A woman who grew up in West Michigan is now going viral for a video showing herself isolated in an airplane bathroom after she tested positive for COVID-19 in the middle of a flight.
The video, posted to TikTok on December 20th, now has nearly four million views and counting.
13 ON YOUR SIDE reporter Keely Lovern spoke with Marisa Fotieo via Zoom as she continued her 10-day quarantine in Iceland.
Fotieo grew up in East Grand Rapids, but now lives in Chicago where she teaches early childhood education. Over the holidays, she planned a trip to Switzerland with her brother and father.
They left on December 20th from Newark, New Jersey, on an Icelandair flight to Reykjavik, Iceland, where they had a layover.
About an hour into the five-hour flight, Fotieo said her throat started to hurt. She had brought along several COVID-19 rapid test kits, and went to the bathroom to take one.
"And within about two seconds, the test came back positive," Fotieo said. "I freaked out and ran out of the bathroom and found the first person I could see. Luckily it was this amazing flight attendant named Rocky."
Fotieo credits Ragnhildur "Rocky" Eiríksdóttir with keeping her calm and collected. Rocky asked her to wait in the bathroom while she figured out what to do.
"I could hear something over the intercom that said something about a passenger on board testing positive," Fotieo said, "and that it is very important for everyone keep their masks on as much as possible,"
Rocky returned, telling Fotieo that it was a full flight so there was no extra room to space her out.
"There were like 150 people on board," said Fotieo, "so I said I would just stay in the bathroom for the rest of the flight."
"Rocky was so sweet and brought me water and snacks," she added, "and told me that would be my own little space."
During her flight from the cramped airplane bathroom, Fotieo filmed a short TikTok video that has now been viewed almost four million times.
"I can't believe I spent four hours in that bathroom," Fotieo said, "but you've got to do what you've got to do."
"I really think that in this new world we're living in, everybody just really needs to lookout for one another," she added.
Foteio said she had taken five of the rapid tests in the days before leaving and they were all negative. She explained that she's been very vigilant of COVID-19 safety because she wanted to keep her father safe.
Her mother passed away two years ago, so she said her father's health is extremely important.
"For the past two years, keeping him safe has really been top-of-mind," said Fotieo, "so knowing that he was on the plane I just knew I had to stay in the bathroom."
Fotieo's brother and father both tested negative when they landed, and the two continued on to Switzerland while Fotieo had to stay in Iceland for a 10-day quarantine. She was put up in a Red Cross Humanitarian Hotel at no charge.
"They have medical personnel here that check on me and bring me food three times a day," Fotieo said, and looking back on it, I'm so happy it turned out the way it had to because I've been cozy in here."
Her quarantine period started December 20th and would end on December 30th, so she'd spend the Christmas holiday alone. To her surprise though, the flight attendant who'd helped her on board, Rocky, dropped off a special package to Foteio on Christmas Eve.
"She sent me a little Christmas tree with lights to dangle around it, a note, a warm dinner, and presents to open on Christmas day," said Fotieo.
Fotieo said she was emotional that Rocky really went above and beyond to make sure she had a happy holiday despite her situation and isolation.
"I can confidently say that I would have probably cried for 10 day straight had it not been for Rocky," said Fotieo, "and Icelandair as a whole really made this experience joyful and memorable, and it was really so heartwarming."
Fotieo said she was really surprised that her TikTok video got as much attention as it did, and she has since continued to update her profile with videos of her quarantine experience and Rocky's generosity.
"I'm just happy that through the video, people are able to hear the story of how a stranger can care so deeply for another stranger," said Fotieo.
"It's also fun to share because I really believe that in life, everybody is tied together by an invisible string," she added, "and I get excited when I finally get to meet those people along the way, and Rocky is definitely one of them."
Fotieo said her father and brother plan to return to Reykjavik when her quarantine period is over and then they will spend four days in Iceland doing excursions like snow-mobiling and seeing the Northern Lights.
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