One of the teachers at Mount Pearl Senior High who contracted COVID-19 is now on the mend, looking forward to getting back to a job she loves, and hopes sharing her story will show how important it is to follow public health guidelines.
Erin Noseworthy is a French immersion teacher at the school at the centre of the outbreak of coronavirus variant B117 last month, and while she's still not totally recovered, she said she's come a long way, thanks to support from the school community.
"It really has been rough. But the positive out of this is that, while our school community is experiencing some negativity, I am seeing only the positive. This is bringing our school community closer together than it ever was," Noseworthy said.
"The acts of kindness that are happening in our school community are numerous and generous."
I love my job, I love my kids and I was worried to death that something would happen to one of them. - Erin Noseworthy
Former students dropped off a gift basket for her within days of them finding out she had contracted the virus.
"With this basket they also sent me a video where they compiled some get-well greetings for me. And I mean that was no small feat to put together in a couple of days, and the thought behind it — I mean, the basket itself was amazing and the things that were in it was wonderful, but to me, I was just so touched by the work that went behind it," Noseworthy said.
"And to see two of my students show up in my driveway one morning with this basket and to just see the smiles on their faces really, really brought so much joy to my heart. I felt so blessed."
It was a difficult illness for Noseworthy. On her birthday, Feb. 7, she and her fiancé were already in isolation after previously visiting the Bigs Ultimate Sports Grill, which had been identified as a possible contact site for the virus in the early days of the outbreak. That night, she found out there were confirmed cases at the school where she taught.
"I love my job, I love my kids and I was worried to death that something would happen to one of them," Noseworthy said through tears.
She had a test booked for Feb. 10, and the results were negative — but Noseworthy and her fiancé followed public health recommendations to continue isolating as more cases at the school where she taught were being found.
"It was on Valentine's Day, the 14th, I started coughing a little bit and immediately took out my phone and put in for another COVID-19 test. I was tested on the 15th and this time it came back that I was COVID-19-positive," Noseworthy said.
It took 10 days for her to develop symptoms and test positive for the virus.
Following guidelines essential to prevent spread
That recommendation to self-isolate, and her adherence to that direction, is something Noseworthy is extremely grateful for, and a lesson she hopes others will take to heart.
"I have learned that it is so important to follow the public heath guidelines. I was asymptomatic, I had a negative test, for nine days after my last possible contact with the virus. And I followed the health guidelines, and thank goodness I did, because then I didn't spread the virus beyond my immediate household," she said.
"I'm so thankful that I followed the public health guidelines, and my biggest piece of advice to anyone listening is that they really need to do the same. If you are told to self-isolate, please self-isolate."
Noseworthy said it took a couple of days for her symptoms to worsen, even leading to chest pains. She eventually called the provincial 811 health line to ask what she should do, and was told to head to the Health Sciences Centre emergency department, where she ended up having to wait in her car for nearly four hours before finally getting treatment.
That experience prompted her parents to speak out about what they said were weaknesses in the pandemic response system.
"Very sick — my sickest day. Trying to find a way to recline the seat, lie down and roll over, and I was miserable," Noseworthy said of the experience.
She was eventually treated for dehydration, pain and nausea.
"I stayed a few hours in the emergency room and then I was sent home to rest. From there I did start to improve — that was my worst day. After that I started seeing small improvements day to day," Noseworthy said.
Noseworthy is immunocompromised, having been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis; to treat that illness, she takes a drug called methotrexate, an immuno-suppressant, meaning her immune system is weakened. She thinks this likely contributes to her long recovery time.
"I think I'm on Day 20 now. I'm still not recovered, I'm still having minor symptoms, the worst of which is the fatigue, but I'm doing better and better every day," she said.
"But I'm really hoping, and I'm working with my public health nurse to work on a plan to go back to work, probably part time, on Monday."
'It has meant the world to me'
Noseworthy guesses she's one of about a dozen teachers at Mount Pearl Senior High who contracted the virus.
"I'm one teacher telling my story, but there are 10 or more others that I'm sure have similar stories to this. I know of teachers that aren't even sick that have had gift baskets dropped off to them just to kind of boost their morale," Noseworthy said with a laugh.
"That's the real Husky spirit, that's Mount Pearl Senior High. No one in that school went about trying to spread COVID-19. What we do in our school is we spread kindness."
Noseworthy said she looks forward to getting back to working with her students — even in a virtual classroom — and the support she's received has helped her on the road to recovery.
"It has meant everything to me — it has meant the world to me. I was in a really difficult spot," she said.
"I've got a little ways to come still before I'm back to myself again, but I'm so positive and I'm happy and I'm just really touched by the Husky community."