Pandemic adds fears for those with health issues

LAKEPORT — Single mom Myra Bettelyoun has always been watchful of her son’s health. Cash, who will turn 8 on April 22, was born with asthma.

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Myra Bettelyoun and son Cash are self-isolating in Lakeport.

As the news spread about the dangers of the COVID-19 virus, the Lakeport mom became even more vigilant, sheltering at home with him, disinfecting everything she could and keeping him away from other people. She keeps in touch with friends and family by phone or online.

The two were making the best of their isolation, with Cash participating in distance learning through Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School. Myra had promised to take the little boy fishing on the weekend as a reward for keeping up with his schoolwork.

She was looking forward to a happy day spending time with her son outdoors. Then her world fell apart.

She went into his room to find him “lying there, lifeless.” He was struggling to breathe, gasping for air.

“It scared the living hell out of me,” said Myra. She called for an ambulance to rush the child to the Emergency Room at Raulerson Hospital. At 8:40 a.m. April 12, she posted a message to her Facebook page, “I really need someone to follow me behind the ambulance, please.”

As ER staff put the child on oxygen and gave him steroids, she turned to Facebook to ask everyone to pray for her child, and to beg everyone to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously.

While most people responded with prayers and encouragement, her post attracted a few “haters,” strangers who accused her of not properly protecting her child from the pandemic. (She has since deleted those threads from her page.)

After Cash started breathing on his own again and his condition was stabilized, he was sent home from the ER with instructions to continue to self-isolate.

She said the hospital did not test Cash for COVID-19 — they are testing only those admitted to the hospital — so she took the child to the clinic on the Brighton Seminole Reservation for testing. She and Cash are both members of the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the clinic provides their primary health care. Since her son was nervous about the test, she volunteered to be tested as well. The test was unpleasant, but they both got through it, she continued. She said it feels like they stick the test swab “all the way up to your brain.”

On Thursday, they got the test results back — both are negative for COVID-19.

“I’m so happy, it’s hard to keep from crying,” she said Thursday.

The health scare has renewed her determination to do everything she can keep Cash safe.

As a single mom, it’s not always easy. She said friends and family have helped her with picking up groceries, but there have been times she had to leave the house, and Cash is too young to leave home alone. When they have gone out, she said they have been very careful about maintaining proper distancing and that Cash would not touch anything. Even so, she said, she has gotten dirty looks from people who appear to be judging her.

She encourages everyone to take the health department advisories seriously, to stay home and to maintain the 6-foot distance from others if you do have to leave the house.

“The younger crowd thinks they don’t have to social distance,” said Myra. They don’t seem to understand they could be spreading the virus to others who are more at risk. Cash tested negative COVID-19, but he and many others, young and old, are still at risk.

“So to you who think this won’t affect you or come to you, please, please think about those others who can catch it,” she posted on her Facebook page.

COVID-19 update
As of Thursday afternoon, Florida had 22,897 total cases of COVID-19 and 633 deaths related to the pandemic. Glades County has 5 cases, ranging in age from 30 to 89 with one death. Brighton Seminole Reservation is in Glades County. Okeechobee County has 5 cases, ranging in age from 33 to 74. According to the Florida Department of Health report, in Okeechobee County 218 people have been tested with 213 negative. In Glades County, 32 people have been tested with 27 negative.

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