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'I just want to die': Young mother of 3 on feeding tube after falling ill with COVID-19 variant

Last Updated Apr 14, 2021 at 8:23 pm EDT

MONTREAL — Roxanne Smith is one of many young people now finding themselves in Quebec’s hospitals fighting COVID-19 variants.

Younger age groups are making up the majority of new cases and hospitalizations. It comes as emergency rooms overflow and health authorities tell people to stay away.

“I’m just 24 years old. I’m not walking, I’m not eating, can’t go to the washroom. I’m not myself and the pain was just incredible,” Smith told CityNews.

“I said to the doctor, ‘If I can’t feel better than how I am now, I just want to die.’”

Smith has been in hospital in Quebec City for two weeks since she contracted the B.1.1.7 variant at the end of March.

Just a few days ago, the mother of three children — all under five years old — didn’t think she’d make it.

She was intubated for 12 hours and then given a feeding tube. She’s lost 40 lbs. as she battles the virus.

“I’m on this tube for 20 hours a day and I will probably have this tube for many weeks. And maybe many months.”

WATCH: CityNews’ full interview with Roxanne Smith

In the third wave, those 20 to 40 years old have been more affected by the variants.

Smith, who was otherwise healthy, has had severe complications. And she didn’t think she’d ever end up like this.

RELATED: No one is safe, says healthy young man hospitalized due to COVID-19 variant

“On social media, what we see is old people 60, 70, 80.”

The virus recently claimed the life of 22-year-old Lou Couture of Ste-Jerome, north of Montreal. And the province’s youngest fatality was a 16-year-old recorded earlier this month.

“The more infections we see… there are going to be these cases where a 20-year-old, a 30-year-old might be having severe COVID-19 [symptoms],” said Dr. Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Ste-Justine hospital. “So it wasn’t as clear in the first and second wave, because it was really, the fire was lit in the older population and long-term care and now that it’s widespread, everybody is at risk.

“And that’s what the key message is. We don’t know who is going to be the one who will end up in the intensive care unit.”

The surge in hospitalizations is straining healthcare resources, with Montreal’s average emergency room capacity at 114 per cent as of Wednesday morning.

Health authorities are urging people to avoid ERs if it’s not urgent.

RELATED: Hospitalizations up as Quebec reports 1,559 COVID-19 cases, seven deaths

“The emerge and the ICUs, it depends exactly where you are,” said Kakkar. “Quebec City is overwhelmed. Certain hospitals in Montreal are overwhelmed. But we’re not where Ontario is right now and we’re not where we were last January, where it was on the brink and catastrophic and we really had no resources.”

For those like Smith who desperately need care, the hospital is the best place to be, where she will remain in the next weeks to recover.

“I would prefer to be at home now, but I’m here at hospital,” she said. “And every day I saw on my Facebook some people who don’t respect the rules.”

Her message to young people everywhere who think COVID-19 couldn’t possibly affect them like it has seniors is not to take the virus lightly.

“It’s very important to respect the rules because COVID is very serious.”