Nova Scotia

'It's flipped upside down:' How COVID-19 is affecting one Nova Scotia family

Kelly Marshall’s parents have both tested positive for COVID-19. Her father is on a ventilator in intensive care, her mother is sick at home and her husband is about to be retested after coming down with a fever.

Kelly Marshall’s father is on a ventilator in hospital with the coronavirus

Rick Cameron, centre, is on a ventilator in intensive care being treated for COVID-19. His wife Faye Cameron, left, has also tested positive and is being cared for at home by daughter Kelly Marshall (second from left). (Kelly Marshall)

Life has changed drastically for Kelly Marshall this month.

Two weeks ago, she was working as the manager of a Money Mart in New Glasgow. Now, she's caring for two sick family members full time and keeping tabs on another one from afar, unable to visit because of self-isolation orders.

"I'd say it's flipped upside down," Marshall said.

So far, two members of her family have tested positive for COVID-19 — her 66-year-old mother and 69-year-old father. On Friday, her husband came down with a fever and was expecting to be tested for a second time after a negative result five days ago.

Marshall also tested negative at the same time as her husband.

"They'll wait until I become symptomatic," she said about the possibility of being retested. 

But she quickly corrected herself, "Or, hopefully I don't become symptomatic."

Marshall is self-isolating in the same house as her mother and husband, caring for both of them while trying to keep herself safe and healthy.

She wears a mask and gloves when she's caring for her mother, changes her clothes immediately after touching dirty laundry, and cleans and disinfects constantly with soap, rubbing alcohol and diluted bleach. 

'The worst part'

It's a lot of work, but she's seen how serious the virus's complications can be.

As of Friday, Marshall's father, Rick Cameron, was one of two patients in Nova Scotia being treated in hospital for COVID-19. On Saturday, the province announced a third COVID-19 patient in hospital.

Cameron started feeling some aches and pains, which seemed like symptoms of a cold, on March 13.

Kelly Marshall with her father, Rick Cameron. Marshall says the worst part of the coronavirus pandemic is that she can't visit her father while he's being treated in hospital. (Kelly Marshall)

By March 19, doctors admitted him to hospital because he was having difficulty breathing. A day later, he was transferred to an intensive care unit, induced into a coma and put on a ventilator.

Marshall hasn't seen him since.

"That's the worst part, not being able to be there for him or see him. Him not being able to hear our voices, it's really hard. We're a pretty close family so I just wish we could be there for him."

Cameron has been on a ventilator for a week, Marshall said, although doctors recently lifted his sedation slightly to allow him to regain some of his breathing autonomy.

All Marshall can do is wait.

"I just try to literally get through day by day. I don't think about long term. I just want my dad to be OK and everybody here to be OK, and everybody out there to be OK."

The global coronavirus pandemic

The state of the global coronavirus pandemic has been changing quickly. When Cameron first felt some aches and pains on March 13, the total number of cases worldwide was around 145,000. By Saturday, that number surpassed 617,000.

In Nova Scotia, public health officials announced the first cases on March 15, and as of Saturday there were 110 cases — most were recovering at home and no one in the province had died.

Following a week of increasing measures to reduce the spread of the virus, the province declared a state of emergency on March 22 and Premier Stephen McNeil has been issuing stern warnings for people to abide orders to physically distance and stay at home.

If the public follows those orders, chief medical officer of health Dr. Robert Strang has said the province could significantly curb the number of new cases, and prevent an overload on the health-care system. 

Tracking the disease in Nova Scotia

The province has yet to confirm community spread of the disease, attributing most of the 90 cases to travel, or close contact with travellers.

The house in Stellarton, N.S., where Kelly Marshall is self-isolating with her mother and husband. (Kelly Marshall)

Public health officials are still investigating Cameron's case, according to Marshall. He had travelled to Florida in February, but returned to Nova Scotia more than 14 days before the onset of his symptoms.

Marshall was understanding of the need to be cautious, and give public health officials time to gather information and test more people.

"It's all a learning experience, right?"

But not an easy one.

The incubation period of COVID-19 is up to two weeks, which is why public health advises 14 days of self-isolation after potential contact with the virus. But with the onset of symptoms in her husband, and Marshall still caring for him and her mother, she said she and her family have no idea how long their self-isolation will last.

"Which makes it harder because it's longer away from my father."

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Taryn Grant

Reporter

Taryn Grant is a Halifax-based reporter and web writer for CBC Nova Scotia. You can email her with tips and feedback at taryn.grant@cbc.ca

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