By René J. Roy
CAPE RAY – It all started when Melva Osmond and her husband, Bert, both contracted COVID-19 during their Christmas vacation. The couple were staying with their son and his daughter-in-law in Plympton-Wyoming, Ontario and became sick on Christmas Day. Almost two months later, they still don’t know how they contracted the virus.
“We think maybe someone that came into the house to visit had it, but they had no symptoms,” said Melva.
Their son and his spouse both became ill at first, and Melva decided the best course of action would be for her and Bert to take a rapid test to check on their own health.
“So we got a kit, and we took rapid tests, and mine came back negative, my daughter-in-law’s came back negative, and my son’s came back positive.”
While rapid tests are commonly used at home, they also have a higher chance of providing false negative results according to experts. Bert went to the local drug store and his test also came back negative.
Melva feels that had she been symptomatic when she took the test, she would have been better off.
“That was my mistake. I should have waited. About two or three days after, two days I think, is when my symptoms were showing.”
Melva began showing some very serious signs of infection. She had a sore throat, aches and pains and a fever.
“I was really sick. Really sick. I knew then I had it even though I didn’t have a positive test.”
Bert also began showing signs of COVID at that time, but he was much luckier.
“I got symptoms too, but I never had it so bad as her,” said Bert. “Melva had it the worst, and then our son and our daughter-in-law, they had it pretty bad too.”
Once Melva was symptomatic she went for a PCR test at a drivethru testing facility. However, since the family all became sick on Christmas day and Boxing Day, she did not receive her results back right away due to the holiday closures. It took three days. On the same day those results were due back, Melva became much worse.
“On December 28th, three days after, I got really weak with the COVID. Because my throat got really sore I couldn’t swallow; not even water. So I went to gargle my throat in the bathroom with salt water and I got weak in the bathroom. And I thought to myself ‘Well I can’t screech out for help, because I can’t swallow.’ I couldn’t even scream.”
Melva’s arms became weak, so she was also unable to even slap the counter or bang on the walls for assistance. She was scared to remain in the bathroom for fear of falling against the counter or the tub and injuring herself, so she decided to go out to the bedroom.
“But I never made it. I fainted.”
She fell face first on the floor, and ended up injuring herself quite badly. Bert heard the noise of the fall.
“When I heard it, I thought she was getting out of bed and fell on the floor. So I just rolled over to see, and she wasn’t there. And I heard my son and daughter-in-law singing out,” said Bert.
“I ended up splitting my head open, and my nose,”said Melva. “Fiteen stitches. They ended up having to call 911 for me and I ended up in the hospital for nine days.”
Melva’s stay in the Ontario hospital, which she prefers not to reveal, was very challenging.
“The healthcare in Canada right now is the worst I’ve ever seen it. Everything is COVID care and nothing else. And when you go in with COVID, you’re treated like you’ve got Leprosy. Everybody is just standoffish.”
Melva then received another test, this time administered by the hospital. It was her third in three days and the results came back quickly, unsurprisingly showing a positive return for COVID-19. However, she was not put in a room or ward right away.
“I was on a stretcher for 12 or 14 hours in the Emerg. (emergency department).”
After that long wait, Melva was admitted to a room, under tight COVID protocols. At this particular hospital those protocols included giving patients Dexamethazone. It is a steroid given to aid COVID patients with breathing difficulty. Melva was given the drug via an IV drip.
As it turns out, she had a reaction to the drug.
“Lo and behold, I didn’t know I was allergic to it. So I got all the side effects from it – agitation, hallucinations. Everything that could happen with that drug, happened to me. I guess you could say, in a way, I got crazy.”
Melva became very confused due to the drug, which was continuously being delivered via her IV. She began to wander the hallways and started screaming. She also became convinced that her hallucination of Bert being in a room across the bay window was real.
“I thought my husband was, at one point, in the COVID unit dying.”
She was completely unaware of her erratic behaviour, but the hospital staff had little choice but to restrain her in her hospital bed. While Melva says almost all of the staff treated her well, she had one nurse who was “really mean”.
“She strapped me to my bed, and went out, and shut the door on me. That happened a couple of days.”
Melva lay restrained in her bed, left alone for hours at a time, over a span of two days. It took that long for staff to realize that she was possibly suffering a negative reaction to the Dexamethazone.
During one of the times she was strapped down, Melva soiled herself.
“I ended up peeing myself. I was restrained. I couldn’t get up,” said Melva. “So this nurse, who was not very nice to me, she was on of course. So she came in, and I told her.”
According to Melva, the nurse refused to assist her, saying ‘You’re waiting until the next shift comes on. I’m not changing you.’
Melva remained restrained in her soiled bed for three hours until shift change.
Meanwhile Bert had no idea what was happening inside the hospital because visitation was restricted. While his symptoms remained quite mild, he couldn’t visit his wife.
“Wasn’t allowed in,” said Bert. He was able to call her, however. “We done a lot of crying because we couldn’t get in to see her.”
After three days, Bert was told they might be able to get in to see her.
“We never got in that day and they said ‘the next day’, and we never got in the next day.”
After nine days, Melva was released from the hospital. She and Bert returned to their home in Cape Ray where they isolated immediately. Unfortunately, her difficulties followed them home.
“I had to go into Corner Brook the other day (mid-January), to get a CT scan on my lungs, because I was having trouble – like – breathing, short breaths and that.”
Melva was directed to the Port aux Basques hospital by her doctor through a virtual appointment. She had informed him of her lingering symptoms and he wanted to perform a CT scan to check for a possible clot.
“Went down here to Port Aux Basques. I was there for six and a half hours before I got an ambulance to Corner Brook. I had to wait for the ambulance that already went in with a patient to come back to get me.”
During transport into Corner Brook something else went wrong.
“I got an hour outside of Corner Brook, and our ambulance broke down. The transmission went,” said Melva.
Once again, she had to wait for an ambulance. One was dispatched from Stephenville.
“Good chance I wasn’t really serious. What if that was a patient who was dying? If they had to wait 45 minutes, they probably would have died in the ambulance.”
That visit to the Western Memorial Regional Hospital in Corner Brook also turned out to be an eventful one for Melva and Bert.
“At 8:30 that night I got in and the doctor seen me; done the scan. I waited a couple of hours until he came back. Around 11:30 he said the scan was good, there was no blood clots, and he was discharging me. But there was no ambulance to take me back home.”
So Bert left Cape Ray at close to midnight to retrieve his wife.
“I got into the hospital at quarter to two,” he said. “And I went over to the Emerg and I knocked on the door. It was a nurse that came to the door, and she said ‘I’ll get her ready now.'”
Bert was directed to the security door to pick Melva up.
“So I waited and waited and she didn’t show up. I was 10 minutes or more I suppose. But in the meantime she had to leave from the hallway in the emergency department, she had to walk down the hallway, then she had to come across another hallway. When I saw her coming down the hallway, she was walking, she had her hands on the wall.”
Melva was barely upright and using the walls to support herself so that she could reach her waiting and anxious husband.
“I wasn’t allowed in to help her and they never had the decency to bring her over in a wheelchair.”
Melva states that the nurse came in and told her that Bert was waiting and to get ready.
“So I got ready and I waited cause I thought they were going to wheel me out like they did in Ontario. And I waited and waited, and I said ‘Well they can’t be coming back.’ So I got ready and I started following the wall with my hands, trying to make my way out to find Bert, because I was too dizzy and weak to go without feeling the wall.”
Melva passed by a workstation which was occupied by hospital staff, but says nobody came out to check on her or offer assistance. Tara Pye, Regional Director of Communications for Western Health, responded to e-mail inquiries about discharge procedures for patients.
“Western Health is not able to provide specific information about individual patients for privacy reasons, however, we can provide this information in response to your inquiry.
When patients are discharged from emergency departments or from other areas of a hospital, staff members assess the patient’s ability to walk on their own, if they have a support person with them to assist, and/or if support is need. For example, wheelchairs or walking aides are available if someone is not able to bear weight.
We encourage anyone who has concerns or questions about their experience at any of Western Health’s facilities, programs or services, to reach out to our Client Relations office at 1-833-784-6802 email@example.com.”
The results from the scans did reveal that Melva has scarring on her lungs from the infection.
“I’m a healthy 59-year-old woman, never smoked in my life, so my lungs are as clear as that. And it scarred my lungs, so I can’t imagine what it would do to someone that got, say, COPD.”
Melva is still worried about what is being labelled as ‘Long COVID’.
“I’m still really fatigued, and I don’t know if I’ve got an underlying condition, because where I passed out, they’re looking into why I fainted,” said Melva. “I can only get up, do a little bit and I’ve got to sit back down.”
That fainting spell also gave Melva a concussion, whiplash, and a brain bleed.
“Those issues are still here – headaches, dizziness, pain in the back of my head from whiplash. I guess I went down so hard, that my head kind of bounced back.”
The Osmonds chose to tell their story, in order to bring to light what they feel is a healthcare system in crisis, as well as address the naysayers.
“For people who think that COVID is not real. It is real and it’s bad. Yes, my husband got through it fine. His immune system must be better than mine. But for me, it took the good right out of me.”