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Okotoks mom diagnosed with COVID-19 warns about the importance of self-isolation

Leah Beingessner tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Alberta from Mexico. .
Leah Beingessner tested positive for COVID-19 after returning to Alberta from Mexico. . Leah Beingessner

An Okotoks, Alberta woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is warning others about the importance of self-isolation.

Leah Beingessner left Calgary for Cancun, Mexico on March 2 and returned on a WestJet flight on March 12. Just one day later, Canada encouraged people not to travel outside the country.

READ MORE: Canadians urged not to travel during coronavirus outbreak, but some are taking the risk

The 29-year-old said she first starting feeling unwell on March 4. She had body pain, stiffness in her neck and knees, which was followed by a chest cold.

“I just developed a cough and could not stop coughing throughout the day,” Beingessner said from her home southwest of Calgary. “It lasted about a day or two with the chest pain and the coughy, and the following night I developed a fever.

“Trying to self-diagnose myself, I thought maybe I had too many hours in the sun because we were in Mexico.”

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Beingessner said she took some Tylenol thinking she was suffering from heatstroke — it never occurred to her that she could be dealing with coronavirus.

“I went to bed and woke up with zero energy. It hurt to talk. The only way I could describe it is that I had no personality — I felt like a shell,” she said.

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“I didn’t want to speak. I didn’t want to do anything, I just laid there. And felt kind of depressed.”

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READ MORE: Calgary woman injured in Thailand struggling to get home during COVID-19 pandemic

On the journey back to Calgary, Beingessner said she was shocked to see all the travel advisories, but said she wasn’t asked any questions before boarding her flight. Upon arrival, she said the screening consisted of a question about whether or not she had travelled to China, Iran or Italy.

She called 811 as soon as she got home and says she was sent for a coronavirus test the next day. Within 48-hours, Beingessner says she was told she had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I would just say I am very, very lucky. I don’t have any medical issues from before,” Beingessner said.

“Having COVID-19, for myself, it’s mild compared to what other people are going through.

“The thing I wanted to express is that it can happen to anyone. I am 29. I am healthy. And to me it just seems like a very odd, strange illness and I kept having excuses as to why I was experiencing things,” Beingessner said.

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She said her husband and two young children tested negative for the virus.

Beingessner says she is now part of an Alberta Health Services study on COVID-19.

“It’s been 20 days, I am still testing positive. There’s no one to blame, just trying to figure out how to get a hold of this and being part of that case study is awesome,” she said.

Alberta sees 2nd COVID-19 death as 57 new cases brings total to 358
Alberta sees 2nd COVID-19 death as 57 new cases brings total to 358

“It feels good to know that they are trying aggressively to find other ways of testing for this so they can rapidly find a solution and to self-quarantine patients quicker.”

The whole experience has her urging others to listen to warnings.

“I can’t express enough how important self-isolation is at this time because I can’t imagine if I didn’t listen, how many people would’ve been exposed,” Beingessner said.

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Beingessner said one of the worst parts of the experience is feelings of guilt about how illness could be passed on.

READ MORE: Coronavirus cabin fever? Keeping mental health a priority during self-isolation

“It is definitely not pleasant at all,” she said.

“The guilt and the shame and thinking how you could affect someone is scary. I am recovering and I am getting better. I am almost there but it’s been a long 20+ days.”

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