Focus On Nathalie Laitmon: On The Virtual Frontlines

Nathalie Laitmon has lived in Westport for 15 years. The writer and mom of three contracted COVID-19 at “The Party”.  One of the earliest sufferers of a mild to moderate version the illness which she describes as “still being like the worst flu feelings one has ever had at once”, Nathalie came forward on social media to share real information about her experience to try to allay community fears.  She has already donated her blood plasma for researchers at Mt. Sinai Hospital working on treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.  

“Westport has an air that is big enough that you don’t have to come forward to say anything private, but small enough for me to feel incredible responsibility to the town. I never once thought about keeping information to myself especially since the real-time misinformation without context or hindsight is creating a cognitive dissonance with the reality we are used to experiencing.  I feel like I’m on a virtual frontline in terms of sharing information and trying to be an advocate. I’ve had a lot of very private conversations with people I will probably never speak to again just to give reassurance. 

Even though I’m an extremely private person, I felt incredible responsibility to constantly check in with people who were at that party. I felt we had a collective illness and if someone pulled through that raised the spirits of everybody and made it seem it more likely that everybody would pull through. 

That being said, people who were quarantined didn’t want to come forward with false hope until they cycled through all their symptoms. The backlash we saw in these Facebook groups talking about the party was a little scary, and off-putting. There is an undercurrent of fear and panic but it’s up to us to reassure one another.  

It’s feels like we’re in an old-fashioned era for which you are not prepared except for watching Little House On The Prairie reruns. I feel like this is all something we’ve read in history books about tuberculosis and scarlet fever when the fear was unprecedented. 

Doctors told me to assume it’s been through my house completely now. There were many, many days where we had to wait for tests and we were still learning about social distancing. During that time everyone in my home had symptoms. We were ahead of the curve of what everyone will be going through in the next few months.  I’m most concerned about the idea that there are asymptomatic carriers out there. I wonder if people are really listening to their bodies. [For example] now it’s being reported that losing smell and taste is a sign. I had been talking about [my experience with that] for weeks with doctors and no one had an idea of what I was talking about. 

Part of me wants to abandon this responsibility and focus on my household and homeschooling my kids–but it’s just not possible for me to see people panicking and not have a conversation with them. 

I think that the reality of the world has changed and I’m hoping for my town that social distance doesn’t mean emotional distance. In my opinion the “end of the world” is a mindset and not an event. The time I spent worried, I’ll never get back. This is a real exercise in being present.  This is a reality check for everyone on planet. Before this, I was complaining about all of my sport and dance mom responsibilities. I hope some people can ease the panic, resist feeding into the drama and instead force themselves to enjoy their time with their kids.  

This is a real exercise in being present. This is a reality check for everyone on planet.

We could all take a lesson from the kids right now, I think we are all surprised with how amazing our kids are through all of this. They are programed to care, which is something I, as a parent couldn’t not have done on my own–the educational system of Westport creates a genuine desire to be good students and good citizens.” 

Explore More of “Westport In Focus”

To read more of the museums long lens oral histories please visit the Westport In Focus page.