My name is Erin Bruce, and I am a Communicable Disease Public Health Nurse in Northern Saskatchewan. I’m also a wife, and a mom to three amazing kids.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, my role has been to perform the case investigation that follows the receipt of a positive case of COVID-19. I call people who test positive for COVID-19 and speak to them individually. I have heard well over 100 stories, each one unique. I have listened to people’s stories and reassured them through tough times, offered a sympathetic ear as they have cried, laughed, and yes, sometimes yelled. I clearly remember speaking with one of my first cases almost every single day for a month.
I have heard stories that have saddened me, that have moved me, and those that have broken my heart. People have thanked me for being there through their difficult times and for the work I am doing, and people have threatened me, berated me and hung up on me.
Often, I have felt frustrated and angry because it seemed like many people were still not taking the pandemic seriously despite rising case numbers. Then one day, my mom said to me “Erin, not everyone hears their stories like you do.” That thought stuck with me, and I found myself wishing that everyone could hear the stories that I hear.
This, then, is our story, one that I can share, and one that was terrifying for me, personally.
On Christmas Day, Bobby, my two-year-old son, was tired and grumpy. He continued to seem off the 26th and 27th, and on the 28th, he stopped eating. We booked him in to see a doctor and get a COVID-19 swab, even though his exposure risk was very low. The doctor found nothing obviously wrong on assessment, tested him, and sent us home. That test later came back negative.
Erin Bruce and her family. Photo copyright Kellie L Photography
Over the next few days, Bobby became increasingly tired. He stopped walking places on his own and demanded to be carried. He cried and rolled on the floor if we did not carry him, played laying down, and crawled or rolled to get places if he was really determined.
On January 1, Bobby and I were cuddling together when he turned blue and went limp in my arms. I picked him up and rushed him to the hospital immediately. In the few minutes it took us to get there, he regained some colour and perked up, although he still clung to me and would not let go.
He was tested for COVID-19 again and admitted to hospital for observation and regular bloodwork. While things were off in his bloodwork, nothing was giving us a reason for why this had happened. He did not have a repeat episode, and we were released on January 3 with the advice to call our pediatrician and book follow-up investigations.
On January 5, we received the news that Bobby had tested positive for COVID-19 on admission to hospital.
Bobby was a healthy two-year-old. At his worst during his fight with COVID-19, he couldn't feed himself. He stopped breathing. His blood work showed that he sustained some tissue damage during that time, and he will require follow-up to make sure he recovers fully.
Bobby's illness is considered a minor COVID-19 case, one that did not require intubation and did not result in death. Even the mild cases can be very serious. I have a picture of Bobby, face blue and body limp, embedded in my mind for life.
There are millions more stories out there like ours. Listen to the stories people who have experienced COVID-19 share with the public and let them be your inspiration to keep practicing safety measures. There is a vaccine now; there is hope for an end to this pandemic.
Until then, we all can do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Until then, I am going to continue to be the voice on the phone, listening to their stories.