Left to right: Donnie Clarke, Drew Clarke, and Tracey Kieley.
Donnie Clarke, Drew Clarke, and Tracey Kieley were amongst the first 10 people to be diagnosed with COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
While this family’s experience with the virus led to fear and uncertainty at times, it was the extraordinary healthcare teams at the QEII that made their journey to recovery easier and more comforting than they ever could've imagined.
“When we returned from our vacation on March 17, we weren’t feeling 100 per cent, but we thought we were just experiencing a vacation hangover,” Tracey laughed.
With news coverage on COVID-19 increasing during their return to Canada, the Clarke-Kieley family wanted to ensure they were doing the responsible thing. After a phone call with the team at 811, they were all asked to get tested as a precaution.
As a mom, Tracey was a little weary that this test meant a family trip to the hospital. But when they arrived at the QEII, they were welcomed by healthcare teams who smiled, laughed, and comforted them - behind an ensemble of personal protective equipment.
“These are truly caring, amazing, supportive people. They genuinely cared about us, supported us, and took care of our health so early in a crisis, when nobody really knew anything yet.”
Within a couple of days, Tracey and Donnie had received positive test results, but their daughter, Drew, was still testing negative.
“If it wasn’t for those nurses, I don’t know if we would’ve gotten through this. And that’s the truth. They were our people. Because at that point, they were the only ones who knew we had it.”
A positive diagnosis for Tracey and Donnie meant that they had to self-isolate from their own daughter within their own home. “Our daughter’s life had already changed. She couldn’t see her friends and she already had to self-isolate for 14 days because we had travelled. So when we told her we tested positive, she was devastated. She ran away from us and she cried.”
The family is grateful for the fantastic team of nurses who were always available to help them navigate this unique and difficult situation as a family.
“When we think about those nurses, they called us every single day. Every day. They asked how we were feeling, what symptoms we had, and just in general how things were going,” Tracey said.
One of those phone calls included a special call, just for Drew.
“This call was really meaningful. Drew was afraid of us. She was really afraid [of the virus] and she didn’t know what to do,” Tracey said. “This phone call changed her quite a bit. It really helped Drew feel comfortable actually talking to us about it and get her ready to go to her next COVID-19 test.”
When their healthcare team decided it was time for Drew to be tested again, Tracey and Donnie were unable to accompany their daughter to her COVID-19 test, as they had to remain isolated.
“Drew was so scared, but when she returned from her test she was in great spirits. I think that really speaks to the care she received,” Tracey said. “She didn’t return absolutely devastated, or crying, she came back really proud.”
Despite the consistent wearing of masks, self-isolating, and constant cleaning, Drew’s test results eventually came back positive for COVID-19 and the family was able to self-isolate, together.
“This has taken a huge emotional toll on our family. Like anyone going through isolation, there are a lot of ups and downs,” Tracey said. “I think the biggest thing that made it emotionally tough on me was that we didn’t tell anyone. We kept it really quiet because we were afraid that people would judge us.”
The Clarke-Kieley family is now ready to let others know what it’s like to have COVID-19. They want to provide a message of support and understanding to other COVID-19 patients. They worry about the mental health challenges that could arise for individuals who try to deal with the pandemic in silence.
“Talk to someone who can help you through this,” Tracey said. “It’s important to talk about it and share it, and I think we would’ve done it differently. We would’ve talked about our experience sooner and not hold it back.”
Drew, Tracey, and her husband Donnie are slowly but surely recovering from the virus. But they hope their story is a reminder to the community that we all still need to do our part. “We hope that our story encourages others to continue following Dr. Strang's guidelines,” Tracey says, with the hopes that no other parent will be in a position where they must self-isolate from their own child.
During these challenging times, the QEII Foundation thanks the RBC Foundation whose generous donation has ignited the early launch of a free, online mental health tool for all Nova Scotians called Therapy Assistance Online (TAO) Self-Help. If you or your loved ones are struggling during these unprecedented times, we encourage you to connect with these free mental health services:
- Therapy Assistance Online: https://taoconnect.org/what_is_tao/ns/
- Online mental health and addictions services: https://www.nshealth.ca/content/online-mental-health-and-addictions-services
- Provincial mental health crisis line: 1-888-429-8167
To learn more about how you can support #QE2HealthHeroes and the QEII’s response to COVID-19, visit QE2Covid19Response.ca.