Yellowknife mom feels support, heartbreak after son diagnosed with COVID-19

Ravan Bedingfield says her 11-year-old son, pictured in the above photo she gave permission for CBC to use, was diagnosed with COVID-19 in Yellowknife just a couple days ago.

Ravan Bedingfield says 11-year-old has mild symptoms, but is feeling anxious

Ravan Bedingfield says her 11-year-old son has mild symptoms after being diagnosed with COVID-19. She gave CBC permission to use this photo of the two of them. (Submitted by Ravan Bedingfield)

The call came in earlier this week, first thing in the morning. 

It was from Northwest Territories public health officials, and they said it was urgent.

"So I call public health and they let me know that my eldest son tested positive for COVID," said Ravan Bedingfield. 

"Then my heart just sunk." 

Bedingfield is one of innumerable parents caught in the frightening web of the COVID-19 outbreak at N.J. Macpherson School in Yellowknife. 

Her 11-year-old son is a student there, ground zero for a cluster of cases reported at the start of the week that has since ballooned into the dozens. 

As of Thursday, there were 47 COVID-19 cases in Yellowknife

For Bedingfield, the situation has been "heartbreaking," "frustrating" and "mentally exhausting." Thankfully, she said, her two other children — eight and two — tested negative, as did she and her partner, who are vaccinated.

But working from home while safely caring for an ill child, homeschooling, constantly disinfecting, and keeping a toddler entertained has been — well, you can imagine.

"I don't think I've ever been more furious in my life over this whole situation," said Bedingfield. "But I think it's amazing what you can do when you know you're not alone, like there's other families who are in the same boat."

'He is pretty anxious about the whole thing'

Right how, her son has mild symptoms, she said.

"So he's feeling kind of crummy, physically, but mentally, he is pretty anxious about the whole thing, and he feels responsible," she said, for possibly passing the virus onto his friends.

"It's so hard to explain to a child, 'It's not your fault. You didn't do anything wrong,' but they can't help but take it to heart because they're hurting, and they see their friends hurting, and everybody is nervous and scared." 

It's also hard easing his worries from two metres away.

"You want to be there to, like, even physically comfort your child, you know, but you have to maintain your distance," said Bedingfield.

Community spirit shines

In this period of fear and uncertainty, though, Yellowknife's community spirit has shone. 

A Facebook group has popped up offering the pickup and delivery of essential items to isolating residents.

Bedingfield said people have been inundating her with messages of support. A friend is doing a huge grocery run that will help feed the family until they're out of isolation.

And public health, she said, has been "nothing but helpful." One nurse offered her personal cell phone number so Bedingfield can call if her son's symptoms worsen. 

"It's incredible the amount of support everybody is giving each other."

But Bedingfield also said not everyone isolating right now has the support network — or the employment benefits — she does.

"I'm a government employee, so I'm happy that I have those benefits, but my husband doesn't," she said.

"I'm sure there are many, many other people who don't have any kind of benefits, and they must be like — I can't imagine how they're feeling."

Though it's been just a few days since her son's diagnosis, Bedingfield said one thing she's taken away so far is to take help if it's offered. 

"I get it. I'm a proud person and I'm often way too proud to accept help," she said. But in cases like this outbreak, she added, saying yes to support can help keep your family fed, and the bills paid.

Bedingfield also implored residents to follow public health orders, for the safety and wellbeing of the whole community. 

"It's all about people," she said. "It's people being responsible and taking care of each other."