How an Aspen grandma overcame COVID-19 and saw her first grandchild
Aspen resident Linda Porter can celebrate Easter Sunday knowing that a broken nose in February and a COVID-19 diagnosis in March weren’t going to stop her from seeing her first grandchild.
Porter, 61, said Thursday she was feeling nearly recovered from the novel coronavirus. She has not yet gotten to hold granddaughter Vivienne Adele Porter, but she sings to her daily over the telephone and has enjoyed in-person eye contact with the newborn.
“It was a wonderful birth, taking all of the COVID-19 drama out of it, and she came out beautiful,” Porter said.
Seven-pound, 7-ounce baby Vivienne was born at 1:30 in the afternoon March 29 to Annie Porter, wife of Linda’s son David. Mom, baby and Dad — who live in Chicago — are doing fine, Porter said.
“It’s been my saving grace,” Porter said. “In this time of being separated, I’m at least still connected with her. She’s hearing my voice. It’s almost as if she recognizes it, it’s so precious.”
On Thursday, Porter recalled her story by telephone from Chicago, where she tested COVID-19 positive more than three weeks ago and is in self-isolation at a rental condo with her husband, Bob.
The evening of Feb. 17 in Aspen, as Porter said, is when the “stage was set” for what was to come.
That’s when a vehicle she was riding in skidded on icy roads on Red Mountain; Porter hit her nose on the back of a headrest in her friend’s car. Her nose broke in three places.
Porter and her husband, an emergency room physician who practices telemedicine in Aspen, went to a Denver ENT doctor who repositioned her nose and put a cast over its bridge on Feb. 24.
Porter said her nostrils remained exposed and vulnerable. On their way back to Aspen on Feb. 26, the Porter couple stopped at a hotel in Vail because Bob had a telemedicine appointment and needed internet access.
“We go to Four Seasons, I pick up two papers, and I go to the dining room and I’m reading the papers that everybody else has picked up,” she recalled.
It was a busy time in Vail then. The Burton U.S. Open snowboard competition was taking place that week, and Eagle County would emerge as a so-called hotspot in the COVID-19 outbreak by the second week of March.
Bloomberg reported a group of Mexicans visiting Vail in early March became infected with COVID-19 there and did not realize they had it until they returned to Mexico. Linda Porter said she believes she too picked it up in Vail, and by March 2 when she was visiting Tennessee, “my symptoms hit me like a train wreck.”
But they weren’t the ones most often associated with COVID-19, Porter said, noting her issues were of the gastrointestinal variety, a “piercing headache that wouldn’t let up all day,” and extreme fatigue.
“I feel very prompted to tell people my symptoms were not fever, the cough and the shortness of breath — those three protocols,” she said.
By the time she returned home, on March 8, the symptoms persisted. Porter, however, said no one believed she was inflicted with COVID-19, though she had her suspicions and behaved as such in Aspen.
She cancelled her Trail and Kale club, a hiking and lunch gathering she hosts weekly for her friends, on March 10. Porter and her husband were scheduled to fly to Chicago on March 11, but by then COVID-19 concerns were at a fever pitch, and Aspen also was considered a hot spot for the coronavirus.
So they drove to Chicago, stopping first at another son’s condo in Denver where they spent the night. By the night of March 13 they arrived in Chicago, and while her symptoms weren’t as bad, Porter started having a shortness of breath, one of the primary by-products of COVID-19, Porter said.
She still couldn’t smell or taste, but at the time she was told that shouldn’t matter (loss of taste and smell is now considered a symptom).
Porter was tested on March 19 at Rush University Medical Center, and learned March 27 she had COVID-19.
Before that, Porter said she had maintained her distance from her expectant daughter in-law and son, and wore a mask as well. Now with the positive test, she would have to continue that practice and be even more cautious, and medical staff took it even further with the baby after she was born, placing her in self-isolation for her first 24 hours.
“There was no bonding (between mother and baby), none of that,” Porter said, noting a COVID-19 test showed negative results for the new mother. Porter doesn’t believe her husband got it because of an immune system he built up over years as an ER doctor. Their son in Denver — the one they stayed with on the way to Denver — did get infected, she said.
Porter attributed her deep faith and strong friendships to a story that came out with an uplifting ending.
“I know many people deride ‘thoughts & prayers’ in times of crisis,” she said in a follow-up email, “but in my recovery and that of my family and the birth of Vivenne, it’s evident the prayers of many who lifted us up in this time were powerful.”
She also said she and her husband believe her hiking regimen made her lungs strong enough to endure COVID-19’s attack on her respiratory system.
In the interview, Porter said there is a deep significance to her granddaughter’s arrival.
“To be born at such a time as this is pretty incredible,” she said. “I’ll be able to tell her she was strong and resilient and she came into this world head-on and met this challenge. Vivienne means ‘alive,’ and this is a story her grandmother will be telling the rest of her life.”
Porter said she and her husband plan to return to Aspen when their Chicago condo’s lease runs out in early May, depending on the state of the pandemic and public health orders in effect then.