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They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them

In retrospect, the Omicron variant came at the worst possible time.

School was in session, the vaccine recall campaign was intensifying, and the Christmas holidays were approaching. For many, there was reason to hope that after nearly two years of fear and isolation, the end of this pandemic was finally within reach.

But while it initially appeared that the new strain, although highly transmissible, had a lower impact than its predecessors, the large number of infections quickly decimated the workforce and threatened to overwhelm hospitals.

Public health experts tell us now is not the time to let our guard down and continue with masking, hand washing, self-testing, vaccinations and avoiding large crowds.

These people heeded this advice, but COVID-19 found them anyway.

Gallant said the worst thing about contracting COVID-19 while on vacation was knowing that she passed it on to her children. “I felt bad,” she said. (Robyn Miller / CBC)

Michelle Gallant, 33, had just received her recall

Michelle Gallant, an education assistant with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, believes she contracted COVID-19 in class just before the Christmas vacation.

Gallant received his booster this Saturday and began to feel ill the following Tuesday evening. Her children, aged seven and 10, began to experience the same symptoms – hoarseness, congestion, body aches, fever and chills – two days later.

They are sick and Christmas was ruined because I had a high risk job and brought it home.– Michelle Gallant

Gallant’s seven-year-old son, who has asthma, became so ill that on Christmas Eve she had to take him to the hospital in Almonte, Ont., Where the family lives, for an injection of dexamethasone, a drug commonly used to treat croup. .

It was a frightening experience for everyone involved, she said. But for Gallant, knowing that she had likely passed COVID-19 to her children was the worst part.

“I felt bad. They are sick and Christmas was ruined because I had a high risk job and brought it home.”

Last week, Gallant and his two children were still coughing, but on the mend.

They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them
Robin Browne, his wife and their 20-year-old son have tested positive for COVID-19, but not his youngest son, 17, and his 92-year-old father, who was staying with the family in December. (Submitted by Robin Browne)

Robin Browne, 58, started feeling sick just before Christmas

Robin Browne, a resident of Ottawa, began to feel unwell the morning after he and his family received their booster shots two days before Christmas.

At first he dismissed it as a side effect of the vaccine – he had had similar reactions to previous doses – but when fatigue and congestion persisted, he suspected COVID-19. PCR test agreed with him, although he said his symptoms were relatively mild and manageable.

“That was really it. Once that passed, I was good,” said Browne, a communications professional in the federal government.

His wife and eldest son have also tested positive, but not his youngest son, 17. Luckily neither did Browne’s 92-year-old father, who stayed with the family before moving into a nursing home.

“We had to be very careful which is why we were tested,” said Browne.

Her father, who received her recall along with the rest of the family, had remained in the basement, and Browne believes the separation, along with careful masking and other precautions, helped prevent it. to get sick.

They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them
Dianne Brydon, 66, and her husband, 52, both contracted COVID-19 before Christmas. “No one is safe from this one,” Brydon said of the Omicron variant. (Submitted by Dianne Brydon)

Dianne Brydon, 66, thought she was paying attention

Dianne Brydon does not know where she contracted COVID-19. It could have been at her curling club, where there had been a few cases earlier in December, or it could have been when she was out shopping for Christmas a few days before her symptoms appeared on December 17th.

“I was in and out of about 10 different stores so it could have been anywhere,” she said. “I thought I was paying attention, but apparently not.”

The virus hit her pretty hard, with a sore throat, chest congestion and a “massive, massive headache.”

“I was just downstairs for four days, in bed asleep, sleeping 12, 14 hours at a time. Incredible fatigue,” Brydon said.

Don’t get together with people thinking, oh they must be safe because no one is safe with this one.-Dianne Brydon

Her symptoms, which persisted for a full two weeks, included the telltale loss of taste and smell, putting a damper on Christmas dinner.

Brydon’s husband, 52, fell ill about two days after her, although her symptoms also included a persistent cough.

“He’s still losing sleep over it,” Brydon said last week.

The two were doubly vaccinated and followed all public health protocols, including masking and hand washing, when they fell ill, Brydon said. They only became eligible for a recall on December 13, and Brydon points out that even if they had had their third dose, it wouldn’t have had time to work until they got infected.

Brydon is well aware that many have suffered worse than she and her husband, but she is concerned about the possibility of long-term health effects.

His advice to others during the current Omicron wave is to be as careful as possible.

“Don’t get together with people thinking, oh they must be safe, because no one is safe with this one.”

They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them
Matt Brown, 24, contracted COVID-19 in December after his girlfriend tested positive. He spent seven days in a hotel in voluntary isolation to avoid passing the virus on to his roommates. (Submitted by Matt Brown)

24-year-old Matt Brown says he was unlucky

Matt Brown said he started to feel a little “bad” around December 13 and decided to have a PCR test a few days later. His girlfriend had already taken a rapid test which was positive for COVID-19, so when he got his own positive result a few days later, Brown wasn’t too surprised.

Her symptoms – body aches, mild headaches, and mild cough – improved after just a few days. Brown attributes his rapid recovery to his youth and fitness, as well as the fact that he has been doubly vaccinated.

“Thank goodness, because I probably would have been a lot sicker than I was,” said Brown, who was not eligible for a booster before falling ill.

I assumed life was getting back to normal, and obviously we were unlucky.– Matte Brown

Because Brown shares a house in Ottawa’s central Glebe neighborhood with five roommates, he decided to check in at one of the city-provided voluntary isolation centers and spent the next seven days at the Holiday. Inn Express on King Edward Avenue.

Only one of Brown’s roommates – the one with a room on the same floor as him – has also tested positive for COVID-19. The other four don’t.

“So I’m really confused as to how we got it and they didn’t,” said Brown, who has just started a new job as an executive sales recruiter.

“I complied with everything, so I assumed life was getting back to normal, and obviously we were unlucky.”

They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them
Elizabeth Hay rides one of her horses in healthier times. Despite all the precautions taken, Hay developed symptoms of COVID-19 in early January. She is still recovering. (Submitted by Elizabeth Hay)

Elizabeth Hay, 64, wears two masks everywhere she goes

Former CBC producer Elizabeth Hay thought she was doing everything right. She wears two masks everywhere she goes, is “religious” about washing her hands, and even takes a shower and changes her clothes when she comes home from a run.

Hay and her partner, 75, live in near isolation on their hobby farm near Carleton Place, Ontario.

Nonetheless, on the first Monday of the New Year, Hay was walking her dog when she started to feel unwell. Because she had taken such careful precautions, she attributed it to general fatigue, cold, or her age – anything but COVID-19.

When she got home, she brought the horses, ate dinner and went to bed. She woke up around 2 a.m. with a “huge headache” and a fever, she said.

I thought I was doing all I could.– Elizabeth Hay

“I couldn’t even understand that it could be COVID,” Hay said. She took a Tylenol and fell asleep again.

“The next morning I was very shaken, feverish, not coughing, but quite uncomfortable and as weak as possible,” she said.

Hay’s partner received her booster on Christmas Eve, but since she had been immune to pneumonia earlier that month, Hay was not yet eligible for hers.

WATCH | An infectious disease expert explains why there will always be variations:

They took every precaution, but COVID-19 caught up with them

How will this pandemic end?

Dr Christopher Mody, from the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary, says that until we stop the virus that causes the COVID-19 mutation, there will continue to be variants. The solution? “We need to get people vaccinated,” he says. 6:05

Hay said other than a quick trip to Canadian Tire and the grocery store, she had no contact with anyone.

“This variant just seems to be so aggressive. I don’t think you need to have a lot of contact to get it.”

As sick as she was, Hay knows the outcome could have been much worse.

“If I caught it and hadn’t been vaccinated, I might be able to hold an intensive care bed,” she said.

Hay said that from now on, she will order her groceries and other essentials online and have them delivered. She advises people to be diligent.

“I thought I was doing everything I could.”