‘Something that could happen to anybody,’ woman says after 3 family members catch COVID-19

Shelley Biscoe, 53, stands with her daughter Sarah Waltman, 23. Both are registered nurses who work at the Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital. Supplied

An Ontario family is still grappling with the lingering effects of the novel coronavirus after three family members tested positive more than five months ago.

One day in May, Shelley Biscoe, 53, caught COVID-19 from a family member who was in her close circle.

Read more: Ontario man who’s suffered months of COVID-19 symptoms: ‘I don’t even feel like I’m in my own body’

The family member sneezed on Biscoe after they had already gone to the hospital twice for headaches, although they didn’t know they had COVID-19 at the time.

“I was sick the very next day,” Biscoe, who’s a registered nurse working at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, told Global News. “I was home for four days, fighting a fever in the 40s.”

Read more: Study sheds light on coronavirus ‘long-haulers,’ but experts still lack clear picture

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Biscoe started monitoring her own vital signs at home, but after several nights of feeling sick, she became confused and delirious.

By that point, Biscoe’s partner had also caught COVID-19, her family member who gave her the virus was on a ventilator and she was being taken to the hospital, where she would later be intubated.

“My grandmother is being tested and my brother is being tested,” added Sarah Waltman, Biscoe’s 23-year-old daughter. “I came back negative, and I was just kind of waiting to see what was going to happen.”

Shelley Biscoe leaving the hospital. The 53-year-old was put on a ventilator as a result of the symptoms she experienced from COVID-19. Supplied
Shelley Biscoe recovering from COVID-19 in the hospital. Biscoe contracted the novel coronavirus from a family member. Supplied

As Biscoe was put on a ventilator for three weeks, Waltman was starting a new job — also as a registered nurse at the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.

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“I think my first day, she was on the ventilator at that point,” Waltman said of her mother.

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“It was hard, but it was kind of a blessing in the sense that I knew all the ICU nurses who were taking care of my mom because she worked with them while I was growing up.”

When Biscoe was taken off the ventilator, she couldn’t walk at first and had to be moved in and out of her chair with a sling lift.

“I was myself, but I wasn’t,” Biscoe said. “I was myself as in I was determined to get out of the hospital and get home, and I was harping on everyone around me until that happened. But I was hallucinating — I was talking to people that weren’t in the room.

“Because of all the isolation, I had dreams that I thought were real.”

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Biscoe said her family member who gave her the virus became even more sick than her. They were on a ventilator for nearly four weeks and had to go for rehabilitation for three weeks afterward.

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To this day, Biscoe and her family member are still experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. She said her family member’s brains are still sharp but that she’s much physically stronger than they are.

“Now I can only work on one thing at a time. I have to write everything down, I can’t remember things,” Biscoe said.

“I’ve been working on executive skills, so executive skills are what management and good executives would require, and that part of my brain seems a little damaged.”

The 53-year-old said she’s almost back to work full-time but that recovery is a struggle.

Read more: These Canadians say they suffered COVID-19 symptoms for months

“They’re calling us the long-haulers — people that still have symptoms after COVID is over,” she said. “It was a good two months after I was out of the hospital before I even trusted myself to make decisions.”

Now, as Ontario battles the second wave of COVID-19, Biscoe and Waltman are warning people that the virus is real and that what happened to their family could happen to anyone.

“You have your bubble, but the people in your bubble, they go places, they do things,” Biscoe said. “Your family members go to work, they shop, they go to the grocery store, they go to the gas station and then they come home.”

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Waltman said she’s heard from people who believe what happened to her family is an isolated incident and that people don’t understand how COVID-19 is going to affect them until they get it.

“Young people can get sick. Older people can get sick,” she said.

“Even if you don’t get sick, you could pass it on to someone else who really could be affected from it. I think (it’s) just taking it seriously and not just taking it as an isolated incident but something that could happen to anybody.”

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