First known local COVID-19 patient shares story
By Stephanie Stevens
For many of us, COVID-19 has seemed a bit surreal, as though it was an issue elsewhere, but not “in our little valley.”
But when Invermere resident Bucky Dalke got a call March 19 informing him he had tested positive for the pandemic virus, reality came down hard.
Dalke and his wife returned from a trip to Costa Rica March 1, spending a few days with family in Timmons, Ont. before they made the drive back to the Columbia Valley.
“We started heading back Wednesday and I had a slight cough, but we had just gone from plus 42 to minus 26 so I figured that was what it was,” he said. “Late afternoon Saturday, we stopped in Saskatchewan and bought some chicken.”
Dalke said he was the only one to eat the chicken, so when on Sunday, March 8 he was nauseous and had diarrhea he believed he had food poisoning.
By Tuesday night he felt so dehydrated he went to the hospital and was treated with intravenous fluids, and when he went home the following day, made the call to hunker down and isolate. When he had not improved by Saturday he returned to the hospital, where in addition to being treated again for dehydration, he was isolated and tested for the virus.
“It (COVID-19) wasn’t something I was thinking about because I only had a bit of a cough and a slight fever,” he said. “I really just thought I had food poisoning.”
When the test came back positive nearly a week later, his first thought was not for himself.
“The first thing I thought of when I got the test results was the Rockies,” Dalke said. I called the coach right away.”
The bet Dalke had made with the team was if they made it through the first round, they could shave his head bald.
“We were in the same room, they were shaving my head, we all had a laugh… I was sick to my stomach because I thought what if I got the team sick?”
Rockies president Brett Holt, said it was typical of Dalke to be concerned for the players first.
“Bucky is such an awesome guy, but we told him it was about him now, and to get better. There was brief exposure to some players and coaching staff March 9, but no one else,” said Holt. “All the correct protocols were taken… all the players and coaching staff went into full isolation after we found out, but even before that we were all practicing social isolation, especially because of the sort of environment we live in.”
None of the team has developed any symptoms, he added, and they did not play any games after the meeting with Dalke as the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League cancelled the season.
Also typical of Dalke is his upfront attitude.
“I would rather have my name out there (than be an anonymous patient),” he said. “I want people to know it is me, and I got sick, and if they were around me, I want them to be aware and self-isolate, and if they get sick get checked out. If you even think you are getting sick, isolate yourself for two weeks.”
“COVID is a reality, and I think it speaks volumes to the importance of people following the guidelines that are out there in terms of social distancing, and quarantining if they are symptomatic or if they have a travel history or an exposure history.
“We need to recognize this is an important thing, this is a big deal and the fact is it is going to have an impact on how we live and how we function… the time for complacency is over.”
With a confirmed case in Invermere, Mannheimer said he recognizes one of the biggest questions is going to be how close you have to be to be considered exposed?
“The patients that really have to self-isolate are the ones that have had close contact with somebody who has been diagnosed, not necessarily if you have just been in the general vicinity,” he said. “But by the same token, if you have been in contact with someone you know has it, even if you have no symptoms, stay at home, try not to go to public places, minimize your visitors, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, do not share personal items. You don’t have to self-quarantine within your own home, but certainly try to self-isolate and certainly if you develop symptoms, you have to be that much more aggressive about self-isolating.”
And while we do need to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, Mannheimer added remaining calm and not panicking is also vital.
“Most people are going to be fine. What I would like people to understand is whether we swab you or don’t swab you, assuming you have mild symptoms, the presence or absence of a swab doesn’t change the trajectory, does not change the severity, and it doesn’t change what you should or shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “If you have flu-like symptoms, you must stay at home. You don’t have to run to the hospital to find out if you have COVID-19, because it is academic: you should stay at home until you feel better. If you have a positive exposure or a travel history, you should stay at home and follow those guidelines that have been put out quite clearly. If you are unsure, you can make use of the patient self-assessment tool.”
The self-assessment tool is available online at https://covid19.thrive.health/ and is simple to follow.
“I recognize that one of the steps in the tool is to call 811,” added Mannheimer. “And I am aware that if you call 811, there can be up to a seven-hour wait list. The message from local doctors is don’t call 811 if you are told there is a seven-hour wait list. Phone your clinic, phone the Invermere hospital, we have staff that will talk to you. If we cannot speak to you immediately, one of the clinicians in this community will call you the same day. You don’t have to feel that 811 is your only option, we have made the channels of communication very open so we can help.
“I really encourage people to use the link (or call) before they go to the hospital… we need to keep people who are not severely ill and certainly people who are not symptomatic away from the clinics and away from the hospital. Of course if you are severely ill, we need to see you, but if you are scared and unsure, please use the self-assessment tool and phone the clinic. We will have a clinician on the phone with you within hours to discuss the case. Please don’t go to the hospital in a panic.”
If you have travelled internationally, whether there is an exposure history or not, you are to self-quarantine for 14 days, Mannheimer stressed. “Regardless of whether or not you have symptoms, and that is very, very clear and extremely important.”
The valley’s local political leaders, District of Invermere Mayor Al Miller, Village of Radium Hot Springs Mayor Clara Reinhardt, Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) Electoral Area G Director Gerry Wilkie and Area F Director Susan Clovechok and Village of Canal Flats Mayor Karl Sterzer are all encouraging their constituents to practice social distancing and remain home as much as possible. All offices are closed to the public, but are available by phone.
“For those who are self-isolating for whatever reason we have an option for you to get groceries and/or medications,” added Clovechok.
At Clovechok’s request, Laurie Klassen took on the task of creating a website that matches volunteers willing to shop and/or drive with those unable to get needed supplies. The site is up if you would like to volunteer or need help getting staples.
“I have to send a huge thanks to Laurie for donating her time to set it up and manage it for as long as it is required,” said Clovechok. “She didn’t even hesitate when I asked her if she would take it on.”
Dalke said things like the Volunteer Columbia Valley are the reason he is so proud of “his valley. I have had friends really step up to help me and Carol, bringing us the things we need. That is why I love my valley, we scratch each other’s backs when we need it. We need each other. We need to stay apart but we need to help each other out.”
Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechok added his voice to Mannheimer’s as to the importance of taking COVID-19 seriously.
“I think it important that people understand that no matter what community they live in, COVID-19 is there. Knowing that, people must adhere faithfully to prevention protocols. I am very concerned about the influx of people from other provinces coming into my riding and our communities. From what I have witnessed so far many of these visitors somehow feel that there is no issue here, which is not only irresponsible but dangerous behaviour. As an example, going to natural hot springs en masse then returning into our communities afterwards is putting people at risk. I have had constituents tell me that those visitors are also in our grocery stores coughing and sneezing. As the MLA my demand of them is simple. If you have not come here yet, don’t. If you are here self-isolate immediately.
“Strong words, yes, but my responsibility is to the people that I represent, not second home owners. We appreciate them so much, they are our friends and neighbours, but today our appreciation requires them to stay home.”
With confirmed cases now in the riding (Golden also has a confirmed case) the risk is for continued spread is real, it is not only the addition to the risk curve Clovechok said he is concerned about, but the added stress on supplies in grocery stores and pharmacies.
“We all need to do our part and take this crisis seriously. Susan and I are hunkered down at home and working from there. We make sure that contact with others is minimal and when we do (make contact) all protocols are followed.
“Stay safe and healthy and let’s be kind to one another. We are mountain people, country strong and hard to break.”
Lead image: Bucky Dalke busts a gut while volunteering at a Kinsmen Sno-Golf Tournament wind-up in 2013. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photo
Editor’s note: To give you an idea how important it is to Bucky Dalke to inform people about COVID-19, witness his photo published in e-KNOW. I’ve known Bucky for almost three decades thanks to covering Kinsmen Club of Windermere Valley events and other community affairs where he’d be volunteering, and on several occasions he politely informed me that if I published (in The Valley Echo) his picture, he’d beat the crap out of me. Guess that’s why in the only shot I could find of him his eyes are closed. Bless you and speedy recovery Bucky! – Ian