How this family with 11 kids managed when 4 of them got COVID-19

·2 min read
Rachel Smith and her husband (not pictured) have five children of their own. But when her sister died on Christmas Eve, Smith took in six of her neices and nephews. (Submitted by Rachel Smith - image credit)
Rachel Smith and her husband (not pictured) have five children of their own. But when her sister died on Christmas Eve, Smith took in six of her neices and nephews. (Submitted by Rachel Smith - image credit)

It started with an email about a COVID-19 case in their school. Then a headache. Then a family in Saskatoon found out four children in their household had COVID-19.

On March 11, Rachel Smith got a letter from Lawson Heights School informing parents that a student there had contracted COVID-19.

"I immediately pulled them out of school and I didn't take them back," she said.

But her daughter was complaining of a headache, so she decided to take five of the 11 kids in her household to be tested.

"I was very shocked to find out that three of them were positive," she said. "They didn't have any symptoms. They were asymptomatic."

Once those first few kids tested positive, she took the rest of the household to get tested.

It's a big household — Smith and her husband have five children of their own, and they took in six nieces and nephews when Smith's sister died in December.

In the end, four of the children — aged 13, 10, eight and five — tested positive for COVID-19.

Smith said one of the kids was fatigued, another had a headache, but otherwise they had no symptoms.

"I just had the gut feeling to get them tested because there was a positive case at their school," she said.

"So I just encourage everyone to get tested, even if it's just mild symptoms, because you never know.… Even though it's mild for the children, it's fatal for older people."

'We do lots of cleaning'

Their house has two levels and two bathrooms, so they were able to split the house up; COVID-positive kids went downstairs and everyone else stayed upstairs.

"We do lots of cleaning, lots of sanitizing, getting organized and lots of phone calls, too," she said.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority called every day so the kids could report how they were feeling but none of them developed symptoms while they were isolating.

By Tuesday, all of the kids will be deemed recovered, but the household has to continue to isolate until April 5.

Meanwhile, she's running her business, Bannock Express, from her house.

She says her staff is well-trained but it's still nerve-racking being unable to be there.

"I love to be at the shop," she said.

She said the experience hasn't been stressful because everyone has been able to lean on each other for support. The kids are in a close age range, so they're able to keep each other company.

The kids will be spending more time together at home for awhile now — on March 16, Saskatoon Public Schools moved Lawson Heights School to online learning until Monday, April 12.