Gore Bay couple says they’re happy to be alive

Tougher than COVID-19! Greg and Martha Wilkins of Gore Bay feel fortunate to be alive after contracting COVID-19 while on a vacation to Australia and New Zealand in March. The couple went through self-isolation and received confirmation from Public Health Sudbury and Districts they no longer have the virus. In photo they are shown on a cruise they took to South America last year.

Urges Islanders to take COVID-19 seriously

MANITOULIN ISLAND – While Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) has reported several new cases in residents in its service area (Greater Sudbury, Sudbury District and Manitoulin District) of COVID-19, a Gore Bay couple who had the virus are now out of self-isolation having taken all necessary precautions but are still feeling the effects of the virus.

“People need to take COVID-19 seriously. It is not a joke; it isn’t just a flu. It’s almost the worst thing you can get without dying,” stated Martha Wilkins of Gore Bay who, along with her husband Greg, recently completed a 14-day self-isolation period and were given their official confirmation they no longer have the virus by PHSD. 

The couple had flown on March 19 from Sydney, Australia to San Francisco Airport on Qantas Airways flight QF73. They then flew (also March 19) from San Francisco to Toronto International Airport on Air Canada flight AC742. 

Prior to the flights, the couple had been passengers aboard the cruise ship, the Ruby Princess (Princess Cruise Lines), departing Sydney, Australia on March 8 and arriving back in Sydney, Australia on March 19.

Their vacation was cancelled after four stops. “The government of New Zealand decided to close their borders, declaring that they would not let any more ships dock, so we had to return to Australia,” said Ms. Wilkins. “We got back and we felt great. It took three days of sailing to get back to Sydney, Australia. We could not get through to our prior-booked airlines/flights and were afraid we would not be able to get home, so we just booked the flights online to get home.” 

It was at this point the Canadian government was alerting all travellers that they needed to get back into the country, she continued. 

“We weren’t sick when we left Australia,” explained Ms. Wilkins. “We took basically a 24-hour flight home on two airlines, transferred in San Francisco to Toronto, and still we were not sick. Then because of everything that was happening my son had got groceries for us in Toronto and dropped them off in our car. This allowed us to go into immediate isolation.” 

The couple then drove home, directly from the Toronto Airport to Gore Bay. “We got here, with plans to go into self-isolation,” said Ms. Wilkins. She pointed out they had access to the internet through the entire process. “When we got home (Gore Bay) we were still fine. I thought with the 24-hour flight, then a drive of seven hours from Toronto in which we got about 45 minutes of sleep, we were just tired, so we went to bed to sleep. We had arrived in Gore Bay at 7 in the morning. When we got up later that day we just felt tired.”

“However, by the next day we both had fever,” said Ms. Wilkins. “When we got to Toronto, the ship had sent us an email that there were suspected cases of COVID-19 on the ship. And when we got home we had confirmed that there had been COVID-19 cases on the ship. So, we had already planned on doing this and started the self-isolation for 14 days.”

“And when we both had high fever for two days, I called the hospital and they advised that we should be tested,” continued Ms. Wilkins. “We still didn’t feel too bad.” 

It took six days for their results to be completed and released, and it was confirmed that the couple both had COVID-19. 

“You thought you were going to die,” stated Ms. Wilkins. “Never in our lives had we ever been so sick. We went 10 days with fever over 102 and I lost 27 pounds; Greg lost 24 pounds being so sick.” She pointed out she was on antibiotics last week for her ear and Greg was on antibiotics for his chest.

“We are out of quarantine but are still feeling the effects and fighting exhaustion,” she said “We’re lucky though, it could have been worse. I do know we were both so sick, but knew we needed at least to get water into us and we would have conversations as to who had enough strength to go get the water. Yes, my family was freaking out. It’s scary.”

“My sister helped feed us, and now we are on the other side of this thing, but are still resting a lot,” said Ms. Wilkins. “It was the most exhausted we have ever been. Some days we were only up for two hours—it was bad. And of course, no one wants to see you. We didn’t really want to see anyone either. I think we are much improved as (the health unit), while calling us daily to check on our recovery, did release both of us from quarantine after the time requirements as well as having no fever for three consecutive days without medical intervention.”

“We are grateful we did not die,” said Ms. Wilkins. “The public health unit knew we had gone into two weeks of self-isolation. It’s scary, with not everyone having symptoms, we realize this could happen to anyone. We assume we contracted this from being on the ship. Both the ship and the captain are being investigated; there are over 600 cases from that ship that were confirmed to have COVID-19, as well as 18 deaths.”

“The latest update is they think a food preparer on the ship was infected with COVID-19 and that’s how it transferred to so many people,” said Ms. Wilkins. “Manitoulin is still the nicest place in the world to live, and we’re glad to be here in the peace and quiet to recuperate. We felt fine when we got home, little did we know that a few short days later it felt like we were going to die. Now while recovering at home we have to argue with various companies to get refunds on the balance of our cancelled trip when these companies are offering future flight or cruise credits. I want my money back.”

“If people listen to anything, I urge people to stay home, continue social distancing, continue washing your hands and keep things as clean as possible,” added Ms. Wilkins.