British Columbia

COVID-19 symptoms left this student singer barely able to speak. Now she's graduated top of her class

Music student Chelsea Kutyn was bed-ridden for nearly a month with COVID-19 symptoms but she still managed to graduate with the highest GPA in the Fine Arts faculty at the University of Victoria.

UVic music student Chelsea Kutyn was bed-ridden for 29 days after she got sick in mid-March

Music student Chelsea Kutyn was awarded the Victoria Medal for her academic achievements in the Faculty of Fine Arts, despite spending a month bed-ridden with symptoms of COVID-19 earlier this year. (Submitted by Chelsea Kutyn)

If there's one thing Chelsea Kutyn wants her peers to realize as quarantine fatigue sets in, it's that there are no clues how COVID-19 will affect you — whether you'll be asymptomatic or seriously ill. 

The 27-year-old music student was on the more severe side of that spectrum. 

"I was very surprised that I became ill, not only because I'm in the younger age bracket, I guess, but just because I'm training as a professional singer, an opera singer, so my respiratory system is incredibly fit because I was singing, like, four hours a day," Kutyn told host Rohit Joseph on CBC's All Points West. 

Kutyn, who was in her final year at the University of Victoria, got sick in mid-March, when the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in B.C. was beginning to quickly increase.

After getting a sore throat, Kutyn quarantined herself in her room in her family home. She then developed more symptoms like fatigue, difficulty breathing and fever. 

"Those symptoms kind of stayed and got worse as time went by, until it got so severe [and] I had such difficulty breathing that I ended up going to the hospital in an ambulance because I was having difficulty staying conscious," she said. 

In all, Kutyn spent 29 days bed-ridden, and struggled to even have a conversation. 

Though she was never formally tested — "they were only testing health-care workers and people who had known somebody that had already tested positive" — she says her doctor and nurses who were taking care her of strongly suspected it was COVID-19. 

While she was struggling to recover, however, Kutyn also had to contend with the end of her degree.

"It was extremely stressful and extremely frustrating. You know, when you've spent four years of a degree working toward these final recitals and it is all just cancelled in the blink of an eye because I couldn't sing," she said. 

Chelsea Kutyn with accompanist Emily Markwart in a 2019 audition. Kutyn, a UVic music student, was worried about her final assignments as her COVID symptoms left her unable to sing. (Submitted by Chelsea Kutyn)

Kutyn got extensions on some final projects and, fortuitously, she had pre-recorded a final recital piece in the weeks before she got sick. 

"I'm very grateful for that recording, otherwise I definitely wouldn't have graduated on time," she said. 

Her hard work paid off as Kutyn not only graduated, but did so at the top of her class. She was awarded the Victoria Medal for having the highest GPA in the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Kutyn says she's honoured by the award, but called it the "cherry on top."

"Just to be able to study something I love — music — and follow my dream is all that I can ask for," she said.

Listen to the interview with Chelsea Kutyn on CBC's All Points West:

A Uvic student is sharing her story of overcoming a suspected case of corona virus. Chelsea Kutyn was bed-ridden by symptoms of COVID-19 earlier this year. But the 27-year-old music student still managed to graduate from her voice performance degree at the University of Victoria. Chelsea Kutyn shared her story with Rohit Joseph. 10:52

With files from All Points West

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