A Kamloops man who contracted COVID-19, leading to a stint in the intensive-care unit at Royal Inland Hospital, is feeling better than he has in weeks — but he is warning people not to take the virus lightly.
Keith Elliott has some residual symptoms, including a cough, fatigue and soreness in his chest, but is otherwise feeling better almost a month after falling ill.
“I’m definitely recovering,” Elliott said. He has been cleared to return to work next week.
Though his recovery is a good sign during an immense public health threat, the 48-year-old father of two doesn’t want people getting the impression the virus is over and done with.
“I think we’re [as a community] going to have to isolate for some time yet,” he said. “So many other people can get it still. I don’t think this is over by a long shot.”
Elliott first noticed his symptoms on March 12.
A carpenter for School District 58 (Nicola-Similkameen), he commutes daily from Kamloops to Merritt for work and went home sick that day feeling feverish, with headaches and chest pain.
“Pulled the pin pretty much right in the morning and I quickly deteriorated. By the time I drove home, it [had] hit me pretty hard, pretty quick,” Elliott said.
Thinking he would be well enough to return to work following the weekend, Elliott’s symptoms didn’t improve.
His wife, Dana, who works at RIH, called 811 for assistance and was told it was likely the flu as the family had not travelled outside the country.
By Monday, Dana decided to take Keith to the hospital, where he had a chest X-ray and was tested for COVID-19, the results of which came back positive.
Elliott told KTW the results were surprising because he hadn’t travelled anywhere recently or been around anyone he knew to be sick.
“It was a bit scary. I really couldn’t understand how [I caught it],” Elliott said.
Keith, Dana and their two sons, Lane, 15, and Ryder, 13, have been isolating at home ever since.
The results compelled the Elliotts to take to social media and share their story to let the public know COVID-19 is very much a reality in Kamloops and to follow the advice of health-care professionals.
“We all need to get real. This is here, it is contagious, it is potentially deadly,” Dana wrote on Facebook on March 21.
“I am doing everything in my power to help him [Keith] get better, but all I can do is treat the symptoms and hope that his body does the rest.”
She also noted they were trying to trace their steps to determine who they had been in contact with in the days prior to Keith’s first sign of symptoms.
“Some people want their privacy with it, but we were like, no, let’s get the message out, this is real and it’s happening,” Elliott said.
“It’s in our community. I’ve got it [and] I’m a pretty average Joe. I’m a healthy, 48-year-old male with no prior health issues and I’ve got it and I’ve got it hard.”
Elliott said he doesn’t want to spark panic, but reiterated the public needs to take the virus seriously.
“I don’t know where I got it, but it’s here, no question,” he said.
Elliott said his symptoms were at their worst a week after he left work — his chest was burning and he could barely make it out of bed. When he did, he struggled to breathe and walk even a short distance.
That led to another trip to Royal Inland Hospitlal, where he was admitted to the intensive-care unit and given a nasal flow of oxygen.
“My lungs had been deteriorating with the infection and were sort of scarring up, is what I’ve been told, so not letting enough oxygen to my body,” Elliott said.
After spending a few days on oxygen in the ICU, Elliott was sent to another ward in the hospital for COVID-19 patients, where he was slowly weened off the feed as he began to recover.
Elliott spent about a week in hospital and received a round of applause from hospital staff when he was discharged on March 28 — having been the first confirmed case of COVID-19 to recover at RIH.
Elliott credits wife Dana for taking care of him and ensuring he went to the hospital when his condition worsened.
Dana has since tested positive for COVID-19, but Elliott said his wife’s symptoms don’t appear to be as severe as his were and she has been cleared to return to work later this week.
“We’re both still suffering a bit of fatigue and a little bit of tightness in the lungs if we do too much, but certainly on the mend,” he said.
Elliott said they have been trying to isolate from their sons within the house, which is difficult. They constantly wipe down surfaces that are commonly touched by everyone and even communicate with their boys, who spend most of their time isolated in their bedrooms, via text.
Elliott said his family has received plenty of support from family and friends.
“So many people have offered to come by and drop stuff off,” Elliott said.
He said he speaks daily with a public health nurse, who advises they remain in their home until their symptoms are completely gone.
“I’m kind of jonesing to get out and do something outside at least,” Elliott said.