Tavito and Jennifer Preston had discussed the plan with their daughter Aixa.
If one of them got COVID-19, the parents said, they’ll stay in the spare bedroom of their Manor Township home. The Prestons made the plan in March as the news of the coronavirus became serious.
“They would go into that room no matter what,” Tavito Preston said.
Tavito and Jennifer Preston are both nursing home employees at different facilities in Lancaster County, facing the virus on the front lines. Then the weekend of April 20, their worst fears and what they planned for came true: Despite all their precautions, Tavito Preston had a fever and chills.
He and Jennifer both immediately called out from work, and Tavito went into that bedroom as they had drilled, thus beginning his two-weeklong battle with coronavirus, where he and his family relied heavily on their faith in God to survive.
Tavito Preston’s symptoms worsened. He was stuck in the bedroom, spitting up blood, experiencing every major symptom related to the coronavirus. All the while, he watched the death toll rise on CNN and Fox, he said.
“It was some deep dark times,” Tavito Preston added. “It was just me in my room, asking myself, am I gonna die like this? There was no other way that I survived that without talking to God.”
“You had to be in that room to bear witness to all the things that I was going through that I did not even tell my family,” he added.
The Prestons go to New Creation United Methodist Church in Lancaster city. During Tavito Preston’s battle with the virus, members of the church — which he called his “church family” — reached out frequently to check in, Tavito Preston said.
But inside their home, the usually loving family was stuck separated in their own home.
“You’ve lived with this person for almost 20 years, and you couldn’t be next to them, you couldn’t lay next to them, you couldn’t eat dinner with them,” Jennifer Preston said. “[We] were under the same roof but couldn’t actually be together.”
As Tavito Preston’s condition worsened, the harder it got on the family. At one point, he became so sick that Jennifer Preston had to drive him to the emergency room, but wasn’t allowed to go in with him due to restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“Dropping him off at the ER and then leaving was scary,” she said. “I didn’t know if the person I married 20 years ago was gonna come home to me. I didn’t know if I was gonna see him or speak to him.”
Tavito Preston recovered in May, and both he and Jennifer Preston have returned to work at nursing homes where they continue on the front lines with the coronavirus.
Jennifer Preston said she brings her trust in God with her to work each day as she cares for elderly people who are bound to their beds due to the virus.
“I’m a child of God, and I want everyone to know that I’m a child of God,” Jennifer Preston added. “Those people are parents, those people are family members, whether they’re alive or not, I’m taking care of them the way I want to be taken care of if I’m older and I end up in a home.”
While self-isolating in her home apart from Tavito Preston, Jennifer couldn’t see her elderly parents for nearly a month. When she finally saw her mom, who has dementia, she remembered who she was.
“It was a blessing,” she added.
“I am so thankful to God, and I am so thankful that I bared the brunt for them,” Tavito Preston said about his family. “He did that. I’m not taking any credit for all of this.”