A Stettler couple known for their stellar musical gifts are now speaking out about their harrowing battles with COVID-19.
Russ and Luanne Carl, part of the popular local band Renegade Station, posted a powerful and sobering video recently where they detailed their experiences with COVID-19 this past summer.
Both contracted the infection in July when there was a spike in cases in the County of Stettler.
They are now hopeful that by being completely open about it, that people will in general take the pandemic more seriously and also do more to bolster personal precautionary measures.
As mentioned, both were infected but Luanne’s battle was particularly severe.
“My symptoms started on about July 11th,” explained Luanne during a recent interview. “I thought it was allergies – something I have had since I was a little girl. I can tell the difference between my allergies and a cold.”
The couple were heading down to Lethbridge to go camping, and besides the sniffles, she was feeling fine.
They met up with family at the campground, and mentioned the following day that they were going to keep up the social distancing because she didn’t want to get anyone else sick.
But in the meantime, her symptoms continued to worsen. “I still wasn’t thinking that I had COVID. But on the Tuesday I woke up and I felt awful,” she explained, adding she was feeling sicker by the hour at that point.
“Thirty minutes would go by and I would be that much worse.”
By the time they returned home, Luanne headed to bed feeling absolutely exhausted. And by this point, Russ was starting to feel symptoms as well.
They also arranged to be tested for COVID-19.
“We didn’t leave the house. We had friends bring us some groceries, and we just stayed in. I wasn’t well enough to even go outside.”
By the end of that week, Russ was starting to improve in terms of symptoms, although he would ultimately lose his senses of taste and smell for about three months.
Luanne’s condition, however, continued to worsen.
“On the Saturday and Sunday, I was too weak to even walk. I needed Russ to help me with pretty much everything. Everything hurt, and it would make me nauseous so I would take Gravol to counteract that,” she recalled.
“I also had chest pain – and that was when I got really scared. It woke me up,” she said, recalling how she was also dreading being hospitalized and having to be quarantined from her family.
“You go through all of those scenarios,” she said. “And this whole time my gums were bleeding – and when I say bleeding I mean bleeding. Not just when you are brushing your teeth and it happens sometimes,” she said.
Early the next week they were tested. “For me, just to get in the vehicle and go to the testing drive-through was enough to put me in bed for the rest of the day.”
The next day, she woke up at 5 a.m. and literally couldn’t close her mouth.
“I couldn’t eat or chew, and of course my gums were bleeding.” That was the day she went to the hospital, where she was treated initially for pneumonia as the COVID-19 results hadn’t been returned at that point.
She went home, and two days later learned that she and Russ had tested positive.
Improvements came very gradually, and to this day, there are some lasting effects. “I still have issues with my gums,” she said. “And I still have to rest or have a nap on my lunch hour.
“Looking back, we’ve had a couple of shows since and I would think that I must be out of shape because I would be out of breath.”
Luanne also explained that they knew at some point they wanted to share their story.
“We talked about it very soon after recovering that we needed to tell our story,” she said, noting that they were at first hesitant because they felt a bit of stigma about it.
“How did I get this? What did I do wrong? And then there was the absolute guilt about having to contact the people you were with – I was a sobbing mess. Russ had to talk to our kids,” she said.
Thankfully, no one they were with during the camping trip was infected.
They hope the video builds awareness abut the seriousness of COVID-19, and makes more folks realize how vitally important it is to be careful. Since they spoken about it, the story has also gone national appearing in the Calgary Herald, CTV and the National Post and beyond.
“We’ve had more positive messages than negative,” she said. “We all just need to be careful – we need to get this under control and we need to stay safe.
“It’s about looking out for your fellow human beings,” she said. “And there are lots of ways we can still support our small businesses, and lots of things we can do to help each other and to stay safe and not hurt someone who is more vulnerable.”
You can check out the video on the Renegade Station Facebook page.