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For some Long Islanders, coronavirus tests are a rare commodity

The Maichin family of Huntington in less stressful

The Maichin family of Huntington in less stressful times. From left are Robert, Christopher, Jennifer and Abby Maichin. Credit: Maichin family

More than 83,000 New Yorkers have now tested positive for the coronavirus, including in excess of 17,000 Long Islanders.

But numbers don’t tell the full story about the human toll of the worldwide pandemic.

The desperate efforts for individuals to get scarcely available tests. The immeasurable physical, emotional and psychological pain left by COVID-19. And the nearly impossible choices families and health care professionals are forced to make in the midst of the crisis.

Here are two of these stories:

Nikita Addison

Nikita Addison checked all the boxes for the coronavirus: fever, shortness of breath and a deep cough. 

The 31-year-old Freeport resident also has a compromised immune system due to years of steroidal and immunotherapy treatment that makes her particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.

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Addison, a senior coordinator at Altice, suffers from lupus, a disease caused when the immune system attacks its own tissues. She also has asthma and a history of pleural effusion, a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

She thought it would be simple to get tested for the virus. But even after a visit to an urgent care center, an ambulance ride to a hospital, and an afternoon in the emergency room, Addison said she was unable to get a test because doctors argued her symptoms were caused by lupus.

It would take another week for Addison to finally get tested and eight more days to learn the results — positive for the virus.

"I am used to not feeling great because I have lupus," Addison said. "But this is a different type of feeling. I knew something was not right."

Addison's ordeal began March 11 when she woke up with a nearly 101-degree fever, shortness of breath, a cough and muscle aches. She then went to an urgent care center. When flu tests came back negative, she was taken to a nearby hospital and put in an isolation room. A chest X-ray discovered inflammation in Addison's left lung and an emergency room doctor suggested she get tested for the virus. 

But hours later, the doctor told Addison that, after consulting with other hospital physicians, he believed her symptoms were caused by a lupus flare-up, she said.

Addison rejected the diagnosis but the doctor sent her home, contending there was no reason to perform the test because “young people don’t get the coronavirus," she said.

"I did not have enough energy to argue," Addison said. 

The next day, she spoke with her primary care physician and rheumatologist who agreed that her symptoms were unrelated to lupus. The doctors instructed Addison to return to urgent care but she said the facility would not test her because of a lack of "known" contact with someone who had previously tested positive for the virus. 

On March 18, Addison finally got tested at the Jones Beach drive-through center. Her positive results came March 26.

"It was frustrating but I am just happy that I was one of the lucky ones," said Addison, who is finally starting to feel better. "It could have gone the other way."

The Maichin family

The Maichin family of Huntington are ready to turn the page on March and the seemingly endless array of medical maladies that have dominated their lives for weeks.

Jennifer Maichin and her husband, Rob, each contracted the coronavirus. Their oldest daughter, Abby, 17, a Huntington High School senior and lacrosse star, got sick shortly thereafter but did not meet the criteria to get tested. She is presumed to be positive, her mother said.

And then the Maichins' son Christopher, 15, experienced stomach pains and was diagnosed with appendicitis. But surgery requires a ventilator, which an area hospital said it could not supply because of the needs of COVID-19 patients, Jennifer Maichin said. Christopher was sent home with antibiotics, which they hope can reduce the need for surgery.

"It's very confusing and you don't always know the right thing to do," said Jennifer Maichin, 48, a public school teacher. "But we have to trust the advice of people in our life that we truly trust. … You just need to do the best thing for your family and hope that you're right."

The family's troubles began March 9 when Rob Maichin, 50, who works in medical sales, began feeling ill, with chills, body aches and fever. Five days later, Jennifer started having similar symptoms, although neither had respiratory ailments common with the virus. They quarantined themselves and eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

Abby, who is set to attend Notre Dame University in the fall, then spiked a fever, but she was not sick enough to receive a test, her mother said. The teen has now fully recovered.

Then, last week Christopher, who had been quarantining himself in the basement, started to complain of stomach pains. Jennifer FaceTimed with her brother, an emergency room doctor specializing in telemedicine, and concluded Christopher likely had appendicitis.

The teen was taken to an area hospital, which confirmed the diagnosis. But the laparoscopic surgery required both anesthesia and a ventilator — a device in increasingly high demand because of the pandemic.

The safest option, Jennifer Maichin said, was to send Christopher home with antibiotics and hope the ailment heals on its own. Christopher, who does not have a fever, has since also tested positive for COVID-19.

Jennifer Maichin says she has not yet had time to process the events of the past three weeks but is grateful her family is safe.

"We will be OK. We are all strong, otherwise healthy people," she said. "There's people in this world who are suffering a lot worse than us. And we feel for them."

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As a public service, this article is available for all. Newsday readers support our strong local journalism by subscribing.  Please show you value this important work by becoming a subscriber now.


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