Coping with the challenges of being diagnosed with COVID-19 is challenging enough, but the fishbowl of a small town can make especially difficult to avoid the stigma and fear associated with the illness, even when you do everything right.
Nedeea Siwallace tested positive for COVID-19 and her partner exhibited the same symptoms, but ultimately tested negative. They decided to be completely transparent about it in an attempt to both protect and inform the community.
“I feel the only way we are going to get through this is honesty with each other and ourselves,” said Siwallace. “We took this really seriously as we didn’t want to pass this on to anyone else in the community.”
Siwallace said her COVID-19 symptoms were so mild that she initially thought she was just experiencing the symptoms of being a parent to young children.
“I got a cold in December and didn’t really think anything of it,” she shared. “I was tired off and on but I’ve been home with my kids for four weeks, of course I’m going to be tired.”
Two of Siwallace’s three children had been ill in early December, but also exhibited very mild symptoms. Since the family was staying at home regardless, Siwallace didn’t have them tested right away. However, once her and her partner began to also show symptoms, she decided she had better have it done.
“I got the positive result on Jan. 10 and I was shaking, I was nervous and upset,” said Siwallace. “I was really worried about anyone I had been in contact with.”
Even though her contagious period had ended prior to that, on Dec. 29, Siwallace still stayed in isolation after the fact as she was worried about passing it on. Since then her and her family has been cleared by Vancouver Coastal Health to end their isolation, but rejoining society hasn’t been exactly easy.
“Everyone is looking at you for testing positive,” she said. “I understand it’s really scary and people are fearful, but I’ve had some people tell me that they are afraid to get tested because of the shame.”
Siwallace said some of her family members were pulled aside when doing shopping for her and family.
“I felt awful, I didn’t want to pass this around,” Siwallace said. “When I was out of isolation and I went to run a few errands I felt nervous about the way people were looking at me.”
Siwallace said she decided to share her story after other people commented they had felt the same way, and she felt that being honest with one another was the best way to stop COVID from spreading. It seems that approach has been working; locally the cases have dropped from a high of 63 down to just four in the past week, a major achievement for this small community.
“Some people did everything they could to help and we really appreciated that,” Siwallace said. “I know how much this virus scares people but we all need to be honest with one another right now.”
Siwallace says she has no idea where the family contracted it and while she still has a few lingering symptoms, both her and her family have all almost fully recovered..
“I still have a cough but the doctors said it could linger for weeks to months, but you are OK to be in public if you are cleared by Vancouver Coastal Health, just keep following the protocols of washing hands,” she said. “In the spring we were so scared we didn’t even see anyone for weeks, so right now we are just feeling grateful that we have all recovered so well.”