It was the middle of March when Magalie Alcindor, a Baldwin resident, realized she had contracted Covid-19.
Alcindor, a doctor who teaches nursing at York College, woke up at 7 one morning, as she typically does, to prepare for a virtual 9 a.m. class with her students. “When I woke up that morning, I didn’t have any energy,” she said. “I felt really, really drained.”
She lay back down, and her fellow instructor called her at around 8 a.m. when she hadn’t heard from Alcindor.
“I told her, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m not feeling like myself today; I feel really tired,” she recalled. “But I said, don’t worry, I’m going to drink coffee, I’m going to get myself together, and then I’ll meet you in the lab.”
She felt herself becoming extremely sick during the three-hour lab, but stuck it out. Soon afterward, Alcindor, whose daughter, Nicole, is a reporter for the Valley Stream and Lynbrook/East Rockaway Heralds, developed a headache, and felt her body aching and a fever creeping in.
“The tremendous headache kicked in, and the body pain came along and the fever came along,” she said, “and the headache felt like someone took a sledgehammer and they were pounding me on my head nonstop, continuously.”
She can’t be certain how she contracted the virus, but believes it could have been from her husband, Fitzgerald, a doctor at a local urgent care center, or from an asymptomatic carrier at the school before it closed and switched to online classes.
Because Fitzgerald was consistently exposed to patients, he contracted the virus and fell sick for about four days. During that time, Alcindor took care of him.
“I already knew, in terms of my constant exposure to him, that it was exposing me, but that’s the sacrifice I made in taking care of him,” she said. “But it is what it is. I made that sacrifice because someone had to take care of him.”
Once her symptoms kicked in, Fitzgerald drove his wife to an urgent care center, where she was tested. Four or five days later, the test came back positive. She and her husband self-quarantined for two weeks.
She said she had no appetite, felt feverish every evening beginning around 6 p.m., experienced backaches and a continual headache. She lacked a sense of taste and smell. And while there was no medicine she could take to treat the virus, Alcindor, 54 — the same age as her husband — said she was prescribed Z-Pak, an antibiotic that is typically used for bacterial infections and upper-respiratory illnesses.
“If you should get pneumonia or any kind of upper respiratory illness, even though there’s no treatment for the virus, but if somehow a bacterial component comes into the picture, then the Z-Pak would help you,” she explained.
After a week, Alcindor recalled, the body aches and fevers mostly subsided. Then she started experiencing gastrointestinal symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. “The headache had left me, but the second week of illness brought me back to body pain and fever again.”
Alcindor’s 18-year-old daughter, Angeline, cooked meals for her parents and left them outside their closed bedroom door. After she walked away, her parents would open their door, take the food and close the door to avoid contact with her.
Her 17-year-old son, Fitz, said he, Angeline and Nicole disinfected the house every two hours. They cleaned and wiped down every doorknob and the entire kitchen, including the microwave and oven.
“We just cleaned everything that people would be touching to make sure that nobody got sick,” Fitz said, adding that he and his sisters put their heads together to figure out how to help out in any way they could, including “making sure everything stayed sterile.”
“We were definitely feeling very scared for the future and what was going to happen next,” he said. “Everyone had to do their part because it kept our minds off of the unknown for the future.”
Despite their caution, Alcindor was worried about her children contracting the virus.
“The living in fear, the living in anxiety, feeling depressed,” she said, “because you really don’t know — there’s no answer, there’s no solution. You don’t know, because you keep seeing that you don’t have to be 60, 70 or 80 for this thing to really bring you to the hospital, and then you don’t come out.”
Although she doesn’t have high blood pressure, Alcindor added, it was extremely high when she was tested. She grew concerned she was experiencing heart trouble.
“I really don’t know,” she said. “It was extremely scary. I felt very helpless, I felt very tired, and tired of being in quarantine.”
But Alcindor, a born-again Christian, said she prayed a lot, and had a lot of faith in God.
“The thing about it is that you wake up in the morning, you’re OK, and you become kind of hopeful that you’re getting better,” she said, “and right around sundown, like 6 o’clock, 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock, you become so tremendously sick. I became a little weary of the false hope of being better and then getting sick again, like how long is this thing going to take? So I started coming to peace with the fact that maybe I’m going to die.”
She turned to her faith for support, but her biggest heartache, she said, was that she would not be there for her children and husband.
“And then, slowly but surely, he brought both of us out of it,” Alcindor said, speaking of God.
Although she was unable to teach while she was sick, her supervisor and students were supportive and patient, she said, and her church pastor checked in with her family and told her the entire church was praying for her.
The minute a parishioner discovered that a family member was a frontline worker, Alcindor said, the entire family was regarded as frontline workers.
And while her husband has returned to work, Alcindor said she realizes she could become sick again, as public health experts are unsure about re-infection.
While some health care professionals have taken leaves of absence, she said, “for the most part, they’re all gung-ho to help the public and do the best that God called them to do, which is to help people.”