COVID-19, an anniversary to remember for Gore Bay couple

Greg and Martha Wilkins of Gore Bay are shown in photo taken on a cruise they took to South America, two years ago.

MANITOULIN ISLAND – While things are certainly better than they were at this time of the year in 2020, a Gore Bay couple are both still feeling the effects of having the COVID-19 virus last year. 

“We are definitely better than we were,” Martha Wilkins assured the Recorder of her and her husband Greg’s wellbeing last week. “The world just reflected on the coronavirus pandemic being one year long. In that year we, my husband Greg and I, flew home across the world to be the first couple on Manitoulin to be diagnosed with COVID-19.”

“Many of you know how sick we were and we were sick quite a bit longer than the two weeks they say it takes to recover and not be contagious,” said Martha. “Greg could barely talk for over eight weeks without coughing/choking. However, what most people don’t know, is how this virus is the gift that has kept on going.”

“Medical experts call it long COVID,” said Ms. Wilkins. “The lingering symptoms that continue long after you are considered well. As luck would have it, we have experienced that too. Months of extreme fatigue, getting winded with very little exercise, chronic sinus and congestion issues still linger.”

“I think we were glad to live here, having the peace and beauty of Manitoulin to rest and recuperate,” continued Ms. Wilkins. “It has just taken longer than we thought. But we are getting there, one day at a time. We are still grateful every day.”

“We would not wish this on anyone, both the virus and the and the persistent chronic symptoms that can follow,” she stated. “I am frustrated by the people that are indifferent, that don’t believe it’s real or that don’t believe it can happen to them.”

“It is disappointing that people are mean to others who contracted the virus, through places like Facebook, where they feel they can say anything they like without filter. If we have learned anything, it’s to try to be softer, kinder and more understanding, because you don’t know what people are going through at any given time,” said Ms. Wilkins. “It has been a difficult year, for many. We encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you. We all want our lives back to as normal as soon as we can, safely.”

It was around this time last year that the Recorder printed a story (April 17, 2020) based on an interview with the Wilkins following the completion of their 14-day self-isolation and had been given official confirmation by Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) they no longer had 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,” Ms. Wilkins told the Recorder in the April 17, 2020 story.   

The couple had flown March 19, 2020 from Sydney, Australia to the San Francisco airport on Quantas Airline Flight QF73. They then flew (also on March 19) from San Francisco to Toronto International Airport on Air Canada Flight AC742. 

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

Their vacation actually got cancelled after four stops. “The government of New Zealand decided to close their borders, declaring that they would not let any more ships docks, 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. “No, 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 we were still not sick. Then because of everything that was happening my son picked up groceries for us in Toronto and dropped them off in our car. This allowed us to go into immediate isolation.” 

The couple then drove directly home 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 am 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 on the ship. 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.”

“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.”