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My B.C. COVID-19 story: I was infected with the coronavirus in the U.S.

A first-person account from a V.I.A. contributor who contracted COVID-19 while on a work trip to Ohio
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Vancouver-based lawyer Kyla Lee shares her story of becoming infected with COVID-19 while travelling in the U.S., and being diagnosed without a test back home in B.C. Photo: COVID-19/Unsplash.com

I landed in Ohio late on March 10, 2020. I gave myself March 11, 2020 as a day to meet with some colleagues, tour a breathalyzer manufacturer, and watch a friend speak at a small seminar. On March 12, 2020, I spoke to a room of 150 lawyers in downtown Columbus. 

And by the time I was done speaking, word had spread that Ohio’s department of health believed there to be 100,000 undetected cases. This was the peak of the United States crisis for testing kits. A few days after that, more widespread testing began. In the meantime, the conference I was attending scaled back to presenters only, with the presentations recorded for those who had registered. The third day of the conference was cancelled entirely. 

The day I left Ohio, the state ordered all bars and restaurants to close. I came back to Canada, expecting 14 days of self-isolation before returning to work. 

What I did not expect was that a few days into my self-isolation, I would start to have a dry cough. At first, it was nothing much at all. A few coughs here and there. I had a sore throat. My muscles were sore, but I attributed that to sitting in different positions than I was used to while working from home. 

By the fourth day of my self-isolation, my cough was bad. And by the fifth day, I had a fever and chest pain. 

'The doctor diagnosed me over videoconference with COVID-19'

I logged into the CloudMD App, at my mother’s suggestion, and scheduled an appointment with a doctor. I was not sure what to expect. Was I going to be sent to hospital? Did I have to have someone run a plumbing snake through my nose to test me? The appointment time came and the doctor diagnosed me over videoconference with COVID-19. I was told there were no tests for anyone who was not a frontline healthcare worker, in a care home, or hospitalized. 

Frankly, I was a little bit relieved. I didn’t want to be tested. The nasal swab sounded uncomfortable and I did not want to use up a test kit that could be used for someone else. 

The advice I was given was simple. Stay at home. Do not walk the dog. Take Tylenol. Drink fluids. Nothing more complex than the advice for a regular flu. My sister suggested walking around frequently to prevent pneumonia from settling in to my lungs. And so I paced.And coughed. And paced. I was told what signs to look for to necessitate a hospital visit, and what protocol to follow if I was going to go. 

No longer was I self-isolating. I was now officially quarantined. 

I went about the rest of my day that day, monitoring my temperature and trying not to think about it. And that worked, until the late evening. By then, the constant barrage of news stories  about deaths started to trickle into my mind. I read stories about how people in my age group were dying, despite thinking we were imperious to the disease. 

'My chest pain was so bad...it kept me up for several hours'

At the same time, my chest pain was at its worst and my coughing was bad. My sister, a nurse, was joking about being intubated by a gynaecologist. I tried to keep my thoughts calm and think about the fact that the doctor had told me I had no risk factors and no need to go to the hospital. 

My chest pain was so bad that night that it kept me up for several hours. When I finally got to sleep, it was a relief. 

I woke up on day six of my self-isolation-cum-quarantine with less chest pain than the night before. As I sat up from bed, the cough returned with force hard enough that I felt like I was gagging. This subsided as I drank some fluids, walked around, and took a hot shower. And with the clarity of being able to breathe a little better, I decided to come out of the Covid-closet. I posted on Twitter about my appointment. 

Thankfully, I was not met with jeers or accusations that I had not properly engaged in social distancing. People, perhaps the one time in known history, were kind on the Internet. 

As I stay home and continue to recover, I will continue to share my journey battling COVID-19. But for now, I want to recommend to all people that they wash their hands, cook whatever is in their freezer for dinner, and hunker down for a Netflix marathon this weekend. Because there’s no reason to be going out and risking this disease.

My case may be mild now, but yours may not be. You don’t need to take that chance. 





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