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Okotoks woman battles whirlwind of getting COVID-19

“To me this was the strangest illness ever,” said Leah Beingessner
Leah Beingessner is on the mend after contacting COVID-19 during a trip to Mexico.

An Okotoks-area woman who tested positive for COVID-19 is on the mend.

“I am getting better – I am about 98 per cent better, but I just tested positive (again) yesterday,” said 29-year-old Leah Beingessner on March 22.

She first tested positive on March 14, two days after arriving home from WestJet Flight 2311 from Cancun on March 12 (she immediately self-isolated after touching down at Calgary International Airport.) Her husband and family are healthy.

It’s been difficult for Beingessner to stay away from her family while they live in their Okotoks area home.

“I have two kids who are going stir-crazy, who want to be around me at all times,” Beingessner said. “What AHS has recommended is I have my own bathroom, I have my own bedroom, I sleep alone.

“Having a two-year-old, I keep my hands away from her face, I don’t share any drinks or foods with the kids… That kind of isolation in your home when you have young children who don’t understand is nearly impossible.

“We have been doing our best to disinfect surfaces constantly and I am washing my hands non-stop.”

Surprisingly a snuggle with the children is not only allowed, but recommended. Beingessner has been told to snuggle with the children, who are also going through a lot – maybe a light kiss on a covered tummy.

Beingessner flew down to Cancun on March 2 before any travel bans to Mexico were in place. She started getting ill while in Cancun.

“To me this was the strangest illness ever,” said Beingessner. “I could not figure out what my body was trying to tell me…

“Oh, maybe I am getting too much sun, maybe I ate something weird, maybe I am just getting a cold, I never thought for a second, this is what I had.

“Being a healthy 29-year-old female, the worst of it was the body aches.”

She said her neck and knee were in pain.

“I just kept medicating it to find comfort,” she said.

On the day they left Mexico, their cellphones erupted with news that they would be quarantined upon arrival.

They found out officially they had to self-isolate when they touched-down in Calgary and saw posted signs at the airport.

Since then her life has been going non-stop while battling the now infamous virus.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Beingessner said. “It’s been chaos. Hearing the positive testing, the back-tracking of what was going on… the uncertainty of it was just bizarre. I didn’t think this would ever happen to me.”

She said she has gone through fear, embarrassment and shame – for nothing she did wrong. She messaged people that may have come in contact that she had tested positive.

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” Beingessner said. “The embarrassment, the shame – the emotions have been like a roller-coaster. The anxiety, the fear, the judgment … thinking I had hurt people when it was totally out of my control.”

She said ironically, she was wiping down her airplane seat prior to take-off to Calgary on March 12.

“I didn’t know I had it – I was trying to protect myself from myself, that’s the crazy part,” she said. “The guilt has been rough.”

Beingessner said she wasn’t surprised the WestJet flight made headlines after she spoke to Alberta Health Services representatives. She said WestJet and AHS have been professional and thoughtful throughout her ordeal.

She posted her experience on Facebook and while she has received a few negative comments – calling her selfish and worse – the vast majority have been positive.

She is also working with AHS as part of a case study to find improved ways of testing for COVID-19.

For now, she will continue to remain self-isolated -- something she urged on her Facebook message for anyone with symptoms to do.

“The most important part of treatment is self-isolation,” she wrote on her Facebook page. “I cannot stress this enough. If I ignored all those signs, decided to go out to eat, decided to go to a party, decided to go to the bank, do you know how many people that could have affected? How many people I would have to tell? Please rethink your decision if you are feeling unwell and want to socialize. Please listen to AHS.”

It turns out, that being self-isolated isn’t quite as laid back as you might think.

“I am busy with my kids. I definitely appreciate stay-at-home mothers,” she said with a chuckle. “This is a job and a half. It’s crazy.”


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