COVID-19 survivors: Albertans share their experiences with novel coronavirus

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All the top medical professionals have talked about how COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate. It has infected young and old alike, with varying symptoms and degrees of severity.

Those who contracted the virus are sharing their experiences; from the first signs of sickness to their thoughts now that they have recovered.

Natasha Reynolds – 50 years old

Natasha Reynolds was out shopping in Calgary when she suddenly got sick.

“One minute I was fine and literally the next minute I had this overwhelming fatigue, like a wall of fatigue. I got chills but was also overheating at the same time. It all came on in that same moment. There was no warning,” the mom of two teen boys said.

She was feeling so bad she couldn’t drive and had to call her husband to pick her up.

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Reynolds woke up the next day to worsening symptoms she described as “a bad flu.”

“The chills increased. The worst body ache I’ve ever felt. It felt like every bone in my body hurt. Everything hurt. My skin hurt. My eyes hurt.”

Reynolds ended up going to the emergency room when her chest started to feel heavy.

“Waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes three times a night, flailing because I couldn’t breathe — that’s not normal. That’s not a regular flu — no flu I’ve ever had, anyway,” she said.

Reynolds also said she didn’t want to tell anyone she contracted COVID-19 because of the stigma.

“It’s not something I wanted to disclose to a lot of people because it feels like you’ve done something wrong, and because you’ve done something wrong you got this.”

While technically recovered, Reynolds says she is still experiencing some symptoms — mostly moments of fatigue. She says every day that is a good day, she celebrates.

“It’s so unpredictable,” Reynolds says of COVID-19.

Read more: A glimpse inside an Edmonton ICU full of COVID-19 patients

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“One person can just have the sniffles. The next person, on the other extreme, ends up in hospital. Then you have a bunch of us in the middle that are just trying to make our way through every day, hoping there are no long-lasting effects.”

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Reynolds says everyone is entitled to their own views and opinions when it comes to lockdowns and masks, and says everyone should continue to ask questions, but to do it safely.

“While you’re questioning, put a mask on, keep your distance — because the flipside is that you get hit with this horrible virus.”

Evan Goddard – 19 years old

Evan Goddard thinks he got COVID-19 at a bar in downtown Calgary. The University of Calgary chemistry major says the pandemic has been hard on people his age who are used to getting out and socializing all the time. It was about two days after his outing in October that he started noticing symptoms.

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“I started feeling a little sick. I didn’t think anything of it and then by maybe the third or fourth day, I started getting a pretty brutal fever, super dizzy, super tired.”

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Goddard says he never expected COVID-19 to hit him even though he had a close friend, Matt Greenshields, who ended up in an oxygen tent in an intensive care unit with the virus.

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“You go through it, you hear about it, but you never expect it to be yourself. So, it was just eye-opening.”

Goddard says his fever, fatigue and loss of appetite lasted for about four days. Then, about a week after those symptoms went away, he got new ones.

“I started losing my taste and smell — which lasted about a week. That was really bad. I didn’t like that.”

Goddard, who has recovered now, says the virus is no laughing matter.

“It’s a little frustrating for me now because even I wasn’t doing the best I could to have stopped it, to prevent it,” he said. “I’ve played sports my whole life, I think I’ve got a pretty good immune system, but it’s not a joke. It’s an issue.”

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Kevin Stanley – 42 years old 

Kevin Stanley owns a renovation company and was at work when he felt something wrong.

“I started to get chills,” Stanley said. “By the time I got to my truck to head home, I literally started shaking like a leaf, like I was sitting in a bowl of ice.”

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He says from there, he had headaches, fever and body pain.

“If you’ve ever woken up and you get that knot in your neck – head to toe – your body is cramped up. You can’t sleep. You try to lie down and you can’t get comfortable. You get up and walk around.”

Stanley says getting a positive COVID-19 test result was very emotional, adding he spent the next two weeks in quarantine pacing the floor, hoping the worst wasn’t going to happen to him.

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“It’s mentally exhausting,” he said. “It’s a long 14 days.”

While he has since recovered, Stanley says he still gets very tired.

“You get six to seven hours into your day and then you are exhausted. You get home and at 8 p.m. (and) you want to sleep.”

Read more: Why are they still sick? The search for answers inside Canada’s first post-COVID clinic

Stanley said he doesn’t know where he got COVID-19 from, but he’s stunned by how quickly it spread to his crew and family.

“On the job sites, my plumber got it, my drywall guy, my dad. Then we obviously took it home, so then it went into my wife. My oldest son got it, his girlfriend got it,” he said.

Carter Stanley – 72 years old 

Carter Stanley is Kevin Stanley’s dad. At 72 years old, when he tested positive for COVID-19 he was considered high risk.

He said the virus came on quickly.

“When I woke up, I was just beginning to feel it,” Stanley said. “I had the cough. Then by afternoon I was, I was sick.”

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From there, Stanley said he went into a panic.

“For seven days, I couldn’t close the bedroom door. I couldn’t turn out the lights. I just laid there in agony.”

“It attacked my brain,” he said. “I could feel it sending the pain to my back and my hips and down my legs. I couldn’t sleep. Every time I’d fall asleep, something in my brain would just wake me up.”

He also didn’t eat for a week and was worried about the virus reaching his lungs.

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“That was my big fear,” Stanely said. “The lungs. If it goes down in my lungs, that’s it.”

Stanley said he came close to going to the hospital.

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“I’ve had a lot of flus,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of bad flus — but this doesn’t compare to the flu.”

Stanley said he’s thankful for the support system he had around him while he was sick, including his wife, children and grandchildren.

Read more: ‘A shadow of what I was’: COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’ shed light on brain-related symptoms

He said after living through COVID-19, he wants everyone to hear the doctors and “mask up.”

“Wash your hands. Stay in your bubble. Protect the people,” he added.

It’s a sentiment that Stanley’s son echoes.

“If you don’t get it and you don’t get the symptoms, that’s fine, but, there are a lot of people out there that are getting really, really bad symptoms.

“It is very scary. It is terrifying and people are dying,” Kevin Stanley said. “So, let’s just respect everybody that’s going through the bad sides of it.”

Lasting symptoms 

Thousands of Canadians have joined a Canadian COVID Long Haulers support group on Facebook.

Its founder, Susie Goulding, said she created the group because she “needed to speak to other COVID-19 survivors, like myself, who had hands-on experience.”

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A number of members in the group describe several lasting symptoms, including brain fog, fatigue, dizzy spells, chest pain, and gastrointestinal issues, just to name a few.

“Some people are feeling very isolated,” Goulding said. “It’s a great place to find strength and the courage to support one another and be there for one another.”

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