As someone known by her family and friends as a self-professed germaphobe, Vicki Greening was shocked to read the text message that confirmed she had tested positive for COVID-19.
With a career in health care spanning almost three decades, adhering to protocols was part of her DNA. “I never get sick; I guess over the years I just built up good immunity. I don’t even get a sore throat. I thought I was bulletproof,” explains Vicki, emergency response nurse at Suncor’s Base Plant in the Wood Buffalo region of Alberta. “No one was more surprised than me. It was almost like I couldn’t believe what I was reading.”
On day eight of being at home, having fever and aches, her health started to get much worse including coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty lying down. Vicki and her husband were at their family cottage near Boyle, Alberta at the time, so had to go to a hospital where she didn’t know anyone.
“It felt just like a scene out of a movie – they were asking me questions from a distance as they knew I was COVID positive,” says Vicki. “I know they were scared, and I was also scared as it was at the time right before the COVID spike happened in late November/December.”
Vicki has worked in many high-stress emergency situations over her career, but it was very different to be the patient and not the health care provider, especially knowing the road ahead and the requirements for isolation. Having to tell her husband to go home and leave her for an indefinite period of time was almost as traumatizing as the diagnosis.
“I have never been so terrified in my life, and that was definitely a new feeling for me. Being placed in an empty hallway, totally secluded from everyone. It was real; I was by myself.” After spending four days at the Athabasca Health Centre with symptoms continuing to worsen, she was transferred to an Edmonton hospital where she spent an additional four days.
“I thought, this is it. I’m never going to come out of this. Without technology and wi-fi in the hospital, I think I would have lost my mind. It was the only way I could maintain connection with people.”
It took several weeks before Vicki was able to return to work at Base Plant. She is now part of an Alberta Health Services study to better understand the effects of COVID-19 on the lungs and other organs. Although she is feeling much better now, with just a few lingering side effects (like reduced sense of taste and smell), it is important to her that she and others understand what the long-term effects of COVID-19 can be on the human body.
Remember no one is immune to COVID-19. It’s critical that we continue to diligently follow COVID-19 protocols at home, at work and within the community.