Over the course of your lifetime, you will be changed.
People will change you. Places will change you. You’ll even choose to change. And, sometimes, circumstance won’t give you a choice.
Sometimes you will be changed by forces outside your control and without your permission.
That’s what happened to Maxine Tindall.
Tindall contracted the Delta variant of coronavirus in August. Tindall, who was unvaccinated at the time of infection, does not know how she came into contact with the virus, as she has been staying inside her home since the pandemic was first declared in February of 2020.
“I started to get what I thought was a cold,” Tindall says. “It was like a small cough.”
Over the next few days, her condition worsened. She became lethargic, lost her appetite and started finding it difficult to breathe in between coughing spells.
“I couldn’t do anything,” she says.
After nights of being unable to sleep due to worsening pain which had started in her back and spread to the front of her chest, she called her doctor, who recommended she be tested for COVID-19.
Despite showing common COVID symptoms, Tindall couldn’t imagine how she would have come into contact with the virus.
Nevertheless, when the results came back the next day, it showed her test was positive.
She remembers receiving three calls, with medical staff on the other end of the line telling her each time she needed to go to the hospital.
At this point Tindall was unable to drive, too weak to even walk. With assistance from her support system, she was able to get to the hospital, but it was no easy task.
“I crawled down the front steps,” she says.
Upon arriving at Medicine Hat Regional Hospital, she was met with a team of medical professionals, who quickly ushered her onto a gurney and into a section of the hospital set up for treatment of COVID patients.
“I knew going in that I had to have oxygen – I felt it,” she said, her words cut off by a cough. After taking a moment to clear her throat, she continues. “They came in right away and took my blood levels to see where I was at. Then, they put oxygen on me and a doctor came in and explained to me what they were going to do. She was so sick that she remembers responding, “I really don’t care what you do, I just want this pain to be gone.”
Tindall spent nine days in the hospital. She doesn’t remember all of it. At points, she thinks she was hallucinating. Throughout it all, she felt the physical effects of the virus.
“When I started coughing, it would get stuck,” she says. “Finally, eventually, it would dislodge and I could breathe for a while. But the pain and discomfort seemed to be never ending.
“The pain – I cannot tell you – I would rather have a finger cut off than go through that pain again.”
With constant care from the hospital’s medical team, which Tindall describes as “incredible,” her oxygen and blood levels began returning to normal and, eventually, she became stable enough to return home and continue her recovery.
When asked if she believes she would have survived without medical care, Tindall says she probably would have died, adding her name to the list of 2,622 Albertans who have passed away as a result of COVID since the beginning of the pandemic.
“The first thing (that’s done) when you’re functioning, the doctor comes in and they do what they call a Green Sleeve,” she said. “A Green Sleeve is a small file that contains information about each patient’s wishes regarding advanced care, such as whether or not the patient wishes to be resuscitated and who to contact in case of death.
“That’s kind of on the scary side. When I was in great pain, it was like, ‘I don’t care; do whatever you want to do,’ but now that the pain is gone, like the major pain, and I’m breathing so much better, it’s scary to think about it again. It’s really scary to think that.”
Tindall’s condition has improved and she no longer tests positive for COVID, but she says she’s not who she once was. She has been changed. She used to be actively engaged in community events and programs. Even after the pandemic began, she was able to stay involved over the phone and on Zoom meetings. Now, she struggles to find the energy needed and the ability to concentrate, as she feels a persistent fog clouding her mind.
“It makes me really mad because it’s sort of taken away a part of me,” she said. “I feel inadequate.”
Tindall may be limited in physical strength while undergoing the recovery process, but her spirit is strong.
“For me now, my job is to make sure that my family, my relatives, my friends and the neighbours, they have to know that this is serious,” she said. “It’s nothing to laugh at. It’s nothing to say, ‘It’s like the flu,’ or, ‘A bad cough.'”
Her own experiences with the Delta variant were serious enough, but Tindall says she witnessed firsthand the effects it has on people while in hospital. She says some patients found that their eyes were greatly affected, others their mind. It’s different for everybody, Tindall says.
She says she’s afraid of contracting COVID again, but hopes other community members can acknowledge those fears, respect her experiences with the virus and protect her right to stay healthy; just as she seeks in return.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” she says.
KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News