Winnipeg teacher, mother who contracted COVID-19 urges Manitobans to take virus seriously

When Lucy Kaikai woke up with an intense headache, fever, sore throat and body aches earlier this month, she did not believe it might be COVID-19.

It was a Friday morning following the first week back at school. The Winnipeg teacher and mother of two could barely crawl out of bed, she said.

“It’s the worst, worst I’ve ever felt in my life,” she said. “It was frightening. Not a pleasant experience to go through.”

She went for testing that day and began isolating at home from her two children.

Kaikai said her high fever lasted several days. About 10 days into the infection, she developed diarrhea and vomiting.

“I was just sore all over and extremely tired and weak,” she said. “The headache persisted for about two weeks and went away slowly.”

Still, she didn’t know she was positive. The first test she took had to be discarded because of a packaging issue, she said. Kaikai was called and given the option to continue isolating or be retested. She took a second test, which came back positive on Sept. 21. 

“I was just shocked,” she said. “I could not believe that in a little Canadian city that COVID had found me. It was really hard to believe.”

Took all the precautions, she says

Kaikai had taken all of the COVID-19 precautions and followed all of the advice from public health officials, she said.

Her grandmother was orphaned at age two by the 1918 Spanish flu in West Africa so Kaikai was not letting her guard down.

That is part of what has made it difficult to know where she might have picked it up.

Her children did not get sick and have both tested negative. She said she wore a mask as soon as her symptoms appeared, washed her hands and surfaces regularly and kept her distance her children.

“I was practicing the very basics,” she said. “That was enough to prevent them from contracting the virus.”

Freedom International School, where she teaches home economics, has had no other positive cases linked to the school that she is aware of. She said the school and class sizes are small, and everyone is doing their best to follow public health protocols.

“I have tried to take my mind back,” she said. “I do recall a couple of times reminding students to wear their masks properly. Due to the nature of what I teach, physical distancing is a challenge, but we try.”

The school has not been identified by public health officials as a site of possible exposure.

In an email, a spokesperson for Manitoba Health said officials could not comment on an individual case, but said “a case may not be publicly announced if someone was not at the site during their period of communicability.”

‘Had I gone to that party…’

What continues to trouble Kaikai is that she was invited to attend a house party with about 15 other people the day before she got sick, she said.

She declined the invite because of concerns about the virus and the rise in cases. Shortly after, she was invited to another party — bowling followed by cake at someone’s home — which she also declined.

“When I got that call that my test was positive, I just had a chill go down my spine because I thought, had I gone to that party, I would have possibly exposed a fair amount of people, of different age ranges, from even possibly outside the city,” she said. “I would have felt terrible.”

She hopes people consider this the next time they get an invitation to a party or social gathering, even if it seems innocent.

“This virus is out there, the numbers are climbing and we need to scale back on our social interactions,” she said. “As difficult as that might be.”

On Monday, the Manitoba government upgraded Winnipeg and 17 surrounding communities to the orange restriction level on its pandemic response scale. Anyone ages five and up must wear masks in all indoor public places, and all gatherings have a 10-person limit.

Kaikai is now considered recovered. She is symptom-free and has been cleared by public health officials to end her isolation. But the experience is still taking a toll.

“Physically, I feel back to my old self but psychologically, I am quite shaken,” she said. “I am concerned that I could still be contagious.”

She admits she is still keeping a distance and wearing a mask around her two children. She is not sure when she will be ready to step foot back in the classroom, she said.

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