Western Alumni

The long run

One family’s journey through COVID-19

By Keri Ferguson

John Moore and family

John Moore, BA’92, Dip’93 (Political Science), has always been one to go the distance. The avid runner and senior legal counsel at Swiss Re has honed his resilience living in New York City the past 20 years. Moore’s mettle was tested further this past spring, when his city became the epicentre for COVID-19.

On March 22, Moore went for his usual 10K morning run. Unexpected exhaustion set in shortly after returning to the Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife Nancy and their children, Caroline, 3, and twins John John and Grant, 18 months.

“I immediately knew I wasn’t well,” Moore said. “I took my temperature and it was high, 103.5.” John went to a clinic, where both he and Nancy were tested for COVID-19.

The couple lost their sense of smell before receiving their results, testing positive for COVID-19.

“All of a sudden, we had to figure this out,” Moore said.

Both John and Nancy, a credit analyst, had been working from home during the pandemic. Their employers offered them flexibility around their workloads but there was no such reprieve on the home front.

Lockdown had left Caroline’s preschool closed and the twins’ caregiver no longer available. With John’s family in Canada and Nancy’s 20 miles away with vulnerable health issues, they were on their own, juggling jobs, kids and debilitating exhaustion.

“We had to do shifts,” Moore said. “I would do a morning, and by 12:30 I would have to go to bed for three and half hours.”

They cleaned “manically” – a protocol staying in place long after their quarantine.

“No strollers in the apartment until they were completely cleaned with antibacterial wipes,” Moore said. “Every single part of the wheels because basically they track all of New York City into your home.”

Isolation was tough. “We couldn’t take the kids or dog for a walk. The playroom in our building was closed and there were no children playing in Central Park, no people anywhere.”

There was also a looming sense of the unknown.

“Once you have the virus, you wonder if it’s going to get worse, if you’re going to be hospitalized and how it would impact the family. You become a bit like a hypochondriac, each time you feel another symptom.”

The nightly news was grim as their city fell quiet.

“There are certain things indelibly etched into my mind,” Moore said, recalling a walk once out of quarantine. Pushing the twins’ stroller past the hospital near their apartment, he noticed an 18-wheeler parked by the service entrance, plywood ramps up the back.

“I thought, ‘Oh boy, I know what this is for,’” he said. Passing the truck five days later, his hunch was confirmed.

“The refrigeration units had turned on. I knew then it was an active morgue. I still get chills when I think about it. I felt scared, sad and just a number of emotions. It felt much more real with it right on the street behind us.”

The Moores, who have since moved to Connecticut, recovered in about three weeks, feeling fortunate to have had mild to moderate symptoms, and to have emerged stronger on the other side.
 “COVID-19 forced us to dig deep,” Moore said. “Just like when you are training for a marathon. You’re obviously tired at mile 24, but you have to keep pushing.”