Riverhead teen hospitalized with COVID-19 back home and on road to recovery

Welcome home, Matthew.

After a frightening ordeal, a Riverhead teen who was hospitalized with COVID-19 is on the mend at home.

When the Powers family contracted COVID-19 in late January, symptoms ranged from a stuffy nose and headache to a relentless fever, body aches and chills. “My heart sank,” Emilie Powers said, recounting her experience in an interview Thursday. “I thought, ‘Oh no, not my family. How is this possible?’ ” Ms. Powers returned home after testing positive to begin quarantining. As the first in her family to test positive, Ms. Powers said then infection spread to her husband Ed and three sons who all live together.

But as their conditions improved, her youngest son Matthew felt increasingly worse. 

“Matt was hit hard by the virus,” Ms. Powers said. Weakened, with a fiery fever that refused to break, the otherwise healthy 17-year-old with no underlying health issues was rushed by ambulance to Peconic Bay Medical Center.

“I held his hand, kissed him and I prayed with him and told him he’s going to be OK,” his mom said, fighting tears as she watched the ambulance pull away. “This was so hard as we were all so sick and so weak fighting this virus.”

At PBMC, a team of doctors and nurses worked to stabilize Matthew before he was transferred to the pediatric intensive care unit at Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center in Queens, due to complications from COVID-19 and fluid in his lungs. The illness is also believed to have caused a tear in Matthew’s esophagus and spike in blood sugar, which his family worries could have lasting impacts.

Unable to be with her son, Ms. Powers said her daughter-in-law and older sons — she has eight — stepped in to be there for Matthew, both at his bedside and even waiting outside the hospital due to ongoing visitation restrictions.

“The doctors in the ICU were waiting for him as soon as he got there,” Ms. Powers said. Speaking with her son that night, she said communication was difficult. “He could only whisper, but at that point even a whisper was beautiful to hear,” she said.

Still home battling the virus, Ms. Powers went back and forth communicating via teleconference with Matthew’s team of doctors multiple times each day over the four days he was in the ICU.

By Saturday, Ms. Powers said things started to look up. While still hospitalized in serious but stable condition, Matthew, a football player, joked that he was more upset about spending Super Bowl Sunday in the hospital alone.

And on Monday, he finally returned home.

“When he walked through the door, I ran over and hugged him and just cried,” Ms. Powers said. “I didn’t want to let go.”

Ms. Powers credits her strong faith in God and community for helping her get through the last two weeks. “The outpouring of love and support started immediately after Matt left for the hospital,” she said, adding that love, prayers and well-wishes filtered in from well beyond Riverhead, in addition to meals provided by local family and friends. “It’s been an amazing feeling to have so many who genuinely care so much,” she said.

And while the family is relieved to have Matthew home, Ms. Powers said the family is still fighting a “beast” of a virus.

While most children and teenagers with COVID-19 suffer mild or no symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that severe illness requiring hospitalization is possible. The New York State Department of Health has reported 23 fatalities among those between 0 and 19, representing less than one-tenth of a percent of the total fatalities in the state.

More than 2,800 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in Riverhead Town since the pandemic began last March.

“Everyone needs to know that this is a serious virus, scary virus and deadly virus,” Ms. Powers said Thursday. “It hit our family so hard and we are still suffering from it. Take it serious as it’s no joke.”