I prayed a lot: Mom, kids survive COVID-19 ordeal

BARCINAS FAMILY: Devin James and Shawna Marie Barcinas with their three children, Deja Skye, 2, Cohen David, 7, and Brayden John, 9, during Easter this year. Three of the family members, the two youngest children and their mother, lived through COVID-19 in their home. Photo courtesy of Shawna Marie Barcinas

On the day Shawna Marie Barcinas' 7-year-old son was cleared of COVID-19 symptoms including coughing, runny nose and loss of sense of smell, her 2-year-old daughter started having a runny nose and high fever.

"It was heartbreaking," the mother of three said upon learning that COVID-19 had infected her youngest child, shortly after the Department of Public Health and Social Services cleared her younger son.

She said a Guam Regional Medical City doctor told her and her husband they could take their daughter home, and asked that the child be isolated in a separate room.

"My daughter couldn't sleep without me. I did what any mother would do. I cared for my child, regardless," she told The Guam Daily Post in a phone interview.

The 28-year-old mother, fully inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, also tested positive for COVID-19 after her daughter, Deja Skye, tested positive. 

The two of them isolated in a bedroom for 10 days, right after her 7-year-old son, Cohen David Santos, completed his isolation in another room in the house, also for 10 days.

"Having COVID really changed me as a person. Now I don't hate. I don't wish this upon anyone, even my worst enemy," she said. "It's really hard to cope with having COVID and then seeing your kids go through it. It affects the whole family."

'Felt lonely'

She and her husband, Devin James Barcinas, and their other children talked to each other by phone and through the walls without opening the door to their isolation bedroom.

When the family put the younger son in a room away from his siblings so they wouldn't catch the virus, the son was confused and "felt lonely," the mother said.

Her heart sank, she said, after hearing her son say that he felt like nobody loves him because he didn't understand, at the time, why he was not allowed to leave the room and see the rest of his family.

Both parents had to explain to the children, even at their young age, why they had to do things differently.

"I can't put into words what my family and I went through. I cried every now and then. Catching COVID was scary because I did experience shortness of breath. I felt like I was going to die but, thankfully, my husband took care of me and helped me through this," the mother said.

For about a month, Devin Barcinas, who's earning an average of $400 a week working at a grounds maintenance business, had to stop working temporarily to care for his family.

Worst symptoms

Shawna Barcinas experienced some of the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

She said she had fever, nausea, feeling of vomiting, severe headache, coughing and a runny nose. She lost her appetite, along with her senses of taste and smell, but her husband encouraged her to eat.

"My chest was hurting, my heart was pounding so fast, causing me to have shortness of breath. I always felt weak," Shawna Barcinas said. 

Despite the family ordeal, the mother said she's still thankful that the worst symptoms affected only her, and spared her children.

There were days she would cry and fight off sleep.

"Because I worried too much about my kids. My husband told me to take it easy, that we're going to be OK. My husband always tries to make me see things in a positive way," she said.

All her symptoms were gone in six to seven days. Her children's symptoms, which were mild, also went away after about six days, she said.

Prayer

Despite her frustration and worries, Shawna Barcinas said she didn't lose sight of what's important to her: her family. And she prayed a lot to make sure her family would be OK.

"Fight for your kids, fight for your family. That's what really got me through," she said. "Prayers do work. Just praying to God every day that we surpass whatever situation we're going through."

Her family's support and love, especially from her sister, she said, helped her own family get through their darkest moment.

Before the virus hit home, they were mostly worried about their 9-year-old son, Brayden John Santos, because he has a history of pneumonia, but he was spared. The father, fully vaccinated, also tested negative for the virus.

'Caught it from another student'

Shawna Barcinas said her family ordeal started when she got a call from her 7-year-old son's school, Finegayan Elementary School, saying her son was exposed to a classmate who had tested positive for COVID-19.

Weeks later, her son told her that some of his classmates were sick with coughing and runny noses.

That bothered her more because the parents of the children who were sick or had symptoms still sent their kids to school.

This brings her to a message for other parents and guardians.

"If your child is sick, let them stay home. Even if it's just a stomachache or a cough or a fever or cold, just let them stay home, because this virus spreads. And that's the part that really frustrated me, because I was hurt as a mother to know that my son caught it from another student," she said.

One week help from PUA

Devin Barcinas, the only one working in the family, missed about a month of work to care for his family members who tested positive for COVID-19 and experienced symptoms.

He also had to stay away from work to help protect his colleagues.

Shawna Barcinas said, while her husband lost his income for a month because of COVID-19, the Guam Department of Labor could offer him only one week of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 4.

"We were hoping to get more so we can catch up on bills and necessities for our children," Shawna Barcinas said.

The federally funded PUA eligibility, however, ended Sept. 4, when the family's bout with COVID-19 was just starting.

GDOL Director David Dell'Isola on Thursday said "the situation happened on the last week of PUA."

Haidee Eugenio Gilbert

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