WESTFIELD, Ind. (WTHR) — Staying at home feels like freedom for the Stephens family right now.
That's because just weeks ago, isolation was their agonizing reality.
On March 30, we shared their home video of the couple's young boys "visiting" dad through a basement window.
"These are my kids right here, going down into the window well, so that they can talk to their daddy," Heather Stephens said in the video. "Say hi to daddy!"
The family was separated by the coronavirus in their own home. Shawn Stephens, who tested positive for COVID-19, confined himself to the basement.
A cough, fever, tightness in his chest and paralyzing weakness brought a man who ran Spartan races to a standstill.
"It breaks my heart because they miss Shawn so much," Heather said last month.
Shawn was cleared from quarantine by doctors on April 1, after being fever-free for three straight days.
He joyfully rejoined his family. But that night, he got a fever again and could barely eat his dinner.
"And, my first thought at that moment was 'oh my God. I still have this.' I have been up here around the kids and my wife all day. I gotta go back down to the basement," Shawn said. "It was like a roller coaster after that. You keep thinking you're healed and you're getting better and then boom, it knocks you back down again."
What's worse, his boys, one of whom has asthma, developed fevers too.
Shawn said he had to fight for testing and spent hours on the phone pleading for coronavirus tests to get answers for his family.
He learned children under 13 are not allowed to get tested. But he and his wife finally got a test.
His came back positive for COVID-19. His wife was all clear.
Shawn finally recovered Thursday and came back upstairs for good after 21 days in quarantine.
On Monday, April 13, Shawn sent reached out to 13News' Reporter Jennie Runevitch to tell her the kids were being taken to a respiratory center as a precaution.
"They would only let one of us inside, so I'm waiting for results from the parking lot," Shawn wrote. "So far, they say that it is highly likely they have COVID-19. We opted not to test the boys on their recommendation. It's a very unpleasant test and it will not change how they are treated.”
Throughout his fight with COVID-19, Shawn kept a journal and his wife shared the experience on Facebook to warn about the virus' danger, explain the progression of symptoms and treatment and express the urgent need for social distancing to stop the spread.
"There's just so much information that we've gone through, and we've learned and we have the opportunity to share that," Shawn said. "Protect yourself. Get a mask or don't work! Demand sanitary wipes for cash and credit card exchange! Demand that the business you work for protect you," he said. "... If one person goes to the grocery store that's sick that happened to wipe their face or eye or something and put that on the credit card, how many people are getting it just from the cashiers? We need to be doing things ... to stop spreading this."
Now that Shawn's recovered, the Stephens are helping others.
After a neighbor started making masks, they invited others to do the same, and they're selling the masks for $10 each to raise money for a local food pantry.
Shawn said they've raised $1,000 so far in just a few days.
He also plans to donate plasma soon.
While antibody testing isn't a sure thing, Shawn is hoping it leads to a coronavirus cure.
"It would take all the pressure off this accelerated frenzy to find a vaccine because we are the vaccine," Shawn said. "We can directly help the ones who need it the most."
He's also part of a Facebook group with 30,000 other survivors, which connects people who've recovered from COVID-19 with blood centers and the research labs trying to cure it.