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Ottawa County mom who tested positive for COVID-19 shares her story

Posted at 3:19 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 11:50:11-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 40-year-old Rena Hawkins is a mother of eight. Her kids are her life, but these days it’s pretty quiet around the house and will be for some time.

She was the Ottawa County patient who tested positive for COVID-19. She was just recently released from the hospital and is in isolation at home.

Hawkins has no recent travel history, and officials believe she contracted coronavirus from someone in the community.

She contacted Fox17, wanting to share her story, offering a message of hope in a time when so many are filled with fear and panic.

“Being in isolation has been hard,” Hawkins said. “It has been difficult. Nights are rough, you know, I try to stay off the internet. I'm still healing, my body is still healing. I'm just trying to take care of me, make sure that I stay positive.”

Hawkins says it all started with a bad head cold.

“I have asthma so it kind of triggered my asthma,” she said. “I took my nebulizer, and I did all the steps that I normally do. And I was only down for a couple days, you know, just kind of feverish, like chills a little bit. And that kind of just went away. I pushed myself through it, taking care of kids, you know, get up, keep going, and I was, and I thought I was better.”

Hawkins who has underlying health problems took a turn for the worse and ended up at the hospital, eventually testing positive for COVID-19.

"I was having a difficult time just handling it all because I really thought I was dying, not knowing what was going on with my body,” she said.

There are still many questions surrounding her case as doctors here and around the world continue to learn more about this virus.

At the hospital, “they kept me calm," Hawkins said. "They were just all really, really nurturing and caring, everybody that came in there, you know, even though they had to put on these hazmat get ups. They would come in and just make sure I was okay and in the right mind space and, you know, they would talk with me and ask me about my children. “

Hawkins says she is thankful for the support she has received from the nurses, doctors, health department and community organizations. One of those was Safe Families through Bethany Christian Services. They stepped up to help take care of her kids, who are now quarantined themselves. “They never made me feel bad about that, you know, they just let me know we're doing this together, we support you, “ Hawkins said. “It took care of my family and my babies. And I haven't had to worry about that. It was hard. It’s really difficult to be away from my babies.”

Hawkins says her faith is something she has relied on through all of this. “It's been a roller coaster, but everyone is prayerful and positive, and you know I appreciate the prayers. I could feel them. It gives me strength."

“God: he's real even in the midst of the storm. I need for people to know that he's real. He cares. He’s my rock, you know, and that's who I lean on. I'm here, and I’m on the mend, and I’m healthy. I'm in a good mindset. And we're all going to get through this.”

Hawkins was nervous to come forward but thought it was important to share her story. “I really wanted for the community to not just see me as well, I needed them to put a face to 'the Ottawa County patient that had the corona virus.'”

“I’m just a regular mom, I didn't expect this. I don’t know where this came from. Some of the comments can be really hurtful. I don't think people really think about, you know, the families that are affected. This is life changing. I just wanted people to know it hasn't been easy, but it's okay. We need to stick together, calm down, wash your hands. Let’s remain positive. This is not going to be forever, but we need to be in a positive mindset and just kind of focus on encouraging each other through all of this. I can feel that people are scared and nervous. It's okay, we're going to make it.”

Hawkins says she is contact with the Ottawa County Health department on a daily basis and will remain in isolation for several weeks.

Cheri Williams with Bethany Christian Services spoke with us over the phone Thursday to talk more about 'Safe Families,' a service they offer to families in a time of crisis. Williams also mentioned the possible need for more host families to help during this pandemic. For more information on Bethany Christian Services' Safe Families and how you can help, click here.