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'You're fighting for air': COVID-19 patients have a message for you

As COVID-19 numbers in B.C. continue to rise, people testing positive say they're concerned others aren't taking the virus seriously.

Regard Hulsbos has spent the past year isolating from people and following COVID-19 rules to keep himself safe. 

“We always wear masks, we socially distance, we don’t hang out with friends,” he says.  

The 37-year-old Vancouver resident tested positive for COVID-19 on April 5 and needed to be hospitalized.  

“Initially... I felt really fluey, sore body, aches, pains, wheezing, a lot of mucous — the typical symptoms — diarrhea, all of those things.” 

Hulsbos says he had a fever and slept most days. Then things took a turn for the worse. 

“I struggled more and more to breathe. I was grasping for air and I was continuously exhausted,” he recalls. “It almost feels like someone starts sitting on your chest. The simplest of breaths become difficult. Everything becomes tedious. You can’t get up. You can’t move. You can’t talk.  

“You’re fighting for air.” 

His partner, who has been vaccinated, works in the hospital as an emergency nurse and has been taking care of him.  

Hulsbos tells Glacier Media he was healthy and active and still got the virus.  

“To say, ‘Oh, it’ll never happen to me.’ That’s the wrong mentality to have. You can always get it,” he says. 

It’s a similar thought shared among two other B.C. residents who also tested positive for the virus.  

Theresa Pabst of Maple Ridge was working as a care aide and tested positive for the virus in December 2020.  

“The worst symptoms were the headaches. It just felt like I had huge rods in different places going through my head,” she says.  

The 42-year-old is now dealing with the long-term effects of her infection, including altered taste and sense of smell.

“My taste is still not back. I don’t smell things the same,” she says. “My favourite perfumes smell horrible. I have a lot of hair, it is really fine, but I lost 50 per cent of my hair.”

Pabst says the hardest part of testing positive was the fear of passing it on to a family member.  

“The most difficult part was being in the mix of it and [risking] everyone getting COVID. I think that was the hardest thing.” 

Her entire household ended up testing positive for COVID-19.  

“It’s nothing to mess with. This thing is really scary and when people don’t take it seriously, that’s frightening,” she says.  

Mark Nesbitt, 34, of North Vancouver tested positive in December 2020 and says his biggest fear was also giving the virus to someone else.  

“That was my biggest fear,” he says. “I feel so grateful. Everything was traced back to me and I didn’t pass it on to anyone.” 

Nesbitt also says his taste never fully came back. 

“I was so excited to eat and the first bite was just nothing. No flavour, no smell, nothing,” he says. “From that point on, I lost my sense of smell and taste for a few weeks after. It’s definitely not back 100 per cent.” 

He was very cautious and didn’t see any of his friends before contracting the virus.  

“I was taking every precaution. I wasn't seeing any friends. The only thing I was doing was going to work,” says Nesbitt.  

More than 121,000 have tested positive for COVID-19 in British Columbia. Sadly, 1,546 people have died from the virus, according to the latest update from the BC Centre for Disease Control.