‘All I hear is the ventilator’: 24-year-old Alberta woman in ICU after putting off COVID-19 vaccine

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Shakira Orr has spent most of the past month at her older sister’s bed at Jillian. The 24-year-old from Slave Lake, Alta., has been in the Edmonton intensive care unit since September 10 after contracting COVID-19.

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“It’s hard to see my sister like this because I’m used to hearing her talk and laugh with me,” the 19-year-old told Granthshala News from outside an Alberta hospital. “Now I only hear the sound of the ventilator going and going. That’s all I hear.”

Orr says both she and her sister were hesitant to get the COVID-19 vaccine at first, but in August, she says, they both decided it was the right thing to do.

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“I finally reassured myself, because I was totally against it before — I’d been hearing a lot of rumors about it,” she says. “My sister was also against it; She was afraid of it.

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“In the last week of August, we convinced her to get it, but she caught COVID and it was too late for her to receive any doses.”

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A week after testing positive, Ora says her sister had become very ill. She was admitted to the Northern Lights Regional Health Center in Fort McMurray, Alta, before being transferred to Edmonton on September 10.

“Her lungs are actually infected with COVID pneumonia and she has or had a blood clot in her lung, so the damage is severe,” Orr said.

As of Monday, the Alberta Health Service says there were 298 patients in intensive care across the province. The number represents a three percent drop from the previous week, but significantly higher than the province’s usual patient volume.

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Alberta currently has 374 ICU beds open; 201 of those locations have been built in recent weeks to accommodate the growing number of COVID-19 patients.

The new locations have come at the cost of thousands of scheduled surgeries that have had to be postponed.

Orr says that her family is trying to be hopeful for her sister but she admits that seeing Jillene so sick has been difficult.

“It’s difficult. It’s definitely tough on me and my family. We wish that didn’t happen…. We told her to get vaccinated first.”

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