How Could I Not Be Scared?


I woke up and felt like a completely different person.

My body ached, my skin — just lying in bed with a cover on felt painful. I rolled out of bed and tried to stand, but I could barely walk.

I remember thinking, Damn, I’m out of shape.

I had done a pretty intense workout the day before, but still. I’d never felt like that after a workout.

Maybe it’s the flu.

I’ve actually never had the flu, so I didn’t even know what the flu felt like, but I had to explain this away. I kept blowing it off. Stefanie, you’re fine.

I couldn’t be sick.

I couldn’t have the virus.

I couldn’t be sick. I couldn’t have the virus.

I had stayed up till 3 a.m. the night before reading about all of these cases, just everything. Trying to stay informed, but also kind of scaring myself.

Lying on my aching back in my all-blue childhood bedroom in upstate New York, I looked around at my dusty little plaques and trophies and kid drawings, and I started to cry. Nah, I gotta be real. I started to bawl like a kid.

It wasn’t me I was worried about. It was my mom — she always gets bronchitis at certain times during the year, so my family and I considered her to be pretty at-risk. If she got it, she could be in real danger.

That thought made me panic.

What if I have it? What if I give it to my family? What if I give it to my mom??

I cried in my bed that morning till I was all cried out. I mean, how could I not be scared?

Courtesy of Stef Dolson

I contracted the coronavirus before any stay-at-home or self-quarantine orders had been announced, and before any social distancing began. It was at the point where people knew about the virus, but it wasn’t rapidly escalating within the country. I had been home from China — where I had played in the WCBA — for three months and had spent a lot of the time traveling to see friends. It was a few days after one of those trips that the aches started.

My symptoms were all in my body. I could breathe, and I didn’t have a fever. My throat was sore, but I didn’t have a cough.

I couldn’t even do a jigsaw puzzle, though, without almost passing out. I was so nauseous and light-headed. I had no energy. I would try to eat, but then I would get tired while eating.

After three days like this, I finally went to the hospital. It was well known at that point that the symptoms were the cough, the fever, the shortness of breath. I didn’t have any of that, so they ruled out corona pretty quickly and sent me home without a test.

Then one day, my dad woke up and said, “I don’t know, I’m feeling kind of like Stef. I can’t move. I’m tired. My body’s aching.”

And finally, my brother woke up with a fever. One moment he was literally fine, and the next he was burning up. It was so weird. Each of us had different symptoms.

But at that point, we had an idea about what was putting us all out of commission.

For a few days we called it “the Dolson virus.”

My mom works hard.

She puts in long hours as a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital. She didn’t have any symptoms and had been to work a few times. But then one day she called her job and said, “Listen, I can’t come to work until I know for sure that I don’t have it.”

She got tested first.

Well, you can probably guess that that test came back positive, making it all real.

I knew it had to have started with me, so I started searching for a test. We researched so many different health centers and hospitals around us, and I finally was able to get swabbed at a drive-thru testing site. Mine came back positive as well.

Despite my mom’s test, she was fine for about a week. And then, out of nowhere, she began having these coughing fits that would cause her to vomit.

She went back to the hospital, and the doctors said she had pneumonia. That’s when they admitted her. At least she was at the hospital she worked at, so she wasn’t completely alone, but they only let patients into the E.R. — no family. My dad had to drop her off and drive away.

“You’ll be good, Mom. It’s O.K.,” me and my sister told her.

Courtesy of Stef Dolson

I still don’t know if my mom believed it. She has a coworker whose husband had also tested positive, and he died.

My mom was the one we thought would be most susceptible, and we were right. It hit her the hardest. For some people — the ones who end up in the hospital — what this virus does to the body is like some invisible thing waging war on all your organs, your muscles, your nerves.

Mom gave us frequent updates about her status. She would have some good days. She would also have some bad nights. Coughing. Throwing up. And all of these other bodily things that really shouldn’t be in writing….

She was there for six days and five nights, and then she came home. She wasn’t exactly feeling 100%, but the overcrowding was so bad in the hospital at the time that they were running out of beds.

Slowly her energy started to come back in bits and pieces, until she was finally healthy enough to go back to work — at the same hospital that had worked to keep her alive.

I probably had it the second-worst after her, and my dad after me. My brother recovered pretty quickly, and my sister never even had any symptoms. There’s no way she couldn’t have gotten it, but she was completely asymptomatic.

The first day I could work out again felt so good. It probably took me a month to get back to my old self.

My mom kept telling me, “Drink more water, drink more water,” because that’s the only way to get your energy back. There’s no cure obviously, or any kind of medication.

You just have to nurse yourself back to health.

People think they know.

Everyone’s saying, “Oh, well if you get it, you won’t get it again.”

But we don’t actually know that for a fact quite yet.

I also see too many people on my social media like, “Game night at my house!”

Umm … what are you doing??

It’s so hard to see people that don’t take this thing seriously. Maybe it’s different because my whole family went through it, and we have friends that have been affected by it — that have lost people to it. 

But that shouldn’t matter.

I don’t understand why, just because you haven’t been personally affected by it, you wouldn’t want to take the precautions. It’s selfish. And it’s frustrating to be on social media and see things like that.

So, for me, personally, I’m staying in the house.

I’m so thankful that my family members are all safe and healthy now. But it’s still hard because other people aren’t. And many of them won’t have the happy ending that me and my family did.

In the beginning, I was optimistic that everything would be back to normal soon. I think now, having been through it, worrying that my mom might not come home from the hospital, I am team #stayathome — until September if we have to, or however long it takes.

I know a lot of people are back home with their families or feeling cooped up with roommates, so I get it. It’s hard! It’s like a season of The Real World or something — adults living in a house together.

But I don’t think we should open things up until it’s abundantly clear that people will be safe.

Matteo Marchi/NBAE/Getty Images

And as for the WNBA, it really has just as many unknowns as the country does.

Getting back to basketball is always on my mind. I can’t escape it.

It’s on all of our minds.

I was just texting Allie and Sloot, talking about how crazy it is that we should be finishing training camp right now. It’s just so weird to think about and so sad. I really miss my team.

But I’m keeping a positive attitude. I’m a realistic person, but at the same time, I’m an optimist and look for hope. I’m hopeful that we will have a season.

I think, as a country, we’re all disappointed in the fact that we weren’t prepared. We were so behind the 8 ball with testing. And we were also behind in getting people quarantined or just safe at home. Our lack of readiness and the disorganized response has set us back.

Times like this are when leadership really matters.

I just hope it gets better.

It’s slowed down a little bit, but we still have some time before things are really O.K. I’ve read about countries that have gone several days without deaths. I know we are all ready to take that step.

But one thing I know for a fact: We can’t treat people like human sacrifices.

I’m going to be frank: I’m very wary that Georgia and some other states have opened up on their own. It seems like something we should move forward on as a country. People’s lives are at stake.

I do like that most states are still keeping the stay-at-home orders.

To know that many people are taking this seriously feels meaningful, and even empowering. It’s good to know that people are listening.

One thing I know for a fact: We can’t treat people like human sacrifices.

We’re all working hard to do whatever we can to combat this virus, and we have to continue for as long as it takes. I believe science will prevail, but we have to buy time.

If you can, stay home.

Right now, it’s our only way to protect each other, and we have to stick together. So focus on your mental health and staying positive. Stay connected with friends virtually. Help those around you if you can. Order from a local restaurant, and tip more than you usually would — let’s try to keep people in business.

If you are an essential worker and can’t stay home, thank you. So many of you are representing communities that are already underserved — you are keeping us going and we appreciate your sacrifice. We see you, and we owe you.

We are in this together.