With the NHL season on pause, the Capitals stand either on the precipice of the playoffs or the offseason. Either way, head coach Todd Reirden has to stay prepared. For now, however, the most important thing on his mind is the safety of his family. While he is not unique in that respect, the dangers presented by the spread of COVID-19, more commonly known as the coronavirus, are much more on Reirden's mind than it is for most people.
It can be hard to come to grips with the fact that the world is in the grips of a global pandemic. That has led to a lot of people downplaying the severity of the coronavirus.
"It's basically the flu."
"Only old people can get really sick."
"I'm low risk so I don't need to follow the guidelines."
Sometimes it is hard to realize how serious a situation can be without putting a face to it. For Reirden, however, putting a face to a situation like this one was not difficult at all because of his son, Travis.
"When first news came out of who was going to be most affected by this, obviously it was the elderly and people with compromised immune system and immediately Travis, who's now 17, goes to the top of that list," Reirden said in a conference call on Monday.
Travis has common variable immunodeficiency, a disorder he has had since birth. This disorder leaves his immune system unable to defend against bacteria and viruses. Being a teenager on its own can be an ordeal, but Travis has had to face his teenage years with the uncertainty that comes with his disorder that is constantly affecting his health. Now with the rapid spread of the coronavirus, this is a very scary time for the Reirden family.
Ironically, during the early stages of the spread of the coronavirus, it may have been an illness that initially kept Travis out of harm's way.
"He was not in school, and it was a little bit of a fortunate break, for the prior month or more coming into this virus and the shutdown of everything," Reirden said. "He had gotten sick, had been tested, had the flu at the end of January. So for him, it takes him a little longer to fight off things. He got a little bit behind in school ... and they’ve actually put him on a homebound plan, which means that we had a tutor coming to our house and working with him to get him caught up while he was continuing to not just be healthy but also rebuild up his immune system before he went back into the school system. And as he was getting caught up and everything was going good and he was feeling better and all set to go back to school, then there was talk of this coronavirus so we kept him at home."
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But keeping Travis at home was far from the only precaution the family had to take.
Since the spread of the coronavirus, health officials have advised everyone to wash their hands, avoid large groups and practice social distancing. The Reirdens now take this to a serious degree.
"We've really had to be careful about what we're bringing into the house and not leaving and making sure that if we do go out and do something, that we basically leave all of our clothes at the door and make sure that they get washed and wash our hands," Reirden said.
The tutor that was working with Travis is no longer able to come and he now has to do his schoolwork online instead.
Travis was also receiving plasma treatments from a nurse who would come into the family home to administer it to him for several hours. The family elected to forgo those treatments for the time being.
"It was our decision that we made that during this virus and shutdown time that it would not be a good idea to have someone coming into our house at this time," Reirden said. "And Travis felt that someone who had that type of specialization and health background that they should be out helping others who are going through this virus right now and if we could do it as long as we could and he was still feeling healthy then he would go without right now, without any treatments, unless there was an issue."
With the whole world on edge right now, all the added anxiety going through the Reirden household would be tough to take, but Reirden says Travis has approached it all with remarkable maturity.
Not only did he advocate discontinuing plasma treatments to free up the nurse to be used where they may be most needed, but he also has been able to keep things in perspective with his friends.
While his friends struggle to adapt to the current world of health precautions and social distancing, they are getting just a glimpse of how Travis has had to live his life.
“It’s interesting from his standpoint that he’s gone through a lot of these things kind of having to go through this type of deficiency that he has," Reirden said. "Some of his friends are going through now when they’re on Facetime or they’re talking and they’re like, ‘We can’t get together.’ Originally, you couldn’t get together with more than 10 people and those were all decision and you can’t be in groups, and you’ve got to be a little further away from people with social distancing. These are all things that [Travis] does on his own now. So, he’s found that interesting that now his friends are seeing a little bit of how his life has to go when he’s out in the public and the precautions he needs to take just because of the inability to fight off everything as easily as others."
So far, everyone has remained healthy through the pandemic, but this will continue to be nervous times for the Reirdens. While the coronavirus may not seem like a big deal to some, the Reirdens do not have the luxury of being so dismissive.
Said Reirden, "It certainly has made it a different situation in the Reirden household."
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