If you have been following me on any sort of social media, you’d know that my family took our large vacation we typically do every other year, to Hilton Head Island, SC. We were able to celebrate Greyson turning 6 years old, even though he fell asleep before we could sing “Happy Birthday” to him. Hilton Head was ALWAYS my Mom’s happy place, so the thought of going without her was enough for me to not want to go on vacation. My Mom was the matriarch of the SmJoMaZaMi (Smith, Joline, Martin, Zawisa and Milligan) family, so making the 12-hour drive and spending a week together, would absolutely feel different and empty. My Mother knew that she wasn’t going to make it on this vacation, despite pushing all of us to book the vacation much earlier than we typically do, but she wanted us to have a relaxing week together. Well played, Mom.
Up until the night before we left for our trip, I was not excited. I am always so excited to go to the beach, as it is the only place I go where I can feel completely at ease with the world. This was a foreign feeling to me during this trip. Even driving down I-95, I had to fight off the sadness and lack of joy to be going to the beach. In my 32 years of existence, I have NEVER EVER felt sad leaving my house, to venture out on a trip to Hilton Head. We left fairly early in the morning (around 2:30 am), in hopes that the kids would sleep until breakfast. Yeah right! Turns out, the kids were so thrown off course, they stayed up until 11 am. I am literally blind when trying to drive in the dark, so Derek ended up driving until the sun came up, about 5 or 6 hours through Virginia. I knew he was tired, so we switched off. Up until this point, I was feeling so run down and exhausted, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open and focused. After about an hour or so of me complaining about how tired I was, Derek agreed to take over driving again, much to his dismay. I slept immediately after, until we were close to Hilton Head. I couldn’t stay awake. The only other time I have ever felt so drained of energy, was when I had mono back in college.
13 hours later, we were finally in Hilton Head. Crossing over the bridge onto the island, I must admit that I did find some spark of excitement through my exhaustion. Stepping into the condo we rented for the week, I saw the amazing view of the Atlantic Ocean, and my heart immediately dropped. The view was worth every dollar spent and every hour stuck in traffic, it was so beautiful. I had planned prior to arriving, what things inside the condo needed to be moved, hidden, blocked and secured. Judging from the photos listed on the VRBO website, I knew exactly what was needed to make sure the owner’s property wasn’t destroyed by Greyson. Things that I never really thought about until I had a child with special needs- remodeling to avoid disasters. I purchased security bars to secure the patio doors, because I knew he would try to jump if he had a chance to. Luckily, we made it through the week with no issues and only a small plastic trash can broken! Images below are the plans I texted to Derek, to avoid serious injury or damage. I will be doing this in the future for any rentals/vacation places we will attend, it really helped ease some anxiety about the trip.
Our first full day of vacation was filled with lots of uncertainties. We were unsure of how Greyson would react to the ocean and pool, how he was going to tolerate being on the sand, if he could keep his swim vest and flip flops on, and how thrown off he would be by having a new routine for only a week. Turns out, we really didn’t have to panic about much at all- Greyson LOVED the water! He spent hours sitting on the beach, right where the water comes up to the shore. He liked being crashed into by waves, and loved splashing around. Derek was able to sit with him and enjoyed spending time with him on the beach. When Greyson would get fussy or irritable, we would bring him up to the pool or up to the condo to take a nap. This typically recharged him for spending the rest of the day at the pool.
Our trip was going fantastic. On Tuesday evening, we went to one of my Mom’s favorite restaurants on the island- Hudson’s. The deck vibe right on the water of the marshland and boats coming in the dock directly after their daily catches, is truly beautiful. When Derek and I went to Hudson’s on our honeymoon, we sat outside and watched the dolphins swim around the water. Though we didn’t see any this time, we did take Roslynn with us and she had a fun time having dinner with just us three.
Wednesday was filled with more beach and pool fun, but I was starting to feel super wiped out again. By the time Thursday rolled around, we had planned on just going to the pool for awhile, since I was exhausted, sunburnt and began feeling feverish. The rest of my extended family went out to Hudson’s that evening for their family meals, but Greyson and I decided taking a nap on the couch for 4 hours sounded better than anything else. By the time I woke up from the nap, I could barely move. I was in physical pain, so so so tired and felt horrible. I have serious sinus/immune system issues, so I chalked all of this up to another sinus infection. My sister, Sarah was out with her fiancé, conveniently at a Barnes and Noble right next to a Walgreens. I asked her to pickup a COVID test for me, just to be safe, though I fully anticipated it being negative. Two and a half years into this pandemic, with a compromised immune system, two school-aged kids who bring home germs, and I managed to avoid COVID, luckily. Unfortunately, this time I wasn’t not so lucky.
As soon as I tested positive for COVID, I immediately notified the rest of the family that I was vacationing with, our on a mask, secluded myself to the master bedroom/bath and pushed through the next 12 hours. When I woke up, I felt even worse. I had ALL of the symptoms: no smell, no taste, fever, body aches, extreme fatigue, horrible headache, runny nose and terrible cough. I lost my voice by the second day from coughing so much and I felt like I had mono and the flu, combined. We made the tough decision to leave early from our vacation. It sucked, yes, but if I was going to have severe symptoms, I needed to be in Pennsylvania where my primary doc is, and closer to home if I needed to go to a hospital. Since having a kid with special needs, I have a good idea of where hospitals are, what insurance will and won’t cover out of state/network and being prepared for anything to happen- all because we never know if or when Greyson will need immediate medical attention.
We packed up the car, the kids and cleaned the condo quickly and were off the island by 11 AM, about 48 hrs earlier than planned. I’m SO happy we left and came home early! By the time we hit North Carolina, I was already having chest/rib cage pain and was having a hard time breathing and staying awake for long periods of time. Let me just give a “shout out” to my hubby, who sucked it up and drove pretty much the entire way to and from the beach. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him! I figured that it would be smart to notify my primary doc, Dr. Miller, to make her aware of my positive test and symptoms. She has been my doctor since 2013, so I absolutely adore her and she truly cares about my overall health. Because of being immunocompromised, Dr. Miller sent an anti-viral medicine, Paxlovid to a 24-hour pharmacy, so we could pick it up as soon as we were back in Lancaster county.
The trip overall was so great, minus the COVID. Sadly, by Friday evening, Derek was starting to show very minor symptoms and I knew the Martin’s were going into quarantine mode for the next week or so. The next day, I was completely exhausted and my cough was getting worse. By lunchtime, I was having a really hard time breathing and was in communication with my doctor regarding going to the ER. Luckily I had my inhalers from my last round of respiratory infections, so they helped immensely. Derek was still experiencing extreme fatigue, body aches/chills, fever and cough and Roslynn began with a cough, too. Covid in a household is truly like dominos- once one falls, they all do. Sadly, I was the first to fall.
My symptoms continued for the next week or so, with breathing still extremely difficult. I had a CT scan scheduled that week for my sinuses, and ended up cancelling due to still testing positive. By then, both kids had minor coughs, low grade fevers and runny noses, and tested positive for covid. We spent the previous week at the beach together, and now we were spending another 7-10 days together with zero help and zero breaks. I was essentially couch-bound due to my cough and fever, but the kids both turned the corner by mid-week. I finally tested negative a few days later, with much relief to me since I had a CT scan I had to get to early the following week. Yes, it sucks that we all had covid and that we were nearly bedbound for over 7 days, but the hardest part of covid in the Martin house, was the fact that Greyson’s in-home therapy sessions needed to be postponed until we all tested negative. Eventually, the kids and I were in the clear, but Derek began with a case of rebound covid. Apparently this is common for patients after they use the anti-viral medications, which Derek and I both had. He took another 2-3 days off and fell into another covid coma for the next two days. Luckily, we all pulled through and made it out to September!
Life lessons learned at the beach were to ALWAYS do research on any place you are staying. Ask for updated photos of the place to look for safety concerns, map out all rest stops (if traveling by car), find the nearest hospital wherever we are staying and buy the extra insurance through VRBO or AirBnB if you’re staying in someone else’s house. May be a few extra dollars, but it truly gave us the peace of mind we needed to survive the week away. Check out more photos from our trip below!