Why this 10-year-old wrote a short story imagining what it’s like to have COVID-19

Ten-year-old Eliza Rasmussen wanted to understand the virus that’s turned her world upside down.

The Grade 4 student at Sir Charles Tupper Elementary in Halifax can no longer see her teacher or her friends now that she’s isolating with her parents and grandparents on a 100-acre farm in Cape Breton. 

She’d been hearing grownups talk about COVID-19 for months, but she didn’t know much about it.

So when Rasmussen was given a school assignment to write a short story, she asked her teacher if she could write about the pandemic instead.

She imagined what it would be like to contract the deadly virus, and wrote a first-person account of a health-care worker recovering in hospital. She called her story, Crushed: A COVID-19 Recovery Story.

“Sometimes when I had writer’s block I would just go out and sit on the deck, petting my cats,” Rasmussen told CBC’s Information Morning.  “I would look out the window and just try and say like, ‘You don’t have to do this all today. You’re here, you’re safe, just try and write.'”

WATCH: Eliza Rasmussen reads her short story about COVID-19

Eliza Rasmussen, a Grade 4 student at Sir Charles Tupper Elementary in Halifax, N.S., wanted to understand the virus that’s turned her world upside down. So she decided to write about it. 4:15

Rasmussen’s main character wakes up as she’s being wheeled from the ICU into a small isolation room at a Montreal hospital. Her voice is raspy from the ventilator that was stuck down her throat, and she’s served soup even though she’s craving chicken wings.

The character is partly inspired by her aunt who works in the COVID-19 unit at the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Rasmussen called her before she started writing to ask what it would feel like to be infected.

“She gave me all the information about how exhausted and how weak you would feel. I didn’t know that before,” Rasmussen said. “I learned even doing the slightest little movements, like moving your fingers, wrists, or trying to take the lid off soup, or whatever, it feels like you’ve just done something really exhausting.”

Rasmussen decided to write a fictional story about COVID-19 so she could research the virus and understand it better. (Stephanie Nolan)

Rasmussen also read articles and looked at photographs of health-care workers dressed in personal protective equipment. In her story, she describes them as “bulky pastel blue cloth monsters with human eyes.”

While some of the details in the story are fiction, Rasmussen said the despair her main character feels is something she comprehends.

Her family has lived all over the world including India, Brazil and Mexico.

“That despair isn’t for the same reason, but it’s pretty close. Like, not being able to see people you’re close to or like very good friends or whatever and I sort of channeled it,” Rasmussen said. 

Rasmussen wrote a draft by hand before typing up her story and sending it to her teacher. (Stephanie Nolan)

She’s glad her family is in Canada during a time like this, she said. 

“I think we’re really lucky to be here, to be with our family, to have a place to be able to roam around outside where everything could be so much worse for us. So I’m trying to focus on the bright side of things,” Rasmussen said. 

That’s how her story ends, too.

Even though the main character is still stuck in a hospital bed, she looks out the window and sees her brother.

“My brother was waving at my window from the parking lot below,” Rasmussen writes. “I couldn’t see his mouth from behind the mask he wore, but I could tell from his blue eyes how wide he smiled.”

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