MediaSource President Lisa Arledge Powell Teaches Communicators to Deal With COVID-19 While Positive for COVID-19

MediaSource President Lisa Arledge Powell Teaches Communicators to Deal With COVID-19 While Positive for COVID-19

My personal experience with the disease that’s changing the world

by Lisa Arledge Powell

As a business owner, communicator and mother, the past few weeks have been among the most challenging of my career.

Even though I have two decades of experience as a public relations agency owner and mother of a son with a chronic medical condition, nothing could have prepared me for the challenges I faced in the early days of the coronavirus crisis.

I take great pride in being really good at my job at MediaSource, which involves working with the State of Ohio’s top government agencies and the country’s most respected hospitals. So in the spirit of trying to feel some sense of normalcy during this chaotic time, I agreed to host a national webinar for the Public Relations Society of America on March 27. 

In the webinar, I shared with communicators the need for our industry to adapt our approach to working with the media during this historic pandemic. I was thrilled with the result and the large number of professionals in the industry who tuned in.

But it turns out I had one major surprise in store — I hosted the webinar about dealing with COVID-19…while I was infected with COVID-19.

My journey with the virus began earlier in March, when I began making plans to get my 22-year-old son, Grant, home from Colorado. Not only was he in another state while all this is happening, but he’s one of the many Americans with an immunosuppressed system, so I wanted to do everything in my power to make him safe. 

After driving all night to the University of Colorado Boulder, I picked up Grant March 16 and brought him back to Columbus. At the time, his major concern was missing out on everything that was supposed to come with the spring of his senior year at school. I was heartbroken that he wouldn’t get to spend this time with his friends or have a graduation ceremony, but knew that he needed to get home where we could monitor his health.

Sure enough, a few days later, he was having symptoms that concerned me. Fortunately, we found a way to get him tested for COVID-19, which he took March 20, just to be safe. For Grant, this was just another annoyance keeping him in the house and away from his senior year of college. 

After a couple of days, my son seemed much better and I felt relieved. I was still looking forward to hearing that he had tested negative for my own peace of mind, but we were told results would take about a week.

My son’s improving health gave me the chance to get back to work and I spent the next few days putting together a major sales presentation, planning my webinar, guiding our team through these new circumstances and trying to keep everyone calm. Fortunately, our team was killing it, so that put my mind at ease. 

Leading up to my webinar presentation, I felt completely wiped out. I didn’t finish my work until close to midnight and it had been a draining week. I wasn’t worried about myself, I was just anxious about my son’s test results!

The next afternoon, I wrapped up the webinar and felt completely drained, but I assumed it was just the adrenaline wearing off and decided to take a nap. When I woke up, it was the next day. I was still exhausted, but it had been a long few weeks, so it was probably just catching up with me. 

But then I got the call from our doctors from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, one of MediaSource’s amazing clients. My son had tested positive for the virus, and I was shocked. He had been totally fine for days! Still, I decided this was good news; he was almost done fighting the virus and had suffered very few ill effects. 

Before the doctor got off the phone, she asked about my symptoms. I told her the only thing I was feeling was extreme fatigue, but that was enough for her to suggest I self-quarantine. I didn’t have respiratory problems, so I was sure it was just an abundance of caution. 

Because of Grant’s positive test, however, she also recommended that I go to the medical center’s drive-through location to get tested. My son vividly described the experience to me as “the swab goes so far up your nose it feels like it’s in your brain.” He was not wrong. 

Still, I was sure the test would be negative. I let my leadership team know what was going on — virtually, of course — but assured them I didn’t have the virus. I was just exhausted!

While waiting for my test results, Grant got the news that he could stop being quarantined because he was free of symptoms and fever for the appropriate period of time. Fantastic news — now we just need to get my test sorted out. 

But just a few hours later, a doctor called to let me know that I had, in fact, contracted the virus despite how good I was feeling. There was good news, too: I was just a few short days away from recovery, with likely the worst of the symptoms already behind me. 

Feeling almost normal, I let the staff at MediaSource know about my positive test results, assuring them that I was staying isolated and doing fine. Even though I was healthy, it was a shock to both me and my team. Suddenly, this nebulous, mythical virus was very real and directly affecting our lives. 

The experience has been a great reminder of how uncertain these times are. COVID-19 doesn’t care how hard you’re working or how cautious you’re being; it will do its best to find a way into your life and, as I have learned, everyone is vulnerable. 

I feel incredibly lucky that my symptoms were not serious and that my immunosuppressed son recovered quickly from the virus, suffering only a mild case. As we all navigate the new normal, it’s important that we continue to be patient with one another, help your family, friends and business partners and be sure to monitor your own health. It’s not easy to tell if you’ve contracted the virus and could spread it to others — trust me.

Now virus-free, I’m not slowing down. I’m still hosting weekly webinars, helping our clients and other businesses navigate this pandemic and steering MediaSource toward a stronger future. We’re not settling for coming out of this crisis doing just OK, and we’re working to be stronger than ever after fighting through this unprecedented time.

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