A couple from Utah have been separated and quarantined on opposite sides of the world after the husband was diagnosed with coronavirus on the Diamond Princess in Japan and the wife was evacuated back to the US.
Now, Melanie Haering is confined to quarantine on Travis Air Base in California, while her husband, John, remains in a Japanese hospital being treated for the virus that’s infected more than 500 passengers on-board the ship.
And now John has told Melanie that he’s developed pneumonia as a result of the infection, making the nights she stays up late to talk with her husband from across the globe even more sleepless.
More than 40 Americans on the quarantined cruise ship were diagnosed with coronavirus. More than 300 – including 14 who tested positive for the virus – were evacuated, landing in the US on Sunday night.
US officials initially said that passengers positive for the infection, like John, would not be allowed back to the US until they’d cleared the virus.
But authorities onboard the evacuation planes got the positive results of the 14 after they were boarding. All 300-some passengers, including Melanie, face another two weeks of quarantine, while 13 ‘high risk’ passengers were transported to the National Quarantine Unit in Nebraska.
Melanie Haering (left) has been repatriated to the US from Japan after spending two weeks on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, but her husband, John (left), was diagnosed with coronavirus while on board and is now battling pneumonia from a hospital in Japan
John and Melanie were among the more than 3,000 people on board the Diamond Princess when it docked and was quarantined in Yokohama Japan.
Through the first few rounds of testing, they were each cleared of the virus.
Although the conditions were ‘not perfect,’ Melanie writes on Facebook, they were grateful for their health, for the some occasional fresh air from their cabin on the ship and for the details of thoughtful solutions the crew – suddenly saddled with a totally foreign set of needs from their customers – provided, like nicotine gum for smokers.
Then John got a fever.
For two days his temperature was ‘up and down,’ Melanie wrote on February 11, but his symptoms textbook: nausea, chills, ‘like a heavy case of the flu.’
Over the course of the next 24 hours, John was visited by doctors three times, but he still didn’t have test results.
Melanie tried to keep him comfortable with cold packs, until at last doctors decided it was best to transport John to the hospital where he could be more comprehensively cared for and they could ‘find out about this virus,’ Melanie wrote.
‘It’s hard being separated from him, and as soon as I hear more information, I will pass it on,’ she assured friends and family via Facebook.
Melanie was among some 300 passengers flown back to the US on two cargo
Melanie and John were negative through the first few rounds of testing on the cruise ship, But on February 13, Melanie learned her husband’s fever and chills were in fact symptoms of coronavirus (pictured, left and right, on their vacation pre-quarantine)
The next day, she got that information, but it wasn’t what the couple had hoped for: ‘John has tested positive for the Corona Virus!’ Melanie wrote on February the 13th.
While Melanie was confined to her room on board the luxury cruise liner, she had her comfortable bed to sleep in and meals brought three times a day.
Like other patients in Japanese hospitals, John was being given next to nothing for free.
His bed, Melanie said, is a framed mattress. Meals are delivered through a slot, and they usually consist of little more than rice or kimchi. He has to pay for water.
The couple’s church back in Utah arranged to send him some basics – water, toothpaste, shampoo – and Melanie planned to send one to him too, but admitted she felt ‘guilty’ for the relative comfort afforded her, compared to John’s quarters.
She kept her head up, though, saying in a video post: ‘We’re going to be okay, this will pass, it’s just taking a toll right now.’
On February 15, Melanie was given the go-ahead to go home, that night, so long as she passed her health screenings.
She packed everything sh could fit into a carry-on after being given a tight weight limit for her baggage. The rest of her belongings she had to leave in her room, to be thrown away, unless she could work something out with the cruise company.
That night, Melanie and 300-some other passengers broke the cruise ship’s qurantine to be loaded onto the two bare-bones cargo planes equipped with isolation booths and headed to Texas and California, respectively.
A nine hour flight and seven hour bus ride later, Melanie reached her room on Travis Air Base in California for her second round 14-day quarantine.
‘Let the clock begin,’ she wrote.
Cases of coronavirus have surpassed 73,000 worldwide, although the majority are concentrated in China where all but five of the 1,875 global deaths have occurred
For nearly two weeks, the Haerings were among thousands of passengers quarantined on the Diamond Princess (pictured) before John was hospitalized for coronavirus and Melanie was evacuated to the US
Happy to be back on US soil, Melanie could breathe a sigh of relief – for a brief moment.
Not 24 hours went by before she yesterday learned that John, back at Chiba University Hospital in Japan, had developed pneumonia.
‘We are both very worried right now,’ she wrote, though she took comfort in the fact that her husband had been in good health up until this development, and was on no medications.
Pneumonia or none, if John tests negative for the coronavirus that’s now struck 73,436 people around the world.
Tuesday, his results were mixed. His swab test was negative, but his saliva test was negative.
‘We don’t really know what that means, they’re going to test him again, but he definitely has pneumonia,’ said Melanie in a Facebook video.
John seems to be feeling somewhat better though, even cracking joke about his meals.
Melanie is back on US soil now, quarantined in a hotel room on Travis Air Base (pictured), while her husband fights pneumonia and hopes for two negative coronavirus tests in Japan
Coronavirus has struck more than 73,000 people worldwide, including 15 people in the US, not including the infected passengers evacuated from the cruise ship
‘His food isn’t very good that he’s getting,’ Melanie said.
‘He told me he feels like he’s going to start growing scales because he has so much fish, or something that looks like fish.’
Then, last night, a very different tray slipped through the slot in John’s door, some sort of spicy clam dish.
‘He ate it all up and he said it was delicious and he knew it was for someone else, but he didn’t care because once they put it in there, they can’t take it back,’ Melanie said.
Later, hospital staff returned with the usual bland, fishy foods John has not developed a taste for.
‘But he’s going to be really quiet because it was a probably a doctor’s meal or something,’ said Melanie.
‘I had lots of gratitude last night for him having something delicious to eat.’
For her part, Melanie is on just day two of her 14-day quarantine at Travis, she said from her hotel room on the base.
She’s lost a bag, but is moreover happy to be back on US soil.
‘The only thing missing is my heart,’ Melanie wrote on Saturday as she looked ahead to her terurn to the US.