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Rankin Inlet fire chief recounts torment of isolation as virus threatened

When word came that Covid-19 had made its way into three Kivalliq communities this past month, most folks followed the health precautions being issued daily and hoped they hadn't been exposed to whomever had been infected with the virus.

Some dreaded that their phone would ring with a dire warning.

Rankin Inlet Fire Chief Mark Wyatt had a lot to think about while isolating for five days after being told he'd been possibly exposed to Covid-19 this past month in Rankin.
photo courtesy Mark Wyatt

Rankin Inlet Fire Chief Mark Wyatt had his hopes dashed when he received a call telling him he had been possibly exposed and that he had to isolate for five days.

When you live alone in Rankin Inlet, five days in isolation often leaves a person with far too much time on their hands to think about what may lie ahead.

Wyatt said he actually received three calls that progressed from it's not a high risk, to maybe things are going to change, to you have to isolate for five days.

He said the third call came on Nov. 20 and he entered into isolation until the following Wednesday, Nov. 25.

When I was first told I was possibly exposed to it I remember thinking that I didn't have any symptoms,” said Wyatt.

Then I immediately began to try and figure out how this happened and everything else, and it didn't take me very long to figure things out and who it was I was in contact with.

Isolating down south just to be safe is one thing, but all of a sudden I'm being told to go into isolation and I'm at home taking my temperature every two hours.

It becomes kind of eerie because you find yourself more or less sitting at home waiting for the symptoms to start.”

Wyatt said once in isolation, he immediately started contact tracing himself from Nov. 10, writing down the names of everyone he could remember coming into contact with just in case the next phone call was more bad news.

He said then he sat at home alone for five days and let his imagination run wild.

I thought about taking my dog for a walk around midnight and then I started with the what ifs — what if some ATV hit me when I was out walking and people had to come and deal with it, or what if I went for a drive and got into some kind of an accident and then I have to expose myself to other people?

Then I decided isolation is isolation and I should just stay home, period.

However, the thing with isolation is, especially when you live by yourself, it gives you an awful lot of time to sit there and dwell on things.

It was a lot different than staying in a hotel for two weeks down south.”

Wyatt said he's sure he's no different from everyone else who received a similar call, in that he quickly found himself pondering what things would be like for him if he was confirmed positive and what would happen next.

He said he took some comfort in knowing most people that tested positive in the three affected communities (Rankin, Arviat and Whale Cove) weren't exhibiting any major symptoms, but that was no guarantee he would react the same way if he tested positive.

I'm not 25 anymore and I thought if I test positive, am I going to be one of those statistics where people get really sick or even die? Should I revise my will? You can try to stay positive all you want, but when you're all alone it's almost impossible not to dwell on some negative thoughts. All these things cross your mind and you have to find a way to deal with it.

Right out of the blue your mortality all of a sudden comes into question and you go, geez, what if? Even though most people recover from it, way more than a million people didn't.

I watch the news every day on what's happening in Winnipeg and the number of deaths in Manitoba. Yes, most of them are in their 70s, 80s and 90s, but on Dec. 1 a man in his 30s died and a man in his 40s died. So, you know, this can really happen.

I breathed a sigh of relief to get the all's clear call, but you can't help but wonder until that call comes. It's the mental aspect of it that I found to be the most difficult to cope with.

It's not the most horrible experience in the world but I wouldn't choose to go through it again.”