A young man from Okotoks is recovering after being one of the youngest Albertans recorded in the ICU with COVID-19.
Matt Greenshields, 19, is a business student at the University of Calgary and Foothills Composite High School grad.
He first began developing symptoms on March 12th where he experienced a runny nose, headache, body aches, and felt rundown, which he describes as feeling similar to a bad cold. Greenshields returned home from Calgary that night and began self-isolating as a precaution.
Over the next few days, his symptoms began to worsen and he developed a dry cough. On the 20th it seemed his symptoms had disappeared, aside from the cough which had progressed, and he began to experience mild sleep issues due to a slight fever. When the 24th rolled around his symptoms returned with a vengeance with no appetite or ability to distinguish between tastes along with swollen lymph nodes and tonsils.
With tonsils now swollen to the point he could not speak, swallow, or breath without difficulties, nausea, and brown-stained mucous streaked with blood he had started to cough up, Greenshields was admitted to hospital on the 25th where he was tested for COVID-19, two types of mono, strep, pneumonia, and mumps.
The nausea escalated the next day and he began to vomit and cough up large amounts of blood and mucus. The swelling of his tonsils and lymph nodes increased and his fever hit 39.7 degrees with his heart rate working overtime. Greenshields was informed his test came back positive for COVID-19 and he was moved into the hospital's COVID unit.
March 27th arrived and Greenshields could no longer eat or swallow, resulting in a liquid diet through IV. This day he was told he had also tested positive for the Epstein-Barr Virus, also known as mono. The doctor explained to him the mono was the cause of the swelling and had weakened his immune system allowing the COVID to attack him significantly worse than it should have. With this combo, his case was deemed as life-threatening and he was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. At this time, Greenshields says he was the youngest Albertan in the ICU with COVID-19.
According to Greenshields, the drugs needed to treat his mono and the extreme swelling of his tonsils would have worsened his COVID, therefore they were not an option.
Greenshields recalls his pain hitting 10/10 and doctors and nurses saying, "Matt, we don't know what's going to happen here.". He was told he may need a tracheotomy to assist his breathing due to his swollen tonsils and he had another swollen node which led to an ear infection. His fever hit a high of 41 degrees, heart raced at 148 bpm, and oxygen hit a low of 83 per cent.
The day after, Greenshields says he woke up feeling odd as his symptoms were still there but his fever had broken. The tracheotomy was not needed and he was transferred out of the ICU back to his old room.
The swelling in his tonsils came down as days passed and he no longer required an IV for liquids.
On the 31st, Greenshields was sent home from the hospital with a recovery period of three months.
Greenshields says as he hasn't left the area in a long time, it's believed he picked up the virus through community transmission.
"The University of Calgary, they give weekly emails about COVID, and within the first week that the isolation had started they sent out an update that there was one case of it at the school and it happened to be in my faculty. That's the only thing I can think of was that I happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with this one person," he explains. "But, they also said in the email that they hadn't been on campus much, so, it's really tough to say where I could have gotten it but that's the only thing I can think of."
According to the province's data on April 14th, 276 cases are suspected to have have been contracted through community transmission.
Greenshields has been home from the hospital for two weeks and is now experiencing lingering mono symptoms along with fatigue.
A post on Facebook outlining his experience with COVID-19 and mono that cautions others to follow health guidelines has received 400 shares.
Greenshields says at first he was apprehensive to share his story on social media, but as a healthy young male, he hopes his story opens the eyes of those who think they won't get sick.
"I've seen a lot of people my age and people that I know who are still hosting small little parties or get-togethers and stuff and I don't want anyone else to have to go through what I did. So, I made the decision to post it and really show people what happened... just hopefully let people know that it's not just people with underlying health conditions or the elderly who can really get affected by it."
As of April 14th, there have been 1,870 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta with 44 people currently hospitalized and 14 of those cases in the ICU.