Young people are not immune to COVID-19. That's the message one Calgarian wants to share with Canadians, after being diagnosed with the disease at 23 years old. After suffering from a fever, lung discomfort and difficulty breathing, she wants people to start understanding the potential severity of COVID-19 in Canada.
When 23-year-old Carmen Lee arrived in Spain back in January, she had no idea that her year abroad was going to feature a hospital stint, a dangerous disease, and several weeks of isolation.
After heading to Barcelona to work as an au pair, the young Calgarian started noticing concerning symptoms on March 9.
In an interview with Narcity, Lee explained, “I developed a cough, which would prove to be my first symptom of COVID-19. However, at the time, the seriousness of the pandemic was not understood in Spain or most of the world for that matter.”
She said that it wasn’t until two days later that she realized she could potentially have the disease, at which time she immediately went into self-isolation.
“I was a bit afraid with this realization, not only for my own health but for the health of all those I had been in contact with during the days prior.”
Rather than wait for a home test, Lee headed straight to the hospital, where she was formally diagnosed with COVID-19.
Before her own symptoms, Lee explained that she had “no idea what to expect,” as research on the effects on young people had not yet been widely published. She described a cough, a fever, difficulty breathing, and feeling completely exhausted.
“The lung discomfort was the most concerning symptom I experienced,” she added.
Spain has been hit particularly hard by the novel coronavirus, having more than 136,675 confirmed cases as of April 7.
Currently, Canada has 17,063 cases.
The Canadian media, Lee argues, should consider how the pandemic is affecting other countries around the world, to share “important insights about what the future may look like for Canada in a few months.”
“I think this would put our situation here into perspective for many people and possibly help to reinforce the reality of what could happen if we all do not take this seriously,” she explained.
Thankfully, Lee was able to return to Calgary where she has been self-isolating ever since.
Speaking from her family's basement, where she remains in quarantine, she wants Canadians to know that COVID-19 isn’t an individual issue.
“This virus isn’t something that can be dealt with individually,” she told Narcity. “Overcoming this pandemic requires collective, selfless effort from everyone — old, young, healthy and not.”
“A realization must occur, that regardless of how you believe you will fare against the virus, it has the potential to be very dangerous for everyone,” Lee explained on Monday.
Although Lee said she hopes the majority of young people are taking COVID-19 seriously, she added, “I think some still do not see the severity of the issue.”
Even if some young people may not be as badly affected as the elderly, this isn't an excuse to be negligent, she added.
“We must remember that we as human beings have a responsibility to look out for one another. Carelessness of one person could lead to the loss of someone’s family member, coworker or friend.”
While Lee is now fully recovered from the disease and is feeling "back to normal," she's been isolating from her loved ones for several weeks.
After a long and lonely 24 days, Lee is only four days away from being properly reunited with her family.
"I'm looking forward to actually being able to spend time with them and eat dinner with them again!" she said.