St. Michael’s pharmacy technician shares COVID-19 recovery experience
Toronto, May 7, 2020
By Danielle Pereira
The worst part about having COVID-19 for Sarah Petersen wasn’t the physical symptoms – it was trying to think positively.
“The physical symptoms were definitely uncomfortable, but the mental piece – being in isolation and starting to forget what the outside world is like – I think was worse for me,” said the Registered Pharmacy Technician at St. Michael’s Hospital.
While the physical symptoms mostly cleared within a few days, Sarah said the mental toll the diagnosis took on her was something she hadn’t anticipated. Prior to testing positive, passing by her parents’ home to wave at them through their window or taking a long walk with her dog were ways of maintaining a sense of normalcy, even with physical distancing.
“All of a sudden having to be in self-isolation, I started thinking about how the pandemic measures in place in society right now are all there to keep people away from people like me, and wondering if I would be treated differently once I recovered,” she says.
Sarah began to suspect she might have contracted the virus one evening in late March when she developed a harsh cough that felt different from the average cold.
“I started feeling worried,” she said. “My partner is immunocompromised and I had been working at the pharmacy, so I knew I needed to get tested and went to the St. Michael’s Assessment Centre the next day.”
Sarah and a colleague both tested positive for the virus. For about three days, Sarah says she experienced headaches, congestion and nausea.
“I had a really congested feeling to the point where my head actually felt heavy, like it was hard to hold it up,” she said.
In addition to her own concerns, worries about getting her partner sick while isolating in the same home and letting her colleagues down by not being able to come in to work were also regularly on her mind, Sarah said.
“I was feeling pretty down.”
Sarah said the support she had from her partner and family, being able to connect with loved ones through video calls and having her dog to distract her were all crucial to keeping her spirits up.
After more than two weeks in self-isolation and receiving two negative test results, Sarah is glad to be back at work supporting the St. Michael’s outpatient pharmacy team.
She said the experience has made her more aware of the importance of checking in on people in this uncertain time, especially those in self-isolation or vulnerable populations.
“There is a lot of focus on the physical symptoms of COVID-19, but if you know someone who has tested positive, make sure you ask about their mental health as well as their physical health. The experience really does have an impact on both.”
About St. Michael's Hospital
St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.
About Unity Health Toronto
Unity Health Toronto, comprised of Providence Healthcare, St. Joseph’s Health Centre and St. Michael’s Hospital, works to advance the health of everyone in our urban communities and beyond. Our health network serves patients, residents and clients across the full spectrum of care, spanning primary care, secondary community care, tertiary and quaternary care services to post-acute through rehabilitation, palliative care and long-term care, while investing in world-class research and education. For more information, visit www.unityhealth.to.