• Nick Zacharias

From vacation to isolation


PHOTO COURTESY ROBERT DELORME

Former Hudsonite Robert LeBrocq (centre, behind glass) finds himself and his girlfriend in sudden self-quarantine beginning on his 29th birthday in an empty apartment after returning home from a long-ago-booked vacation in the Bahamas. Helping him celebrate from a safe distance are Daniel Amyot (left) mom, Suzanne Bolam (holding the cake) and Sarah Dhanani.

Former Hudsonite Robert LeBrocq and his girlfriend Devona Lean – courtesy of the COVID-19 outbreak and the government’s recommended response to it – have found themselves living together for the first time and staying self-quarantined in an almost completely empty apartment. Recently back from a vacation in the Bahamas which was planned long ago and started before widespread travel restrictions were being recommended for Canadians, they came home to a different scene than the one they left.

“They didn’t have any symptoms coming back, but by the time they were coming home the recommendation had happened for returning travellers to self-isolate for two weeks,” said LeBrocq’s mom, Hudsonite Suzy Bolam, “and they are choosing to take it seriously.” The trouble was they lived in separate apartments, both with roommates, so staying isolated was going to prove difficult.

‘Don’t come here’

“We’d taken precautions during the trip,” said LeBrocq. “We sanitized, we wore masks while we were in transit. But by about halfway through our vacation we started to hear how much more serious it was becoming. Then when we were coming back to Canada my roommate said, ‘I don’t want you to come to the apartment,’ and I couldn’t blame him.” By that time the government had recommended that anyone returning from international travel self-isolate for a period of two weeks.

As circumstances would have it, LeBrocq and Lean had plans to move in together a month after the trip. They’d been seeing each other for about a year and had an apartment lined up in the Old Port of Montreal that they were scheduled to move into on April 15, but the apartment wasn’t set up yet. “To avoid potentially exposing anyone, they decided to go straight from the airport to the new, completely empty apartment,” said Bolam. “Isolated in an empty apartment is interesting way to start off living together.”

Fortunately, family and friends were able to bring essentials like food, kitchen supplies and basic toiletries to leave at their new door. Said LeBrocq, “Luckily I’m able to work from here while we’re in isolation, and we’ve got an inflatable mattress and the clothes we had on vacation, so we’ll get through.” The icing on the cake was that he celebrated his 29th birthday in quarantine on their first day of living together. They didn’t want to have contact with anyone but the family came down to offer birthday wishes through the glass at the front of the building.

PHOTO COURTESY ROBERT LEBROCQ

Facing an unexpected early relocation, former Hudsonite Robert LeBrocq and his girlfriend Devona Lean are making the best of their new, but relatively empty, apartment in Old Montreal.

Trying to flatten the curve

While reactions to the growing pandemic range from frenzied toilet paper hoarding to near-blasé denial of the seriousness of the situation, LeBrocq and Lean are opting to remain upbeat while sticking to the guidelines to reduce the spread of the virus as much as possible.

“It’s been a little hectic,” said Lebrocq, “but we can stay calm and do what’s right.” The hope is that by respecting self-isolation standards the spread of the virus can be slowed to a pace the system can handle, rather than having Canadians suffer a steep and overwhelming spike in infections similar to Asia and Europe and now the United States.

The situation is evolving rapidly, but for now the young couple are putting on a brave face under unexpected circumstances as they start their new life together. Though an inconvenience to be sure, LeBrocq says it really isn’t so tough to handle and self-isolation is no big deal compared to measures taken in other places and at different times in history.

“It isn’t so bad,” he said. “It’s moments like this that allow you to reflect on what really matters in life, and how to change things for the better.”

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