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'We had warned her:' Family grieves Saskatchewan widow in COVID-related death

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — A family grieving the COVID-related death of a Saskatchewan senior is urging the provincial government to be more transparent on the location of active cases.

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — A family grieving the COVID-related death of a Saskatchewan senior is urging the provincial government to be more transparent on the location of active cases.

Alice Grove was a 75-year-old widow who lived alone on a farm near North Battleford.

She was one of the province's first two deaths from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Her sister says Grove was having breathing difficulties and collapsed in her home on Friday before being taken to Battlefords Union Hospital.

Eleanor Widdowson said Grove was put on a ventilator overnight, but died the next day.

Grove’s death certificate, confirmed by the attending physician, listed “super-imposed coronavirus” as one of the reasons she died.

Her COVID-19 test came back positive after her death.

“She had a fever, she was croaky-sounding, and incoherent at times because of buildup in the lungs,” Widdowson said.

Grove was a former nurse’s aide at Saskatchewan Hospital.

Widdowson believes her sister contracted the virus on one of her many trips into North Battleford.

“We had warned her and warned her and warned her to stay at home,” Widdowson said. “But she’d get lonely. Anyone would, living out on a farm by themselves.”

The sisters last saw each other on March 13 when they met for coffee in town. The meeting forced Widdowson to self-isolate after her sister’s death to ensure she hadn’t also been infected.

Widdowson and her family are upset that the provincial government hadn’t specified how many COVID-19 cases could be active in the North Battleford area.

The province has been listing total cases by geographic zone. North Battleford is listed in a “central” region that stretches between the boundaries with Alberta and Manitoba and down to around Saskatoon.

Dr. Saqib Shahab, chief medical health officer, has cited concerns over patient privacy when asked about identifying communities with COVID-19 cases. He has said that listing a specific town or city could lead to identifying a patient.

Widdowson said more information could have helped her to persuade her sister not to go into town.

“People get so complacent and don’t observe all the rules,” she said. “(That’s) because they think it’s not there (in North Battleford).”

She wants the government to be more specific about cases and deaths. On Monday, the province said that Saskatchewan’s first two deaths in the pandemic were people in their 70s in “separate parts of the province.”

Grove’s battle with COVID-19 was hampered by diabetes, said Widdowson, who added that Grove’s body had already been battered by a fight with cancer.

Ultimately, Widdowson made the decision to remove her sister from life support.

“You have to be sensible about it and not take treatment away from a possible 35-year-old that can get better, when you know the 75-year-old lady’s not going to get better,” she said. (CKOM)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2020

Chris Vandenbreekel CKOM, The Canadian Press