Tsideldel off-reserve member documents experience of COVID-19

·3 min read

The first thing Williams Lake resident Joyce Cooper thought of when she received her positive COVID-19 test results was her grandmother, who was gripped with fear and uncertainty as the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 circulated, ultimately killing her great-grandmother.

“She used to get so emotional when she talked about it and it brought me back to how she probably felt,” Cooper said of her late grandmother from her home in Williams Lake.

“She was always really cautious and always told us to make sure we’re safe.”

Despite Cooper and her family fully-practicing COVID-19 safety measures since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic, she still contracted the disease.

The off-reserve Tsideldel First Nation member and residential school survivor tested positive earlier this month as did her son and common-law partner with whom she shares her Williams Lake residence.

It took only a couple of days for Cooper’s symptoms to worsen after feeling unwell.

“We’re still not sure where it came from,” she said. “I was only in two places the day that they think I got it, so it could have been anywhere.”

As Cooper began to experience what she described as pneumonia-like symptoms, she decided to get tested at Cariboo Memorial Hospital for COVID-19.

She did not learn of her results until 48 hours later, when she had received a phone call.

“I was shocked because I thought we’ve been doing everything we can to be safe,” Cooper said.

While Cooper has had limited contact with other family members, including her daughters and grandchildren, they also got tested as a precaution and were negative.

Throughout her ordeal, Cooper has documented it on Facebook as an opportunity to showcase others what it is like and to be safe because you never know.

“We practiced all the precautions, and I still got it,” she said.

“We have a lot of elders in our communities, and that’s who I worry about and knowing if I can get this, I can’t imagine what our elders would go through.”

Cooper said although both her son and common-law partner had fairly mild symptoms, she had taken the brunt and experienced “full-out” body aches and headaches that left her unable to get out of bed for four days.

Today, she remains indoors at home despite receiving the green-light from health care providers she no longer has to isolate.

“I don’t feel well enough to go anywhere, and I think I’ll give it time before I go visit my girls,” Cooper said.

She remains thankful to her common-law partner, who cooked meals for her, her son-in-law Bryan Adolph who delivered food, and one of her sisters, who offered some traditional medicine Cooper could use to help boost her immune system.

Cooper said she also was contacted by her nation and asked if she needed supplies.

Praising Tsideldel Chief and Council as well as essential and frontline workers for their countless efforts, Cooper went on to encourage anyone needing assistance to reach out and for everyone do what they can to support one another.

She agreed there is a lot of stigma surrounding the virus.

“It’s all fear-based,” she said, noting there are many who judge.

“It depends on who you are in the community, and I felt that by coming out and saying you know what I have it, we should all be supporting one another and not judging each other.”

As she slowly regains her strength, she looks forward to helping others who are self-isolating and may need food or traditional medicine.

Cooper said she had recently felt strong enough to make some traditional medicine with juniper and balsam, which she left outside her door for other families.

“It doesn’t have to be big things,” she said. “It can be small things.”

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune