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Jan. 26, 2021 | Tuesday
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Updated-COVID-19: NOTL woman recovering from coronavirus
Margot Hickson and Ian Reece behind the glass in their NOTL home. (Kevin MacLean/Niagara Now)

Margot Hickson is over illness and her husband Ian Reece's test came back negative

Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Margot Hickson, chair of the Music Niagara festival, is at home recovering from COVID-19 after she and her husband Ian Reece returned from a memorable six-week vacation to New Zealand and southeast Asia. Ian initially was showing symptoms of the virus but his swab test was negative. This is their story:

Margot Hickson

Special to The Lake Report

We took every precaution we could given we were travelling to Vietnam and Cambodia for two weeks with a tour group, and it included a cruise on the Mekong River where we would be in close quarters with other people.

We left Canada on Feb. 6 for New Zealand and headed to Vietnam on Feb. 27. It was only in mid-March, the last couple of days of our trip, that places and attractions began closing all around us.

No one in our tour group was showing any symptoms. Our temperatures were checked regularly (we couldn’t enter our hotel or a museum without a fever check), and we didn’t go in or out of a room without using hand sanitizer. We washed our hands with great frequency.

We were given surgical masks to wear. In Hanoi, other tour groups in our hotel were being tested for the virus. The tour leader of one group tested negative but I don’t know about any of the other people.

We actually were moved to another hotel to avoid any issue for our last two nights in Vietnam. And again, this hotel regularly checked the temperatures of people coming in and out.

Our temperatures were always normal and we were not showing any symptoms that might indicate coronavirus.

So, on Sunday, March 15, we left Hanoi.

To get home, we had changed our flights so as to avoid places like Hong Kong, so our 24-hour day to get home was Hanoi/Tokyo/Toronto.

Throughout the transit, we made sure to sit away from people in the airport, washed our hands constantly and took precautions by wearing the N95 masks that we had brought with us from NOTL six weeks earlier – in case we needed them.

The masks are very uncomfortable to wear, by the way – they dig into your face a lot.

By wearing them, we protected ourselves but also protected other people around us.

On both flight segments, we had no one sitting beside us. Someone was coughing behind me on the flight from Hanoi, so I stuffed a blanket between the seats to block the space and wore my mask!

From the Toronto airport, our preplanned transport took us directly home to NOTL – and during the ride, we wore masks and gloves. That was still on March 15.

It was always our intent to self-isolate for 14 days when we got home. Given our travel history and ages (we are on either side of our 70s), we knew we were at higher risk.

Well, I was really tired that night and told Ian that I felt awful.

The next day, March 16 was the start of it: no energy mostly, but that could have been jetlag. Or so I thought.

Then came the headache and the fever of 101F on the Tuesday morning, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day – so I called Niagara Region Public Health and talked to a registered nurse.

She was great – advised me to take Tylenol to get rid of the headache and control the fever. This, in combination with sleeping almost 20 hours daily for the next four days, started to help me.

They had wanted me to come to Niagara Falls for COVID-19 testing that week but there was no way I was going out.

So, last Monday, March 23, I called the number I was given and they booked my appointment to be tested that day.

They are very well-organized: you are given a specific time to come to a designated facility (in my case it was a public health clinic in Niagara Falls), you sit in the parking lot until they call you on your cellphone, at which time you go in for your test.

The nurses and doctors are fully protected with gowns, masks, face shields and gloves. Thankfully for them.

The test is brief: a large thin swab (it is not a Q-tip) is used to swab your nose, they check your temperature and they put a clip on your finger (called a pulse oximeter, I think) to measure the oxygen level of the blood.

It took five days for the results, but that is understandable given the number of tests being performed. They are working around the clock.

We got the call this past Saturday, March 28: positive.

We have been assigned a case worker, which is great. She checks in on us periodically and we can call her anytime.

Being sick with COVID-19 is like having the worst cold you can imagine but WORSE. It hit me harder than any cold I have ever had – severe headache, high fever, coughing to the point of pain and total exhaustion.

Almost two weeks later, I still have a dry cough and heaviness in the chest, and get tired very easily. But I am one of the fortunate ones.

After about a week of being home, and several days after the onset of my symptoms, Ian started showing symptoms as well, though thankfully not as severe as mine.

So, when I tested positive, our case worker arranged for Ian to be tested. That happened Sunday, March 29, and while we assumed he has the virus as well, his test was negative.

But in the meantime, we will continue to self-isolate until at least April 10 and likely beyond.

I can’t stress enough that anyone travelling home needs to stay at home for the full 14 days. My symptoms appeared fairly quickly upon our return but Ian’s came a week later.

Most places in the world have cases and you have no idea whether you have caught it or not, no matter the precautions that you took to prevent it.

Our friends here in NOTL have been wonderful, bringing supplies and dropping them off at the front door.

We are all in this together – let’s stay safe by following the rules.