Within the early days of the pandemic, Rebecca Hickman would fastidiously watch every pattern being examined for the novel coronavirus in her lab on the B.C. Centre for Illness Management.
“I used to be so afraid of getting a constructive,” the general public well being laboratory technologist instructed CBC this week.
That meant she was paying shut consideration as the primary take a look at got here again constructive at about 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 27, 2020.
“I truly began to see it get constructive inside a number of seconds,” Hickman recalled. “My first feeling was sheer terror, from a private standpoint.”
The co-designer of B.C.’s take a look at, medical laboratory technologist Tracy Lee, was in a gathering because the outcomes have been coming in. She remembers getting a name from Hickman and speeding to the lab to look at the take a look at full.
Lee felt “each worry and aid” because the take a look at got here again constructive — worry for what this meant for the folks of B.C., however aid that the take a look at was working as deliberate.
Hickman shared these combined feelings.
“To design, validate and implement a molecular laboratory take a look at often takes months if not years, and so to do this within the span of days is a big achievement,” Hickman stated.
There was additionally some pleasure. She stated she “felt like I used to be part of one thing enormous.”
Hickman spent the remainder of that first afternoon sequencing a portion of the genome from the constructive pattern, and by midnight the lab had confirmed it was SARS-CoV-2, the virus chargeable for COVID-19.
It had been a 16-hour workday.
“I went dwelling and slept for 5 hours, then got here again,” she remembers.
The following day, British Columbians watched as Provincial Well being Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the inevitable. The virus was right here in B.C.
“That is the primary time in my life I’ve ever discovered issues out earlier than I learn it within the information,” Hickman stated.
‘Instability and craziness’
A 12 months later, B.C. has confirmed 66,779 instances of the novel coronavirus and 1,189 folks have died.
Hickman has gone from anxiously checking the totals after the day by day afternoon replace from well being officers to barely noticing as B.C. data lots of of instances every day. She says COVID fatigue is actual.
There have been tough occasions, like within the spring when lab provides and private protecting gear started to expire.
“The instability and craziness of all of it has been the toughest half,” Hickman stated.
Watch: Rebecca Hickman remembers discovering B.C.’s first case of COVID-19
At present, a lot of her time is spent doing complete genome sequencing for about 15 to twenty per cent of COVID-19 instances.
That work helps well being officers observe the brand new, extra infectious variants which have popped up in numerous components of the world. It is also used for outbreak response — scientists can decide how the virus is spreading by way of a neighborhood or health-care facility and whether or not instances are being launched from new sources.
Hickman was simply 9 months into her job on the B.C. CDC when she found the primary case.
She stated she’s proud to have performed an element in such a significant second in historical past.
“It has been simply essentially the most tough 12 months of my life but in addition essentially the most fulfilling. What we have now achieved right here over the past 12 months is big,” Hickman stated.