Emily DuFour, who has Crohn’s disease, has self-isolated in her home in Monmouth. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

For Emily DuFour, contracting COVID-19 could be a death sentence.

The mother and stepmother of three suffers from Crohn’s, an immune-related disease that attacks the intestinal tract when a person’s immune system is activated for any reason.

It is a lifelong condition. Dufour first exhibited symptoms when she was 8 years old.

And it has nearly killed her twice before.

DuFour had her colon removed and got a permanent ostomy five years ago. She had pneumonia twice this year and at the time of this interview, she had an active case of bronchitis.

Earlier this year, as an employee of BJ’s wholesale club in Auburn, she received a notification that the stores might need to limit the quantity of toilet paper people could buy. This announcement caught her attention. Up to that point, she had been hearing about coronavirus on the news but had been dismissing it. “Like, that’s happening somewhere else. It’s not going to happen here,” DuFour said.

Watching people in public ignoring most of the early warnings gave her cause for alarm.

“I’d read ‘Don’t touch your face’, and I’d go to work and people were licking their fingers to count their money.”

She began taking action. “Because I work at BJ’s, it’s easy to stock up on things. I started getting toilet paper and grabbing a couple of extra boxes of canned goods every day after work,” DuFour said.

She woke up one morning two weeks ago with chest pain and shortness of breath. She went to her doctor’s office and was diagnosed with bronchitis. She was advised to stay home and minimize contact as much as possible with other people.

“They told me it’s a good idea for everybody in your house to be hunkered down as much as possible,” DuFour said.

Her husband, Jason, worked for another few days and was then able to arrange to take paid time off and join the rest of the family in self-isolation.

When entering the home after any contact with the public, Jason participates in an elaborate decontamination routine.

“He would come in (to a closed-off porch) and strip down to his underwear and take a shower immediately. All of his clothes go into a wash, and then his lunchbox would get Lysol wiped out on the porch. Anything we brought in we would wipe down the outside with Lysol wipes.”

DuFour has made up a spray bottle full of bleach solution. “Every time we go to the bathroom we spray everything. We wipe everything down with it. We do it to all the doorknobs, anything that could have possibly been touched.”

Not only is Dufour limiting contact with the outside world, but she has maintained distance within her own home.

“I have to stay at least 3 to 6 feet apart (from family members), for the time being, in the house. My husband and I aren’t sleeping in the same bed,” DuFour said. “I can’t even hug my own kids.”

She says the pandemic has brought her family closer together.

“We made jokes about how we were going to get aggravated with each other and how frustrating it was going to be to have a surly teenager at home for the next two weeks,” she said. “But I’m definitely appreciating my children a lot more. Their funny insights, their humor, their moods.”

Dufour has real concerns that her health issues will make getting through a brush with COVID-19 difficult.

She chokes up a little when talking about time with her family. “People keep talking about when this is over. I’m saying if I survive this,” she said.


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