COVID-19 no “walk in the park”: Emma’s story

Emma Erskine will never take her sense of taste for granted again.

Five weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, the senior contracts administrator is still recovering from the virus, which left her with body aches, fatigue and a sinus infection, in addition to weakened senses.

“It wasn’t a walk in the park,” says the normally-healthy 32-year-old, who doesn’t know if she contracted the virus in Spain where she’d been located for the last six months, or on the way home.

As part of the small group of employees that was located in Madrid to work on the engineering phase of the Base Plant Coke Boiler Replacement Project, Emma got an early glimpse of things to come. She and her colleagues were evacuated back to Canada on March 16, the morning that Spain, one of the hardest-hit countries in the world, began its lockdown.

“I already had a heightened sense of it. Things escalated quickly and they got really bad, really fast,” she says. “The last week we were in Spain, we were out walking, and there was a tactical medical unit going in to test someone two buildings down from us. We understood then this was going to be a big deal as they were in full PPE suits going into the apartment building to test people.”

Huck enjoying life in Spain before COVID-19.

Emma was grateful for the support she, her fiancée Ross and their goldendoodle Huck received from Suncor in getting all three of them on the second last Air Canada flight out of Madrid.

“I’m glad we’re back in Canada. I’m glad Suncor made the decision when they did. Suncor was really supportive; from HR to the project team to Field Logistics, everyone was working really hard in the background to make decisions quickly in our best interests.”

She also received specialized support from Suncor after testing positive. “A health and wellness coordinator was assigned to me, talked me through the guidelines, what to expect and about eventually returning to work.”

Emma feels lucky that her symptoms weren’t more severe, and has strong words of advice about the importance of maintaining physical distancing to flatten the curve.

“Think about testing positive and how you will feel after you have that call with local health services to describe everywhere you’ve been and everyone you’ve had contact with. Would you be proud of your actions or upset that you hadn’t done the best you could to ensure you kept everyone else safe?”

Emma, front centre, and her co-workers who were located in Spain prior to being safely evacuated back to Canada in the middle of March.

Emma and Ross are now working from home in their temporary housing in Calgary, and planning their September wedding, which is keeping them on their toes as timelines around physical distancing measures constantly change.

“We’re anticipating having to have a smaller wedding (15 people or less), postpone or have a distanced civil ceremony only,” she says. “Our venue has cancelled everything until August so far, so we will see!”