Tłı̨chǫ family ask for prayers, support as daughter hospitalized with severe COVID

"I've gone through some hardships in my life. But COVID took a toll on me and my family,” says Norma Zoe.

The left photo shows Julissa Mantla on Oct. 9. The photo on the right shows Mantla on Oct. 17 as she deals with a severe case of COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Norma Zoe.)

Norma Zoe says she is living every parent’s worst nightmare.

She spoke with CKLB over the phone on Monday afternoon while sitting in an Edmonton hospital beside her 13-year-old daughter Julissa Mantla, who has a severe case of COVID-19.

“She wants to go home,” Zoe says, “if I could, I would take this away from her and set her on her way and let her be home and comfortable.”

Norma Zoe and her daughter Julissa Mantla. (Photo courtesy of Norma Zoe.)

On Oct. 9, Mantla started to show COVID symptoms and two days later she developed a viral rash, so Zoe took her to the Grande Prairie hospital where she tested negative for the virus and was sent home with antibiotics.

But a few days later Mantla’s condition worsened, Zoe says she was sleeping all day and the rash spread across her body. Zoe took Mantla back to the hospital where she was again tested, but this time the results were positive.

“It broke my heart, because I didn’t want her to feel what I felt,” Zoe says.

Zoe caught COVID herself in September, when cases were reaching an all-time high in Alberta. She was even taken to the hospital by ambulance and says she still has trouble breathing after certain activities.

“The worst feeling I’ve ever felt in my life and I’ve gone through some hardships in my life. But COVID took a toll on me and my family,” she says.

Mantla has been in and out of the intensive care unit (ICU) — doctors were initially worried about her blood pressure which was extremely high. There was concern she could have a heart attack.

Zoe says doctors told her the rash is extremely rare and they have been investigating the cause. A health Canada webpage describes these specific COVID symptoms as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome.

Zoe is now out of the ICU as her blood pressure is under control and the rash has gone down, but she still has trouble breathing and needs an oxygen supply.

Zoe says she is unvaccinated, but adds she’s reconsidering and plans to talk about it with Mantla.


Support in the North

Julissa Mantla is in the hospital with severe COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Norma Zoe.)

Zoe moved to Grande Prairie from Behchokǫ̀ in 2016 and has lived there with her husband and seven children since.

Zoe has been sharing regular updates about Mantla on her Facebook page. Even though she isn’t in the North, she says that’s where she has been receiving most of her support.

“Even people I’ve never heard of, people I don’t know, people I don’t speak to, people we’re close with, family and friends, have all been reaching out with prayers and thoughts,” she said. “It’s overwhelming.”

The support is a welcome distraction as she sits by her daughter’s bed, unable to leave the room. Alberta hospitals require anyone with a COVID patient to remain isolated with them. Zoe says she will be escorted off the premises if she leaves the room.

“I don’t want to leave my daughter at all,” she says.

Zoe says she is alone for most of the day as Mantla rests, something Zoe has been unable to do.

“I am in my thoughts most of the day, and I try to sleep and I can’t,” she said. “I have too much on my shoulders, especially when I have to worry about what’s going on here with my daughter, which is priority. And then I have to worry about my other kids that are at home.”

Her husband Kwaji Zoe is at home with the six other children.

“He’s absolutely amazing,” she says of Kwaji, “he’s got six kids at home and three of them are under two. It’s got to be really hectic especially because my other kids are wanting to go back to school.”

She says the other children also want to see their sister again.

“I can’t explain it to the younger kids. But the older ones, they’re really missing her and we Facetimed them the other day when she had some energy to be up and the smile on her face was amazing because she misses them too,” she said.

For the time being, Zoe asks everyone to keep Mantla in their prayers. There is also a GoFundMe that is taking donations.

About the Author

Luke Carroll
Luke Carroll is a journalist originally from Brockville, Ont. He has previously worked as a reporter and editor in Ottawa, Halifax and New Brunswick. Luke is a graduate of Carleton University's bachelor of journalism program. If you have a story idea, feel free to send him an email at luke.carroll@cklbradio.com