A married couple from Utah have been divorced and quarantined on either side of the world after the husband was diagnosed with coronavirus at the Diamond Princess in Japan and the wife was evacuated to the US.
Now Melanie Haering is limited to quarantine at Travis Air Base in California, while her husband, John, is staying in a Japanese hospital being treated for the virus that has infected more than 500 passengers aboard the ship.
And now John has told Melanie that he has developed pneumonia as a result of the infection, making the nights that she stays up late to talk to her husband from all over the world even more sleeplessly.
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 and landed in the US on Sunday evening.
US officials initially said that passengers who were positive about the infection, such as John, would not be admitted to the US until they had removed the virus.
But authorities on board the evacuation aircraft received the positive results of the 14 after they had boarded. All 300 passengers, including Melanie, will be quarantined for another two weeks, while 13 high-risk passengers were transported to the National Quarantine Unit in Nebraska.
Melanie Haering (left) was repatriated to the US from Japan after two weeks on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, but her husband, John (left), was diagnosed with coronavirus on board and is now fighting pneumonia from a hospital in Japan
John and Melanie were among the more than 3,000 people aboard the Diamond Princess when it docked and was quarantined in Yokohama Japan.
During the first few test rounds, they were all released from the virus.
Although the conditions were ‘not perfect’, Melanie writes on Facebook, they were grateful for their health, for the occasional fresh air from their cabin on the ship and for the details of thoughtful solutions that saddled the crew with a totally foreign set of their customers’ needs – such as 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 book: nausea, chills, “like a severe case of flu.”
In the course of the next 24 hours, John was visited three times by doctors, but he still had no test results.
Melanie tried to keep him comfortable with cold packs, until doctors finally decided it was best to take John to the hospital where he could be treated more fully and they could “discover this virus,” Melanie wrote.
“It is hard to be 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 one of about 300 passengers who flew back to the US with two loads
Melanie and John were negative during the first few test laps on the cruise ship, but on February 13, Melanie learned her husband’s fever and shivers were in fact symptoms of coronavirus (pictured, left and right, on their pre-quarantine vacation)
The following day she received that information, but it wasn’t what the couple had hoped for: “John tested positive for the Corona virus!” Melanie wrote on February 13.
While Melanie was limited to her room aboard the luxury cruise ship, she had her comfortable bed to sleep in and brought meals three times a day.
Like other patients in Japanese hospitals, John received almost 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 also planned to send one to him, but admitted she felt “guilty” because of the relative comfort that her command was compared to John’s stay.
However, she raised her head and said in a video post: “It will be okay, this will pass, it will now only take toll.”
On 15 February, Melanie was given the green light to go home that night, as long as she passed her health examinations.
She packed everything that she could fit in hand luggage after she had been given a tight weight limit for her luggage. She had to leave the rest of her possessions in her room to be thrown away unless she could arrange something with the cruise company.
That night Melanie and 300 other passengers broke the Quran from the cruise ship to be loaded into the two bare cargo aircraft equipped with isolation cabins and headed for Texas and California respectively.
A flight of nine hours and seven hours later by bus, Melanie reached her room at Travis Air Base in California for her second round of 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 all 1,875 deaths have occurred worldwide
For nearly two weeks, the Haerings were among thousands of passengers quarantined at the Diamond Princess (photo) before John was admitted to hospital for coronavirus and Melanie was evacuated to the US
Glad she’s back on American soil, Melanie can breathe with relief – for a short moment.
Not 24 hours passed before she heard yesterday that John, back at Chiba University Hospital in Japan, had developed pneumonia.
“We are both very worried now,” she wrote, though she was comforted by the fact that her husband had been in good health until this development and did not use medication.
Pneumonia or none, as John tested negative for the corona virus that now affected 73,436 people around the world.
His results were mixed on Tuesday. His smear was negative, but his saliva test was negative.
“We don’t really know what that means, they’re going to test it again, but he definitely has pneumonia,” Melanie said in a Facebook video.
John seems to feel a bit better, even a joke about his meals.
Melanie is now back on American soil, quarantined in a hotel room at Travis Air Base (photo), while her husband fights pneumonia and hopes for two negative coronavirus tests in Japan
Coronavirus has affected more than 73,000 people worldwide, including 15 in the US, excluding those infected passengers evacuated from the cruise ship
“His food is not very good that he gets,” Melanie said.
“He told me he feels like he’s going to grow bowls because he has so much fish, or something that looks like fish.”
Then last night a completely different tray slid through the slot in the door of John, a kind of spicy mussel dish.
“He ate everything and said it was delicious and he knew it was for someone else, but he didn’t care, because once they put it in, they can’t take it back,” Melanie said.
Later the hospital staff came back with the usual bland, fish-like dishes for which John has developed no taste.
“But he will be very quiet because it was probably a doctor’s meal or something,” Melanie said.
“I was very grateful last night that he had something delicious to eat.”
Melanie is in turn on day two of her 14-day quarantine in Travis, she said from her hotel room at the base.
She has lost a bag, but is also happy that she is back on American soil.
“The only thing missing is my heart,” Melanie wrote Saturday as she looked ahead to her turn to the US.