Stay home and take COVID-19 seriously, Manitoba couple warns after recovering from illness

A couple from Souris, Man., are urging people to take COVID-19 seriously after they both contracted the illness on vacation in March.

Kristie and Todd Walker tested positive after returning home from the United States

Kristie and Todd Walker tested positive for COVID-19 after returning home from a trip to the United States. They spent more than a month in isolation. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

A couple from Souris, Man., are urging people to take COVID-19 seriously after they both contracted the illness on vacation in March.

Kristie and Todd Walker returned home on Mar. 15 from a four-day trip in Nashville, Tenn. That same day, the Manitoba government advised people returning home to self-isolate for 14 days. It wasn't yet a mandatory public health order.

Still, even though they had no symptoms, both felt it was the right thing do. Upon arriving at Winnipeg's airport, they picked up their vehicle and drove straight home into self-isolation and working from home.

Six days later, both started to feel sick. Kristie said both she and Todd chalked up the headaches and colds they had to having recently travelled, but continued to stay home. 

"Initially we didn't really think we had anything," Kristie told CBC News in a FaceTime interview Tuesday from Souris, a town about 34 kilometres southwest of Brandon. 

"It escalated very quickly," she said. "It felt like you were in a car accident. Everything hurt. Absolutely everything." 

The Walkers said living in a small community was a blessing in disguise. People dropped off food, dog supplies and medications on their doorstep while they were sick. (Dana Stam Photography/Submitted)

Both were referred for a COVID-19 test after their symptoms worsened and after another friend of theirs, who was on the same trip, tested positive for the disease. 

Both Kristie's and Todds's tests came back positive. 

"For a fleeting second, I guess we were relieved to know at least that's what was wrong with us," Kristie said. 

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She and Todd spent the next 20 days battling symptoms as mild as a cold to a full-blown fever and nausea. Both described losing their sense of smell and taste throughout the ordeal. 

"You'd start to feel better and then you'd feel like crap again," Kristie said. 

All told, they spent 32 days in self-isolation. They are now symptom-free and are considered to have recovered from COVID-19. Todd said public health workers called them every day they were in self-isolation.

"They called every day to check on our symptoms, see how we're doing, temperatures," he said. "Every day they did that phone call. Those front line workers were really amazing." 

'Blessing in disguise' 

Living a community of about 2,000 people, Kristie said word of the couple's illness got around. 

"It spread pretty fast, whether we told someone or not," she said. "It was kind of a blessing in disguise.

"Because of that, our small town community was amazing," she added. "They dropped off care packages, things for the dogs. They'd come by just to wave out the window, make sure we were still doing all right."

Kristie said local retailers also called offering to drop off food, groceries, medication and other supplies on their doorstep. 

Now that they're recovered, Kristie said they are still staying home — except to pick up essentials —  but took to social media, telling people in their community that they would be seen out in the community from time to time and that it was OK. 

"We've really tried not to go out in public anyway," said Kristie, who posted about the couple's experience on social media at the encouragement of their family doctor and others. 

"Realistically we are going to be out in the community and hopefully people are believing in science."

WATCH | Kristie and Todd Walker of Souris, Man., describe their experience with COVID-19: 

Kristie and Todd Walker describe the symptoms they faced with COVID-19 after 32 days in isolation. 0:54

"We're kind of fighting two pandemics right now — COVID-19 and the other one, stupidity — because people are not taking this seriously," she said. "It doesn't matter that our numbers are low right now, they need to stay low. It's not great, but it's not forever." 

The Walkers are now urging people to stay home as much as possible — and act as if you have COVID-19.  

"We never would have dreamed on Day 6 when we were having virtual happy hour with our friends that we were infected," she said. 

As of Tuesday evening, Prairie Mountain Health, which encompasses western Manitoba, had 13 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19.

Kristie said with the amount of time it can take for symptoms to appear, you might not know you're infected with COVID-19 until it's too late. 

"The idea is you don't want to know 20 people that have had COVID," Kristie said. "You don't want to know somebody who was infected and died. The whole goal was not to have that happen here." 

About the Author

Riley Laychuk is CBC's reporter based in Brandon, covering rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback: