If you think you won’t get seriously ill from COVID-19 because you’re young and healthy — think again. That’s the message a 22-year-old Winnipeg man is trying to get across by sharing his story about the illness that put him the hospital for nine days.
“You’re not invincible just because you’re healthy, just because you work out,” said Peter Soliman, a psychology major at the University of Manitoba.
Soliman tested positive for the B117 variant in March. He said he doesn’t have any underlying health conditions, was always careful about following guidelines, and didn’t have many contacts other than his family.
“People I don’t think realize how serious this really is, and with the third wave it has multiple variants,” he said.
Following his hospitalization, he shared his experience on social media and has received hundreds of comments, some of them negative, but most positive he says.
“A lot of people have said ‘this is a wake-up call’, ‘this is what we needed’, ‘thank you for sharing your story’, so people’s feedback has just been amazing, so I’m just hoping that this does make a difference,” he said.
In mid-March, Soliman’s father was told he was a close contact of a COVID-19 case at his place of work, so it wasn’t a surprise when his dad tested positive for the virus. Soliman, as well as his mother and sister tested negative at first, but days later his mom became ill, then Soliman began to show symptoms himself.
The family had already been isolating, as directed by public health officials, when Soliman first showed signs of the illness on March 17 and his next test came back positive soon after.
“The first seven to eight days we were all experiencing COVID symptoms, so just normal ones, fever, severe muscles aches…chills,” said Soliman.
“We were kind of thinking maybe we’ll get better now soon, and things just started to go way more downhill from there.”
The family was told early on that their tests showed they had contracted a coronavirus variant of concern, which was later revealed to be the B117 variant, a strain first identified in the United Kingdom.
As of Saturday, 412 variant cases have been detected, with B117 becoming the dominant variant in Manitoba.
Soliman’s mother was the first to be hospitalized. After about a week of feeling extremely sick and suffering high fevers, the 22-year-old was also taken to St. Boniface Hospital after his oxygen levels became dangerously low.
“My body was feeling like it was running a marathon everyday, it was tiring,” said Soliman.
“The pneumonia was I guess developing, oxygen levels were dropping, it just felt like I wasn’t myself… so exhausting to just do normal things,” he said.
‘It was a very scary time’
After a few days, Soliman’s dad was also hospitalized after his airway became blocked and he stopped breathing.
Soliman’s sister, who is a nurse and already had her first vaccine dose, did not become ill and tested negative multiple times despite living in the same home and caring for her family while they were ill.
Soliman credits her for keeping a close eye on his oxygen levels, and saving his dad when his airway was blocked.
The 22-year-old said his stay in hospital was difficult, he didn’t have the energy to get up, even to go to the bathroom. He was given oxygen and at one point doctors told him if he didn’t show improvement he would need to go to the intensive care unit.
“The first five to six days were pretty horrible, I was very bed-bound, not a lot of movement, like it was very exhausting, and then right after the sixth day I just started to improve,” he said.
“It was very hard, I don’t wish it upon anybody to be honest.”
Soliman was also very worried about his parents, but he was able to share a hospital room with his mother, which helped.
‘Keep your distance and keep all the rules’
Soliman was released from hospital earlier this month and hopes by sharing his story he is helping others understand how severe the illness can be.
“I really hope that people don’t cut down on the rules now and try to go back to normal. I think this is a time where you need to hold on tight and just keep your circle closed. Keep your distance and keep all the rules.”
His parents have also been released from hospital and the family is slowly adjusting to being at home and trying to get their strength back.
Soliman is back at work and trying to catch up on the school work he missed while he was sick. He said his story can serve as a reminder to other young people to not to let their guard down.
“Everyone is different… thank God I’m here, I’m recovering and I’m hoping that there’s no long term effects, others might not get that chance.”