“It wasn’t my time to go”: Personal and Cultural Survival During the COVID-19 Pandemic



​This article is one in a series of stories from Indigenous VaxChamps who have shared their reasons for getting vaccinated against COVID-19.

The month that Sylvia (Syl) Williams spent fighting for her life in the hospital was the scariest thing she says she's ever been through. She stayed on a floor designated for COVID-19 patients in Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“It was packed with everyone who was so sick," recalls Syl, the memories flooding back. “It was so scary because each night, someone would pass away"

No visitors were allowed to see her and even medical staff could only enter with full protective gear.

“It was the hardest thing to go through, not having people there to give you the support you need when you're so sick, I was thankful for social media so I could talk with my mom, dad, and my kids."

Syl, whose name is Xaaygaasjaad, meaning natural weaver in Haida, reached her breaking point.

“I wasn't able to walk, talk. I had three IVs. I was almost at my end; I was so overtired and ready to give up. I prayed to Creator that if it was my time to go, to take me because I couldn't take this anymore. I just wanted a promise that my kids would be well taken care of."

That night, Syl put on Haida songs and cried herself to sleep. In her dreams, she saw people who had already passed on, saw images of them walking away from her, then coming back and covering her mouth, before walking away again. She woke up in a puddle of sweat but felt well enough to sit up for the first time in many days.

From that day onward, Syl began her healing journey. Taking it day by day, she was able to get up and walk again. At first, she would run out of breath or feel faint, but with little steps, she began to work her way back to health. After two weeks, she was well enough to go home.

After returning home, Syl booked a reading and was told that her grandmother and grandfather, aunties and uncles took the sickness from her.

“She told me that my naanii and tsinnii were the ones who took the COVID-19 out of me because it wasn't my time to go."

Almost a year later, Syl still has a hard time breathing. She is going through the COIVD-19 clinic to try to fix her damaged lungs as much as possible.

Today, Syl speaks passionately about the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep her Nation protected for her kids and for her Elders, as there aren't many left. She feels strongly that the vaccine is vital to saving First Nations cultures for every Nation.

“I got my shot to continue my Haida culture and to carry on our Haida songs and our ways of living as First Nations." 

Syl has never told anyone about that dream but hopes that by sharing her story now, she can show that the vaccine is needed to save lives. She eagerly received all three doses of the vaccine as soon as possible because she wants to keep everyone safe. She doesn't want anyone to have to go through what she experienced.

“Get the vaccine, it does save lives," Syl says, adding  that the vaccine is safe and she is living proof that it does work. She has seen others get COVID-19 after getting vaccinated and says they were thankful that they had had the vaccine because they didn't get as sick as she did.

Do you need to get vaccinated?

It's important that people age five and older get their first and second doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as boosters when they are offered.

To register for a vaccine clinic, visit: gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated.html.

For more information about COVID-19 vaccines see: fnha.ca/vaccine.

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Girl, Interrupted: Becoming an Adult During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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