Photo by John S. Peterson
Nebraska Basketball

How COVID-19 Has Impacted Several in the Nebraska Family

June 6, 2020
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It was roughly a 20-hour drive here and a 20-hour drive back. Husker women’s basketball center Kate Cain, while back home in New York this summer, had to make a short trip to Lincoln in April to move her belongings out of one college home and into another. Cain and her mother split the drive up into two days, moved everything out, then drove right back to New York. 

And that wasn’t even the craziest story she has from the summer. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed life for the better part of three months in America. Cain couldn’t fly to Lincoln, and certainly not out of New York, one of several virus hotspots. Nebraska hasn’t been hit by the virus in ways other states have, but the Husker family has still dealt with it.

In mid-March, the Husker women’s basketball team started coming to terms with the idea their season might be over. The Big Ten was able to get its conference tournament in the books, by on March 15, the NCAA announced the cancelation of everything, including the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament. Nebraska was hoping for an NIT bid. Instead, it had to reconcile a season that ended in disappointment. 

Student-athletes were to leave campuses and return home. Cain said several of her teammates left Lincoln within a day of the news. She waited for a flight to New York, and two days later did the same. 

“It was definitely interesting because I did get back to New York as it was building up,” she said. “It wasn't like two completely different things yet, I would say, because even though I live near the city I don't live in the city. … It was kind of just building up with all the new orders and procedures. But where we’re at now or just a few weeks ago compared to where Lincoln was at, it’s just two completely different worlds.”

Cain said people in New York have been “on edge.” Masks are required if you’re going outside. Even if you’re going for a jog. Walk through a grocery store in Lincoln and you’ll see a good chunk of the patrons without them. 

The virus has been handled differently almost on a case-by-case basis. Some people don’t want to leave their houses at all. There were stories back in March of NBA player Rudy Gobert fake coughing on his teammates’ things. Cain had the experience of learning what it was like to live with it and to have it but not have any symptoms.

Her father, Tim, was deemed an essential worker from the beginning, an engineer at West Point. Cain thinks it may have been a Friday morning when her dad first started feeling weird. He stayed home, but shortly thereafter he found out someone he worked with tested positive. 

Then Cain’s older brother started feeling symptoms. Then her mom. Cain’s mother, Alison, is considered part of the at-risk demographic; roughly three years ago, Alison had a kidney transplant. 

“She developed the coronavirus-induced pneumonia,” Cain said. “She was having a hard time breathing, and she was wiped out for like two weeks.”

For a day, Cain’s mom had to stay at the hospital. But initially, she didn’t have a fever, so hospitals around them were refusing to test her. It took her dad 11 days to get his test results back, and it took friends at one hospital near them to get her mom tested, and only after it was apparent she was having respiratory issues. 

Cain and her younger brother were asymptomatic, so they never took a test themselves, but they were presumed positive. 

“At first, it definitely was (frightening) knowing my mom was extremely ill with a compromised immune system,” she said. “It’s a scary thing because of how easily its transferred between people, but at the same time … a lot of people assume if they get it they're gonna die from it, or it's gonna be extremely awful. There are also people who have gotten it like me—if my entire family wouldn't have gotten it, me and my little brother who had absolutely no symptoms would have never thought we had it. So it's scary in the fact that it is serious, it could do some serious harm to people, but at the same time, it sounds bad, but it almost seems comforting in a way to be like there are plenty people who have had it and nothing has happened to them.”

Husker men’s basketball assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih had a run-in with the virus, too. 

His 18-month-old son was in daycare when Abdelmassih had to go pick him up. 

“He had a fever, so I went to go pick him up, and an hour later the fever went up to 104.3,” he said.

Abdelmassih went to a pediatrician and then to a drive-thru testing site. The infamous cotton swab test, 10 seconds up the nose. “The screams were absolutely brutal,” he said. 

“That happened on a Tuesday,” he said. “At that time, they give you the orders that you have to assume you all have it, so you have to quarantine. We were locked inside for close to three days just worrying, ‘What if he had it?’ Very stressful thing to deal with.”

But testing with children that young, Abdelmassih said, isn’t as accurate as it is in adults right now. They waited three days to get the results back, which were thankfully negative, but his son would have to break the fever and remain completely symptom-free for at least 24 hours before they could return to any kind of normalcy.

“The thing we were focusing on is that his fever was so ridiculously high, it was just high-level discomfort for him,” Abdelmassih said. “He would lay on us and he was just burning up. … There’s not much you can do, it’s not like he’s taking medication, but you’re just making sure you consistently and diligently give him tylenol.”

Lots of stress. Lots of emotion. Abdelmassih got texts and check-ins from the Husker family, though, and from his team. “The people here, the overwhelming support that we had from a wide range of people just speaks volumes to how great of a community it is,” he said. 

Take it seriously, though, he said. That was his reason for sharing what he did on social media. Too many don’t. The United State has topped 100,000 deaths related to the virus. 

As football players are returning to programs around the country, notably Oklahoma State and Alabama have had players already test positive for the virus. Husker Athletic Director Bill Moos told 1011 News’ Kevin Sjuts recently that after an initial player tested positive several weeks ago, Nebraska has had no new cases to report since student-athletes returned to campus on June 1 to begin voluntary workouts. 

 
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