Matt Greenshields, shown in a family handout photo from late March, never worried about COVID-19 but he found himself thinking about death when he was being wheeled down the empty, darkened hallways of a Calgary hospital on his way to ICU. His condition was complicated by the fact he was already suffering from mononucleosis and a month later he’s hoping his story will warn others to beware. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Greenshields Family

‘What’s going to happen?’ Alberta teen recounts brush with death from COVID-19

The swelling in his throat got so severe that he couldn’t swallow or talk and had to be fed using an IV

Matt Greenshields never worried about COVID-19 until he found himself thinking about death as he was being wheeled down the empty, darkened hallways of a hospital on his way to intensive care.

His condition was complicated because he had already contracted mononucleosis. He’s hoping his story will warn others to take the pandemic seriously.

Greenshields, 19, was attending the University of Calgary when he developed a runny nose and body aches on March 12.

He went home to Okotoks, about 60 kilometres south of Calgary, to recuperate, but his condition worsened: a cough, swollen lymph nodes in his neck and eventually extreme nausea.

Twelve days later, he was rushed to the South Calgary Health Campus.

“I got really, really nauseous and I coughed up a decent amount of brown mucus and blood with it. That’s when we finally decided we’ve got to go to the hospital,” Greenshields said in an interview with The Canadian Press on Wednesday.

He was tested for COVID-19, strep throat and two kinds of mono. But the real concern was that he might have lymphoma and doctors wanted to do a biopsy.

“I got admitted that night because they were going to do the biopsy the next morning. Then the COVID test ended up coming back positive, which is something that nobody expected at all, because it didn’t explain the swelling in my throat and tonsils.”

The swelling in his throat got so severe that he couldn’t swallow or talk and had to be fed using an IV. He was transferred to ICU and had oxygen tubes in his nose to help him breathe in case he had to have a tracheotomy.

“That’s the first time I really felt that maybe I’m not going to be OK. The whole time I was kind of brushing it off. But then, when I was going through those hallways down to ICU, that’s the first time I was actually really scared for myself,” Greenshields said.

“I had to be taken through these separate hallways because of the COVID. The hallways were just completely empty and barren. … It was just an eerie feeling: where am I going right now and what’s going to happen?”

His condition started to improve slightly the next day and by March 31 he was discharged to self-isolate at his parents’ home. He hopes his story will prove to be cautionary for others, especially young people like himself, who he said were still going to house parties and meeting up when restrictions were being brought in.

“I could see people on social media who were still having those gatherings. It’s that invincibility factor at my age where they think they’re not going to get it,” he said.

“I originally didn’t want to share my story because of how intense it was. I didn’t want to scare people. But when I saw that people were still hanging out with their friends and … not really caring, I (thought) maybe I should scare them into staying at home.”

Greenshields received an all-clear from Alberta Health on Tuesday. He no longer has COVID-19 but still faces a couple of months at home to recover from his mono.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

AlbertaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A fundraiser for the Falkland Community Church is underway. (Photo submitted)
COVID-19 leaves Falkland Church in a lurch

Annual event/major fundraiser cancelled for first time in 34 years

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Almost 10,000 turn out to Vernon-Monashee advance polls

19 per cent of 52,479 registered voters have made their mark in B.C. election

Members of the Armstrong Lions Club have planted a red Canadian maple tree at Lions Park on Hunter Avenue as a show of tribute to their sister club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Armstong Lions Club salutes sister club with tree

Red Canadian Maple planted in Lions Park pays tribute to Lions Club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland

The Community Foundation has teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association and horse-assisted therapists to bring horse therapy to frontline worker battling the COVID-19 pandemic free of charge. (Contributed)
Okanagan organization says ‘thanks’ to COVID-19 frontline workers with complimentary horse therapy

Community Foundation teams with CMHA and equine therapists to offer unique mental health supports

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

The total number of cases in the region is now at 644

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. Government photo)
Kelowna Francophone school COVID-19 outbreak climbs to 5, mixture of students and staff

Health officer says situation evolving, spoke to possible closure, changes to provincial guidelines

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels Corb Lund’s Vernon, Penticton, Trail, Cranbrook concerts

The Contenders, Colin James and Lund postponed until 2021

RCMP detachments across B.C. are now flying Pride flags. (Submitted photo)
Man who spent 4 days injured on floor rescued by Kamloops Mountie

The man is recovering in hospital after being rescued by a police officer conducting a well-being check

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Five people with alleged ties to the Red Scorpion Gang are facing numerous charges. (Kelowna RCMP)
5 men linked to Red Scorpion gang charged with gun, drug offences in Kelowna

Police seized a machine gun as well as 5.5 kilograms of fentanyl and carfentanil

Most Read