Although Hannah Abrahamse was diagnosed with COVID-19 a week ago, if she hadn’t been tested for the virus, she still wouldn’t know she had it.
Abrahamse, 20, lives in Peterborough, but she’s been in self-isolation in Orillia since returning March 23 from England, where she had been studying.
When she returned to Canada, her parents drove two vehicles to the airport, leaving one for Abrahamse. She is staying at the Orillia home of a relative, who is now staying with Abrahamse’s aunt. Here, she has a place to herself and she has family who can drop off the essentials she needs.
She had been experiencing watery eyes, sinus problems and a persistent headache. She figured it was allergies and the migraines she’s used to having.
“Then, I just had this feeling that I should get tested before I go home (to Peterborough),” she recalled. “I just really wanted to make sure I didn’t put my family at risk.”
She went to the assessment clinic at Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, but was told she didn’t meet the criteria for testing. She then called Telehealth Ontario and a nurse told her she did fit the criteria, so she went back to the clinic.
Again, she was turned away and told referrals from Telehealth were not being accepted. It took a referral from her family physician to finally get her tested on April 6. The next day, she was told she had the virus.
“I was shocked,” Abrahamse said. “I was upset because I hadn’t been home in months and I had to isolate.”
She was initially hesitant to share her experience publicly, but she changed her mind because she wanted people to know not everyone experiences the main symptoms of COVID-19.
Abrahamse didn’t have a cough or fever and wasn’t short of breath.
“I didn’t have any of those things,” she said, adding she still doesn’t. “I just can’t help but think about how many people think they just have seasonal allergies.”
When she heard Ontario had the capacity to test far more people than were being tested, she wanted to see a change.
“We need to be taking that to its fullest and testing as many people as possible,” she said, noting there could be people unknowingly carrying the disease. "How do we know if they're not testing people?"
Her message to everyone: “Take this seriously.”
“If you have any symptoms at all, please, just assume that you might have COVID and do what you’re supposed to do — self-isolate, try to get tested,” she said. “Stay home and monitor everything.”
Abrahamse’s experience has changed the way she looks at life in general.
“I’m full of a new appreciation for the life we led before all of this,” she said. "All of the days mesh into one. I just want to be home, in my own bed."