Editor's Note: One of our readers, Shirley Williams, submitted this story about her experience being diagnosed with COVID-19, which led to her being rushed to an Edmonton hospital and remaining in treatment for 10 days. Wilson requested that she send in a summation of her time in hospital, which was nothing short of heartbreaking. We hope that this account perhaps gives our readers who doubt the seriousness of this virus some pause.
I’m a Barrhead resident and here’s my COVID pneumonia story from my rural perspective.
Oh the wailing, oh the complaining, oh the despair and that was just after we received our breakfast trays at one of the main hospitals in Edmonton.
LOL! But seriously folks, COVID is no laughing matter and thankfully people are taking it more serious with the new lockdown or public health restrictions. My story begins when a cohort family member came for a visit in late Nov. She had no COVID symptoms until her second day; which lasted for two days, though she was weak/exhausted for weeks afterwards. My symptoms began two days later. The main symptoms for both: Chills, loss of appetite, taste, smell, coughing, body aches and pains, sore throat, runny nose, weakness and exhaustion. Other symptoms also occurred according to our own health conditions, like severe headaches and earaches and my breathing became laboured. We both tested positive. Our son also tested positive with minimal symptoms and my husband Dave tested negative three times.
Soon I began coughing up signs of blood and went to emergency in Barrhead a couple of times. The second visit was when my blood oxygen was dangerously low, so after 4.5 hours of waiting/tests (low lung capacity/inflamed heart), I was rushed by Westlock ambulance to an Edmonton hospital. I was put on oxygen and stripped of everything, (except my purse/cell-phone). Even saying goodbye to family was not allowed. It was a scary time as I lay on a stretcher as we drove out of Barrhead in the dark of night and I wondered if I’d ever see my family again. My family was also shocked and saddened by the news.
We arrived in Edmonton a couple of hours later (driving around to take up time, while they scrambled for beds). After registering, I was moved to a semi-private room at 4:00 a.m.
Continuing on oxygen, an army of health care professionals came at me from every direction. M.D., Respiratory, Blood work, ICU, etc. I was asked several times if I wanted to be revived if I went into cardiac arrest. I said, “Of course, yes please, I’m only 59!!!!” Their treatment for COVID is antibiotics/steroids/oxygen.
I was hooked up to a steroid intravenous and given antibiotics in pill form. Unfortunately, they’d given me the wrong antibiotic and it came up with my breakfast that morning, even though I had told them of this allergy.
A few hours later the nurse returned with the same antibiotic, which I refused (a sign of how overwhelmed/busy they were to miss this detail). Later, they gave me a different antibiotic (I wasn’t allergic to) which was administered through I.V. Blood/oxygen tests were taken day/night. I then felt that I was in good hands with these health care professionals. Unfortunately, because of spacing problems, I was in a semi-private room with another lady who was in a very severe COVID condition.
She cried/yelled for hours day and night. After two days of little sleep and clinging to life myself, we requested to be moved.
Thankfully I was moved across the hospital into a room with three other (less severe) COVID recovering ladies. Generally, on this main floor, you could cut the fear, despair and hopelessness in the air with a knife; it was so overwhelming in this war zone of pain and suffering. I decided, instead of sinking into this atmosphere and not knowing when/if I would get out of the hospital, I focused on surviving two days at a time. This helped me move ahead daily. Needless to say, my prayer life increased as I realized I needed to pray about everything and that it would be a “mental game” to survive.
In my new ward, we all had our challenges, and I think represented many of the COVID patients. One patient was a 93-year-old woman who was in a lot of pain and refused to eat. It was heart-wrenching to hear her call out several times a day saying “I’m 93 years old, I just want to die. Where are my children, I want to see my children!” Another roommate was quiet and recently healed from COVID. Sadly she couldn’t return home because her isolation time hadn’t ended yet and she didn’t want to infect her husband. The last roommate rejected being in our ward, saying that the COVID tests were wrong and on top of her frustrations communicating with her husband, a steady stream of negativity/swearing was her way of coping, along with telling every staff member (day and night) her troubles.
This was challenging for us and affected our rest/recovery. After five days of coping/trying to remain positive (one night, I felt close to death’s door) I was thankfully moved (by a nurse’s wisdom) to another semi-private room. Though during my later time with these ladies, I began sitting up, looking out the window, reading and colouring. The days dragged on and there was lots of time to think and new life priorities began to form. I was mainly just thankful to be “Alive and Breathing”. It was the best Christmas present ever! Maybe COVID is a reset button, giving the world 2020 vision! A reflection time on what’s really important in life, our relationships with God, family and friends!
I spent much time in prayer and made peace with God about my situation. (Sometimes you’re all alone; you can’t see family and friends and you’re surrounded by strangers. Sometimes it’s just you and God.) Sometimes all I could pray was, “Jesus help me.” He impressed on me, that either He would heal me and I would go home to my family, or He would take me home to heaven and ultimately, He would take care of me and my family. I clung to Him, trusted Him and was at peace. I often prayed that Jesus would walk through our wards and calm all the storms. We experienced Him do amazing things, from calming patients to giving wisdom to the staff. P.T.L!
Glad to move to my last semi-private room (three days), I was next to a quiet elderly lady who was at the end of her COVID stay. Staff encouraged us to sit up/sleep on our stomachs, as this helped our breathing. With more rest/healing my breathing/blood oxygen levels improved. I strived to gain daily and was gradually able to move around and became more independent. After 10 days in the hospital, my blood oxygen level was normal and my oxygen/antibiotics were removed. Excited to go home, I was prescribed oxygen and other medications and given and breathing exercises to do.
I was thankful with the quality of care at this Edmonton hospital even though staff had to wear two mouth shields and a face shield, which sometimes made communications difficult. They kindly served needs and though we all learned patience, they were for the most part professional, compassionate and hard-working. We’re thankful for everything they’ve done to save my life and others too! We’re also thankful for the quick thinking Dr. in Barrhead for sending me to Edmonton. Some suggestions to health care: keep calm around patients, have night meetings away from ward doors and try to deal with patients frustrations in wise/timely ways. Doing these things will greatly add to patients mental health/quicker recovery.
We’re thankful for strength/hope from the prayers/communications and wonderful food that we’ve been blessed with on our COVID journey from our wonderful Church family and community! Recovery is slow and up/down, but improves daily with prayer and naturopathic treatments. We’re thankful/celebrate Jesus our Emmanuel who has proven once again that He is always with us! Hopefully, our story is a snapshot of COVID reality. I hope to stay diligent and to trust Jesus through everything! Wishing everyone a healthy and hopeful 2021!