Neighborhood

COVID-19: Linden Hills Neighbors’ Stories

This new LiNK series will feature different Linden Hills residents as they share how they are experiencing COVID-19 and the stay-at-home order. We hope to share a new story with you each week. If you have a story to share, please email carol@lindenhills.org

COVID-19 Hit Home for a Linden Hills Physician
By Linda Picone, LHiNC Board Member

Krista Olsen, MD, has had to figure out how to balance work and family life in a demanding, difficult new way during the COVID-19 pandemic and state stay-at-home orders. Krista is a mom, OB/GYN-physician, and life-coach. She regularly sees clinic patients and works at a hospital; and she was infected with COVID-19 and recovered.

Dr. Olsen started feeling ill in mid-March after she and her husband R.J. Kern came home from a vacation to a sick babysitter and rosy cheeked, feverish four and five-year-old children.

Two days later, Dr. Olsen kept waking up in the middle of the night. “I felt like I’d been hit by a truck,” she says. The next morning, her temperature was 102.6F. “I tried to get tested, but even though I was a health care provider, they wouldn’t test me,” she says. “There weren’t enough tests. I was sick for about three days with fever and body aches, and then the fever went away. On day five of being sick, I completely lost my sense of taste and smell. That next morning, I was able to get in and get a test.”

 Her test came back positive for COVID-19.

When her results came back, her husband and children were considered “people under investigation” and were quarantined for another 14 days – a total of 21 days confined to the house. She feels fairly confident that her children and husband also had COVID-19 but, fortunately, none of them became seriously ill.

When she was confirmed as positive, Dr. Olsen says, the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines were that anyone who had – or suspected they had – COVID-19 needed to stay quarantined until seven days after their first symptoms and/or three days after symptoms resolved. The CDC ha since revised its guidelines and now recommends quarantine for fourteen days after first symptoms of COVID19.

Being away from the clinic and the hospital for 16 days did not mean that Dr. Olsen wasn’t working, however. She had some leadership and social media activities for her clinic group that she could do from home, and she began doing virtual office visits with patients.

In fact, Dr. Olsen was a leader in her clinic group, figuring out how to do virtual visits, almost overnight. She is certified as a life coach and has been working with women all over the country for more than a year, using Zoom to connect with them. She was able to put that experience to use in helping set up safe Zoom visits for patients. Some patients still need to be seen in the clinic, of course, and babies aren’t delivered “virtually,” but Dr. Olsen says both patients and physicians are likely to want virtual options as part of medical care in the future.

The first weeks after becoming ill and after the state stay-at-home order, Dr. Olsen and Kern both worked from home and cared for their children, whose daycare had closed. “We kept trying to get really creative about activities for them, to keep them stimulated.

Although Dr. Olsen is back at work now, and her children are in a daycare that provides for health care workers, she has made a number of changes. Besides doing virtual visits as part of her clinic work, she is very careful about what she does between work and home. “We don’t know that the kids had COVID-19 or, even if they did, that their antibodies will protect them,” she says. “And I’m still working in a hospital and then coming home.” She changes clothes when she leaves the hospital, and leaves her shoes outside the door when she gets home, to minimize any possible transfer of the virus.

Having had and recovered from COVID-19 has given Dr. Olsen a different perspective on the disease, she says, especially since she is working as a life coach with women around the country, many of whom are anxious and frightened; “They say it brings them a sense of peace to know someone who’s come out of it.”


Learning to live alone (while sheltering in place) isn’t easy for an extrovert – By Linda Picone – May 11, 2020

Living alone for almost the first time in half a century has not been easy for Peter Albrecht, 75, a retired Hennepin District Court judge and an outgoing man who enjoys the company of other people even more than most. It’s an adjustment for anyone, but adjusting to solo life during this time of pandemic and a state stay-at-home order removes options like throwing yourself into group activities or relying on the company of good friends. “I lived alone during college and law school, but I haven’t lived alone for a long time,” says Albrecht. “And I don’t like it.”

Albrecht, like many people living alone in Linden Hills—particularly older people who are more at risk for becoming seriously ill if they contract COVID-19—is figuring out how to fill his days with meaningful and useful activities and how to connect with others when the usual ways to do that are not available.

Although Albrecht has lived in Linden Hills for more than a decade, he moved into his Sheridan Avenue townhouse in November, after separating from his wife. He thought there might not be much to do in the smaller space but, luckily, he says, he’s discovered a number of home projects that can help occupy his time—and give him a sense of both purpose and satisfaction.

There are rooms to be painted, shelves to be built, racks to be constructed for his 20 or so guitars and banjos. Albrecht’s father passed on a love of making and fixing things and Albrecht says, “I’m never happier than when I’m sitting at my workbench.”

He also plans to be more deliberate in studying music while staying at home. While he’s enjoyed playing music for decades, he’s decided that now would be a good time to hone his skills and advance. He’s found that he can take lessons online, and says he plans to get serious about taking some. And then, with typical humor, he tells the story about three frogs on a lily pad: One of the frogs decides to jump off. How many are left on the lily pad? “Three,” he says. “One decided to jump off; it doesn’t mean it actually jumped.”

For six weeks, starting from the about the time schools got out for spring break—a break that now will last through the end of the school year—Albrecht had his 12-year-old granddaughter, Elena, staying with him, giving him the opportunity to home-school with her. Elena’s mother, Albrecht’s daughter, suggested the arrangement as a help to her, but Albrecht says, “I think it was more to keep me mentally safe.” Elena recently went home to her mother—they had never been apart for more than a day or so and “they missed each other terribly,” he says. He also claims that he was not particularly good at making sure Elena was getting the most out of home-schooling. “I just said, ‘Have you done your homework?’ and then took her word for it.”

On the day Elena went home to her mother, Albrecht says it hit him how much he was going to miss her; her presence in his home was a constant. “I took for granted that she was there.” He can’t fill the hole her absence has created, but he is trying to engage with other people as best he can.

“I am sort of outgoing,” he says (a definite understatement). “When I go to and from the lake on walks, or when I walk around the neighborhood, I talk to people and introduce myself to people I don’t know.”

If you encounter him on a walk or when he passes by as you are outside in your yard, be sure to stop and enjoy a bit of conversation and laughter with him. From a safe distance, of course.


Meet The Sellners – By Carol Clemens, LHiNC E-news Editor
May 4, 2020

The Sellner family began their personal COVID-19 story by being forced to cut short a planned six-week European adventure. Emma (16), a De LaSalle “Islander,” left February 15 for an exchange student visit to Valencia, Spain. Two days later, Carrie, Tim and their boys Franklin (14) and Phillip (10) were on their way to a trip of a lifetime – the itinerary: travel through Bavaria, The Great Dolomites, Tuscany, Florence and then spend time in Spain with Emma and her host family before going home.

It was after dinner in Vernazza, a small coastal town in Italy, accessible only by railroad when the excitement began. The COVID-19 situation in Italy was changing quickly – Tim got a message on his phone at 10:00 p.m. that Italy was closing the borders the next morning. They didn’t even know if they could get a train out at that hour.

They packed, ran to the train station and made the 11:30 p.m. train, got their car out of a garage 25 miles away and proceeded to drive three hours in the middle of the night towards Florence (hoping the government had not yet set up roadblocks). They made their connection and caught one of the last planes to Barcelona. It was soon clear that Spain was also at the cusp of the COVID-19 impact and they had to leave without stopping to see Emma in Valencia.

The family caught the last KLM flight out of Barcelona and returned home to Linden Hills March 13, four weeks after they left. Now the nervousness was acute, they still had to get Emma home. Thankfully things went as planned and she got on a flight on March 15 to join the rest of the family in a three week mandatory “traveler” quarantine. 

Home again post-quarantine reflections

Carrie: We have homeschooled our children for several years, however this is quite different; while we are well accustomed to learning together at home, activities and field trips to museums, parks and theatres have been cancelled. And, then there are piano lessons on Facetime!

We have welcomed relaxed family meals with more time for conversation. However, some days simply feel scattered and unproductive. On the other hand, it has been refreshing to slow down to sleep more, read more and embrace family time.

Phillip: I miss watching the Twins, but mostly I miss being able to play baseball. I’m working on baseball skills with my dad and brother in our backyard. I’ve always home-schooled, we’re doing a family art class and painting. I really like art.

Koby: Canine people walker. All of the Sellners have mentioned Koby as a primary motivator for one of their daily exercise routines.

Franklin: I bike and play basketball in the driveway, but I miss sports – especially baseball and hanging out with friends. It was sad when my grandpa had a heart attack and we couldn’t go visit him. I think it is a great time to spend quality family time doing activities like taking a walk, board games, being outside & just having great conversations with the family.

Emma: Biggest challenge I have personally faced is not being able to see my friends and not having my normal structure and routine. Since being in quarantine the smallest things have brought a smile to my face. Whether it’s having a meal with my family or dropping a small gift off at a friend’s house, I appreciate the little things so much more.

I have been FaceTiming with my friends which is better than nothing but still not the same. I have also spent time with friends (six feet apart) by the lakes.

Tim: The unexpected gift that COVID-19 has given us is extended meal times, particularly with our 16-year-old daughter Emma. “Normal life” dictated me coaching the younger boys basketball or baseball teams generally 4 to 6 nights a week. High school life was filled with school, study, friends and extracurricular activities. Dinner together? Extended time at the dinner table – Not possible!

We have re-discovered how wonderful it is to linger for an extra hour or 90 minutes after the meal is over and just let the conversation flow into fun, frivolity and fruitful important discussions. I feel like we have our daughter back before high school and college takes her away again. A great blessing.

Feelings regarding COVID-19: emotionally I feel a mixed bag. A little bit of survivor’s syndrome since we don’t know of anyone personally who has died or become really sick with the virus. We normally home school our boys and I often work from home so day-to-day life has not changed too much. We certainly miss baseball but It’s actually been really nice to work on hitting and pitching with my boys one on one rather than in a large group. We have set up a large screen in a tree that we hit into which has been a blast.

Final thoughts from Carrie: Somewhere I read this…”Let’s not say we’re all in the same boat.” We are all in the same storm, but our boats differ greatly. 

Although in our daily life we feel the inconvenience of staying home and not spending time with family and friends, we know that many people feel the impact of this crisis in vastly different ways. Our family is using this to reflect on as we find opportunities to offer help outside of our home and neighborhood.