A Chilliwack woman is pleading with people to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Erin Calver, 38, tested positive for COVID-19 on March 24. She is currently in hospital in Calgary where she is on oxygen.
“It’s unlike any illness I’ve ever experienced,” Calver said from her hospital bed on Monday morning. “It’s scary how much damage it can do in a short time span. It strikes hard and fast, and the fact that it’s so new and unpredictable is very concerning for both me and the doctors.”
Calver has extreme shortness of breath, chest pressure and pain all across her upper chest. She has pain throughout her body, is very weak and lethargic. She’s been coughing a lot, is extremely nauseous and is only able to eat a few mouthfuls of food a day.
Calver is a teacher with the Chilliwack school district and is currently on a leave of absence. She’s been going back and forth from Chilliwack to Cochrane, Alta., for the last year and a half.
She is supposed to be in Chilliwack right now, but she isn’t because of health issues that began two weeks ago.
She started having symptoms on March 18 when she began self-isolating. She called 811 and was told to go to emergency, so she did. There, doctors were concerned about her chest pain in addition to some previous cardiac issues she had.
She went home without being tested for COVID-19.
The following Saturday night, her cough got much worse and she was getting winded. She called 811 a second time and they again told her to go to emergency. It was at that point Calver was tested.
On the morning of March 24 the health department called to tell her she tested positive for the disease. Calver could only form one- or two-word sentences during that call, and as a result was told to hang up and call 911.
Paramedics arrived and when she walked to the ambulance, her oxygen dropped. She was rushed to hospital and placed on oxygen support at that time.
When she got to the hospital, it was “organized chaos,” she recalled.
There were about a dozen hospital personnel ready and geared up in gowns, masks and gloves waiting for her arrival.
Things really hit her hard when she arrived at the hospital and spoke with a doctor.
“’I’m Dr. P. I think you are going to be OK, but I need you to know, if your oxygen plummets more, I may have to intubate you and you will wake up in the ICU,’” she recalled the doctor say to her.
She’s been on oxygen every day since March 24, except for one very short period on Friday morning when they took her off it for just 30 seconds.
Yesterday, the virus appeared to have exacerbated her pre-existing cardiac issues. During the entire time she’s had symptoms, she never did have a fever.
As to how she contracted the novel coronavirus, Calver is certain she has a community infection.
“I have not travelled, nor have I been around someone who has, and I don’t know anyone with this virus,” Calver said. “As doctors have said, this virus is unpredictable. I have practised social isolation and followed the government rules.”
She has been in hospital for almost a week and is now on minimal oxygen. The only window she has in her room looks into a physiotherapy gym. She hasn’t seen natural daylight in six days, and is not allowed to have any visitors.
“However, the nurses and doctors have been absolutely amazing,” she said. “I have never been treated so well. They have been angels during my time of need. I am very grateful for all of them.”
She spends a good portion of her day doing video calls with her parents, and her brother and his family, including her two nieces and one nephew. She said it’s been hard for them since they all live in Chilliwack.
“We are a very close-knit family,” she said. “My parents obviously want to be here, but they can’t. That’s the hardest thing for them. They feel helpless.”
She’s asking people to donate gloves, masks and other medical items needed since she’s seen firsthand how much supplies they go through for just one patient. She figured within the first few hours of her being hospitalized, staff had gone through “dozens” of sets of personal protective gear.
She’s also asking people to take the advice of medical professionals to self-isolate and practise social distancing.
“I don’t want sympathy. I want people to start listening to what the doctors are saying. This is no joke… please stay home,” Calver said. “I don’t wish this upon anyone.”
“We need to be responsible community citizens. It may not be fun or ideal, but it will save lives, and it will come to an end.”
Initially, Calver shared her message about her journey privately on Facebook with just her family and friends. When they asked her to make it public, she did. It’s since been shared more than 64,000 times around the world.
Now, she’s waiting for the OK to be released from hospital and return to B.C. where “Chilliwack will always be home.”
And when she arrives, what’s the first thing she’ll do?
“Hug my family. Even just saying that brings tears to my eyes.”