a type of cancerous brain tumor in children. But instead, he’s under a form of lockdown that was expected but severe but not this severe.

“Obviously, I’m sanitizing daily, and we haven’t left the house since we came home last Friday,” said his mother, Courtney Fry almost two weeks ago. “Our local grocery store, bless their heart, they are giving us their phone number and we can go in after hours, before or after it opens so we can limit our contact with anyone.”

Angela Konczak just had a new baby two weeks ago. What should have been a joyous time was stressful and nerve-wracking.

“Even just walking the halls to my room scared me,” she said. “I washed my hands obsessively, wore gloves and covered my face. I also kept my distance from others the best i could. I myself am in the high risk category having both a heart condition and asthma. ... I wasn’t scared of getting sick myself, but the reality of catching it and giving it to my newborn daughter is what really scared me.

“I lived out of the vending machine right down the hall because Iwas too scared to ride the elevator downstairs and go into the cafeteria for food,” Konczak said of the experience.

For weeks, health department officials have been encouraging people to stay inside, to shelter in place as a way to not pass on this new strain of the coronavirus which has killed thousands across the globe. It was a way to protect the community as a whole but also those whose health issues mean they are far more vulnerable than most.

One of those is 2-year-old Brigham Landwehr who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, an aggressive form of cancer. Diagnosed earlier this year, the little boy is finishing up his fourth round of chemo, and has already had an operation to remove a softball-sized tumor from his torso, just above one of his kidneys. The family was expecting to live a quarantined life under “normal” circumstances given his condition, but this has ratcheted things up.

“If you have to make an emergency run to the store, then when we come home, we strip down in the mud room, put on new clothes and take showers,” said his father, Seth Landwehr, a Peoria police officer. “I’m not scared to take three or four showers a day if needed. It’s a heightened sense of awareness now. I think we would have taken normal precautions just like everyone else if he was normal and healthy. But as he doesn’t have an immune system, it scares us a bit more.”

But both the Frys and Landwehrs say it’s not hard, it’s just life. What is a lockdown for the rest of us is normal for them.

“It’s been hard on our grandparents. My mom can’t come over so we have to talk through the window,” Seth Landwehr said. “This is normal life for us. I can’t go to work and my wife (who is a nurse) wanted to go to work but she can’t because even if (Brigham) was having a good week, we can’t take that risk of exposing ourselves.”

Courtney Fry is the same way.

“We have four in our house so that’s tricky,” she said. Their teenager has been working on a farm in a barn so social distancing exists there. He’s not allowed to stop anywhere on the way to and from the farm.

“We are worried,” she said of her son, “that he is going to bring it back into the house, When he comes home, he has to take his clothes right off, wash his hands and wash his clothes right after he gets into the house. We wipe the doorknobs down. If we hear it’s in town, then we are probably not going to let him out of the house again.”

The weather hasn’t been great since the COVID-19 virus emerged in Illinois, so going to the park or playing hasn’t really been an option most days until lately.

“On nice days, we love to be outside and we would go to the park daily and we can’t even do that so that’s been hard because Brigham really loves the playground,” Seth Landwehr said. “Even before the parks shut down we stopped going.

“We are coping with COVID the same as before COVID, just with a lot more precautions,” he said. “No visitors, wipe down all groceries, if we have to leave the house for hospital or groceries, we take our clothes off in the laundry room, keep kids away until we take a shower. We leave mail and deliveries in the garage for a day or so then Lysol spray them and open them in the garage.

Konczak said she and her husband as well as her 3-year-old daughter are taking this very seriously, she said. But still, this year, there’s no family picture for Easter with the grandparents. Her daughter couldn’t to go to the hospital to hold her newborn sister. It’s been hard.

“Being a new mom (and the mother of nearly four-year-old) is scary enough with out all this added stress and fear. People don’t realize how serious this truly is,” she said.

Both the Frys and the Landwehrs are trying to do their best to limit exposure. Courtney Fry said they have postponed speech and physical therapy until at least May. And they are trying to get to find a way to have a nurse come to their house to tend to her son if necessary rather than go back to St. Jude later this month. The hospital, it has been reported, has had some staff members test positive for the coronavirus.

“In between chemo rounds, we would have had to go to the clinic at minimum of four times for blood draws or fluid or medicine but they have put more responsibility on my wife to do most of it,” said Seth Landwehr. His wife is a nurse and also a member of the 182nd Airlift Wing’s medical group. “We do blood draws at home and IV bag fluids at home and most medicines. The only thing we have to go in for is blood transfusions. We do have home health care but we usually just consult with them over the phone because we don’t even want them in our house.”

Konczak said she’s been home for about 14 days now with “zero intentions of going anywhere anytime soon.” She said she hopes others do the same.

“People are dying. I like to say that one word can change your outlook on things and one cough can change your life. Stay home. Take the proper precautions and protect those inside your home,” she said.


Source: (Peoria) Journal Star,