‘We miss her:’ Father of Alberta teen who died convinced she had COVID-19 variant

He said Sarah’s death should be a reminder for everyone to take the pandemic seriously

Sarah Strate is shown in this family handout image. Ron Strate says he has received about a thousand messages from people in Canada and around the world who have been touched by the story of his 17-year-old daughter Sarah. The healthy and active senior high school student from Magrath, a small southern Alberta town, was doing perfectly fine when her health suddenly deteriorated Monday and she died soon after arriving to hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ron Strate *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Sarah Strate is shown in this family handout image. Ron Strate says he has received about a thousand messages from people in Canada and around the world who have been touched by the story of his 17-year-old daughter Sarah. The healthy and active senior high school student from Magrath, a small southern Alberta town, was doing perfectly fine when her health suddenly deteriorated Monday and she died soon after arriving to hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ron Strate *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Ron Strate says he has received about a thousand messages from people in Canada and around the world who have been touched by the story of his 17-year-old daughter, Sarah.

The senior high school student from Magrath, a small southern Alberta town, had seemed fine before her health suddenly deteriorated Monday, said her father.

She died soon after arriving at hospital.

Officials have not confirmed Sarah died of COVID-19. But as cases continue to surge in Alberta — currently the province with the highest rate of new daily infections in the country — Strate said he is convinced she died because of a variant of the virus.

“It’s always just been numbers until you can put a face to it … Now one is my daughter,” Strate, a school teacher, said Wednesday.

“I haven’t even been able to go on. I’ve had a thousand messages of condolences and I can’t get to them because I’m gonna start crying.”

Sarah was three classes away from graduation and was excited to attend college in Lethbridge to become a masseuse, her father said.

The second youngest of the family’s five children was also the life of the party, he said.

“She loved to sing and dance. She was a pianist. She did percussion in band. She was a drummer.”

He said more than a week ago, Sarah’s 20-year-old sister tested positive for COVID-19 and Sarah started complaining about a sore throat days later. She was booked to get a COVID-19 test on Wednesday.

Sarah was isolating in the basement of the family’s home. On Monday, Strate says her health went downhill.

“She started to go delirious and was starting to lose focus on what reality was. So I said, ‘We got to call 9-1-1.’”

Strate said they waited about 20 minutes for an ambulance. During that time, he talked to Sarah. Her arms shook as she lay on the floor.

“We talked about being strong and how much we loved her and, you know, whatever our Father and heavens will is will happen,” Strate said.

“We never expected her to die.”

Strate said a medical examiner told him Sarah had actually been sick for three weeks. A lab test is being done to see if she was infected with a COVID-19 variant.

“They say her lung was really hard and heavy. And I said, ‘How does that happen within a couple of days?’ “They can’t explain it.”

After her death, Strate said many people reached out to tell him that Sarah had saved their kids lives as a leader with Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention program.

He said Sarah’s death should also be a reminder for everyone to take the pandemic seriously.

“This was not her time. If everyone would have just done everything right the first time when we were asked to shut down and use our brains … we probably be out of it now,” Strate said.

“All these rallies, fighting the government on (restrictions) … I totally feel for people that have businesses. Yes, we have freedoms in this country. Of course we do. But also respect what is going on so that we can try to keep our country safe.”

On Monday, he said students at Sarah’s high school plan to wear onesies to honour her, because she loved wearing them so much.

Her younger sister, 13-year-old Bree, wants to wear a unicorn onesie that Sarah always wore, said Strate.

“We love her and we miss her,” he said while crying.

“We’re always gonna miss her. But in our faith, we believe that we will see her again and I can’t wait.”

— By Fakiha Baig in Edmonton

___

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

AlbertaCoronavirus

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

File photo
Update: Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are searching for suspect involved in an armed robbery at the Leduc Giant Tiger.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

Most Read