At age 3, he’s a quarantine veteran

Special visit to candy store was a treat for Port boy with cystic fibrosis who has been isolated much of his life and now must navigate the added dangers of the pandemic

MOST OF THE TIME when 3-year-old Levi Hauser is out and about, he looks at life from inside the isolation wagon that protects him from the viruses that could compromise his health. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Levi Hauser and his sisters Aubrey and Ellie had an idyllic morning at the Chocolate Chisel in Port Washington earlier this month.

They looked over the selections, tasted the ice cream and picked out treats to buy, then headed to the city’s lakefront to devour them. Then they headed to south beach for a little playtime.

As they got into their car, their mother Caitlin said, the youngsters had one comment.

“They said it was the best day ever,” Hauser said.

While it might not seem like a big deal for some people, it was special for the Hausers, who moved to Port from Illinois a couple of months ago. 

Levi has cystic fibrosis and other maladies that have left the 3-year-old with a compromised immune system and lung problems.

Levi, who travels around town in an isolation wagon and has worn a mask for most of his life, typically can’t roam inside a shop like the Chocolate Chisel, his mother explained.

That’s because, with fear of illness a constant companion, Levi and his family “live the quarantine life regularly,” his mother said.

“Normally, he would have to sit in the car while we went in. This was one of those moments when he got to be the normal kids and eat the ice cream and lollipop. It’s definitely out of his realm of normalcy.”

And Covid-19, his mother said, has cast a pall on life, adding “an exponential degree of anxiety.” 

Her husband Mike is “the only one who goes anywhere except the grocery store.”

He, Aubrey and Ellie change their clothes when they get home and everything they have, including their school bags, has to be cleaned and sanitized.

The girls wear masks and have never complained, their mother said, noting they know that “the germ,” aka Covid-19, could make Levi sick and send him to the hospital.

But in some ways, the public’s response to Covid-19 — wearing masks and social distancing — has made life seem a little more normal for the family, his mother said.

“We’re very appreciative of coronavirus for showing people what it’s like to take those extra precautions,” she said. “This is what the immune-compromised community lives with every day. 

“I laugh when people complain about having the nasal swab (test) done. My son’s been doing this since he was a year old.

“For Levi, nothing has changed. Nothing about this is scary. He’s so used to it.”

Levi, she noted, has been wearing a mask since he was 3. 

“He’s used to being looked at strangely because he wears a mask,” his mom said.

But with Covid-19, Levi is no longer the exception.

His mother recalled the day, shortly after the pandemic began, when the family picked up lunch at Costco and sat in the car in the parking lot to eat. Suddenly, Levi yelled as he spied a Costco employee collecting carts.

“Mommy, mommy look,” Levi screamed. “He wears a mask like me.”

“I sat and cried,” his mother recalled.

Because Levi is so susceptible to disease, he travels in an isolation wagon.

“It’s like a giant bubble so if someone sneezes, he’s protected from the droplets,” his mother said, noting that even inside of it, Levi wears a mask. 

To keep him from feeling left out, one of his sisters — Aubrey, 6, or Ellie, 4  — or the family dog generally travels inside with him.

The family’s favorite spot in the city is south beach, which Levi calls “his beach.” There, he’s able to get out of his isolation wagon and play, his mom said, noting people generally are a distance away.

“It’s one place he can be a normal kid and play in the dirt,” she said, noting he can fight off bacteria but not viruses.

Levi has been battling viruses since he was an infant, his mother said, noting he “got sick at 5 months old” and things haven’t been the same.

The youngster has permanent lung damage, and every illness “moves right into his lungs,” his mother said. “Everything hits him 10-fold. Everything turns into pneumonia.”

For example, she said, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is often carried by adults who don’t get sick but it can affect small children like a cold. Levi, however, ends up with a pneumonia-like infection.

“It has almost killed him,” his mother said.

Levi coded and almost died 18 days after having ear tubes put in, she said. He has been hospitalized multiple times, and takes “tons of meds” to try and prevent infection. He undergoes 2-1/2 hours of treatment on machines each day to help move mucus from his lungs. 

And from September to May, she said, the family experiences what they refer to as “Levi’s sick season.” 

Which made it all the more special when, after contacting the Chocolate Chisel to preorder some treats, the staff offered to open early and sanitize the shop so the children could have the full candy-store experience, she said.

“Levi was able to get out of his wagon and not be secluded the whole time,” she said. “It was as if he got to be a normal child for 15 minutes. 

“For someone to open their doors early for a special-needs family meant everything to us.”

Elizabeth MacCrimmon, who owns the shop with her husband John Reichert, said she had no idea the impact opening the store early for the family would have.

“It made them so happy, and to see something so simple make such an impact on a family — it was a pleasure,” she said, adding they are willing to do the same for others with compromised immune systems. 


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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