A patient’s story about testing positive for COVID-19 and being admitted to the hospital with no visitors

Every winter, Peter Whitebone and his wife Carolyn spend five and a half months vacationing in Florida, but the rapid spread of COVID-19 brought the Saint John couple home early this year.

When they returned to Saint John, they didn’t receive the warm welcome home they have come to expect. Peter, 78, tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital (SJRH) one day after arriving back in New Brunswick.

“We would have come sooner, but we couldn’t get a flight,” Peter said.

They landed in Fredericton on April 10 and had to rent a car to finish their trip to Saint John.

After arriving in the port city, Peter felt tired, which is not unusual after a long travel journey. But Carolyn insisted he be tested for COVID-19, with fatigue presenting as a symptom.

It’s a good thing he did.

Just one day later, his test came back positive and Peter’s new home away from home was the SJRH. Carolyn has chronic lymphatic leukemia and is considered among the vulnerable population that is at high risk for complications if infected with the virus. Her test results were negative.

“When we received the news about Peter testing positive, I was numb,” Carolyn said. “We have never been apart in 55 years, so it was difficult. But I made myself get up every morning and create projects, like quilting. It helped to keep my mind off things, and I knew he was where he needed to be.”


Peter was without visitors in his room for 14 days, but he shares how his stay was not at all what he expected.

“It would have been nice to be home, but if I had to be somewhere, it was the best place to be. They treated me royally,” he said.

Peter’s royal treatment took place on the third floor of the SJRH. The unit was a designated space to care for COVID-19 positive patients, in a safe environment away from other patients.

“It is really quite amazing what the team accomplished in such a short amount of time to ensure we were ready to take on this pandemic,” explained Erika Kinney, charge nurse of the COVID-19 inpatient unit.

The unit is a completely negative pressure space, which minimizes the risk of cross contamination. Erika said it is more common to have negative pressure rooms, but for the entire unit to be equipped, it is quite a feat that Horizon’s facility management team delivered on to prepare the space in the face of a pandemic.

And besides the preparation to have the appropriate physical space, Horizon staff like Erika have quickly adapted to their new roles.

“It was stressful in the beginning, we had a lot to do in a little amount of time, with a lot of unknowns,” Erika said. “But everyone worked together as a team and the support we have received from the community has really made us stronger.”

That strength can be seen through the care that was provided to Peter.

As a retired teacher, he enjoys reading and thanks to modern technology, nursing staff were able to help him download books from the library on his tablet.

“I was alone in the room, but I never felt lonely,” he said. “Everyone from the cleaning staff to the doctors made me feel at home and well taken care of.”

The team supported Peter and made adjustments to the way they deliver care to better accommodate his needs.

“One positive thing about this pandemic, is that it has allowed us to become much closer with our patients,” Erika explained. “We really tried to make his room feel homey. The more tech- savvy nurses were happy to help him with his computer and we tried to welcome him into our family while he was in our care.”


During his stay, Peter had regular tests completed to monitor his overall health. After checking his heart, staff diagnosed him with Atrial fibrillation, a condition in the heart that can lead to clots, stroke and heart failure. Peter describes the diagnoses as a blessing through his COVID-19 journey.

“The doctors were very straight forward with me and I am very thankful they found this, because now I am on the proper medication,” Peter said.

After 14 days at the SJRH, Peter tested negative for COVID-19 and was able to return home. He encourages others who are not feeling well to get checked. What he thought was fatigue from travelling turned out to be much more, even though his symptoms were mild.

Peter knows he was one of the lucky ones.

“I want to encourage everyone to take this seriously and remind people it doesn’t just hurt the older population,” he said. “Young people think they are invincible, but I want them to take it seriously too.”