COVID-19 is not just an illness, but a worldwide pandemic that is affecting everyone’s lives. Although, to date, it has only affected a small portion of the population here in BC, the health risk is real and will not go away any time soon. That is why we all take the necessary precautions and hope and pray that we won’t catch it. But what if we do? What will happen? What is it like? One woman and her family know only too well.
“It’s been surreal, I felt like we have been in a movie. I never thought it would happen to us.”
Dana Elliott and her husband, Keith, have two boys, Lane (15) and Ryder (13), and could be described as an average Canadian family. Dana works as a pharmacy technician and Keith as a carpenter. Their saga started on March 12, 2020, when Dana, Keith, and Ryder all fell sick. Although Dana initially had symptoms, they were not the cough and fever typical of COVID-19, so she attributed them to the general stress of the times. Ryder was only ill for a few days, suffering from fever and a sore throat and lethargy, before bouncing back to his normal energetic self. Keith was a different story, however, and four days after falling ill, he went to RIH where he was tested for COVID-19. When the results came back four days later, he was positive.
“Looking back, we think how could we have been so naive? No one believed at first that Keith could possibly have it, and I really did not think that I had it, but we were all wrong.”
After the positive diagnosis for Keith, Dana left work immediately in tears, fearing that she might have infected other people. Right away, Interior Health was in contact with her, trying to trace the family’s movements and contacts for the past couple of weeks. As a result of Keith’s result, Dana was tested. She was also positive. Ryder was also tested, having been sick the week before, but his result came back negative.
Dana was in a state of shock, particularly since they had not traveled and had not been in contact with anyone known to have been exposed to the virus. How they contracted the virus is a mystery that will remain. By this time Keith was getting worse. After suffering rattling in lungs and labored breathing the previous night, he was taken by ambulance to RIH’s Emergency Department. His oxygen levels were measured and were low, typical of COVID-19. He was treated and sent back home. But three days later, after declining to the point of not being able to get out of bed, he was taken once again to the Emergency Department. This time he was admitted to RIH’s Intensive Care Unit.
“I was in the waiting room when Keith went to ICU…I felt completely helpless and did not know if, or when, I would see him again.”
Keith ended up spending three days in ICU on oxygen. Although Dana could not speak with him directly, the nurses took her calls and were fantastic at keeping her informed as to Keith’s progress. “I really didn’t realize how sick I was. I just kept expecting to wake up and feel better but it had gone on for so long. When I was finally admitted to ICU I just slept, my body was oxygen deprived and I had no energy at all. After I found out that Dana had tested positive as well I was worried about how she was at home and wanted to get back to help her.”
At the same time, Dana herself was starting to fall ill with breathing problems, pink eye, altered sense of smell, tingling up her back, and more headaches. Her resting heart rate was over 100. “I think that with Keith in the ICU, I did not have to worry about looking after him, and then my own body just fell apart and COVID-19 took over,” Dana explained. On the flip side, Keith was recovering enough to be moved out of the ICU and quickly came off oxygen. He was able to go home four days after being admitted, to the applause of all of the staff who were so thrilled to see him recover.
Fortunately, both Dana and Keith survived and are on the road to recovery, although they both still suffer from shortness of breath and lethargy. During the entire process, from diagnosis to recovery, a nurse from Interior Health would call every day to check on the family and monitor their symptoms.
Being in strict isolation has not been easy, particularly for the couple’s sons, but they are thankful with the outcome and count their blessings. Since they do not know if they can be re-infected, or still infect others, the entire family takes all the necessary precautions. In addition, Dana takes every opportunity to get the message across that people need to stay at home, emphasizing that everyone needs to treat everyone else as if they are positive, because you just don’t know who is carrying the virus.
“We took so much for granted before, now we step back and take a good look at our lives and focus on what makes us happy. We are very thankful!”
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