‘Grief and shock’: Southern Alberta teen dies suddenly after negative COVID-19 test

Southern Albertan Sarah Strate loved her family, friends and classmates. She loved to sing, dance and play sports like soccer and volleyball.

Once second, she was an active, healthy 17-year-old girl. The next, her life ended.

“I don’t want anyone else to ever go through this,” said her father Ron Strate, who teaches at Magrath High School, where Sarah attended.

“We love our daughter, and I know we’ll see her again, but I wish this would have been about 40 years later.”

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According to her parents, Sarah’s 20-year-old sister had visited for a church event on April 18, and after developing a sore throat, she tested positive for COVID-19 on April 20.

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Sarah Strate had already received her high school diploma and only had three classes left to complete before heading off to college. Courtesy: Ron Strate

The four members of the Strate household — which include Sarah, her parents and her 13-year-old sister — booked rapid tests immediately after.

The family told Global News Sarah had also developed a sore throat the same day they got the swabs and began self-isolating in the basement.

The tests were initially inconclusive, then ultimately negative.

Sarah’s mom Kristine is a nurse and had been caring for her as she developed other symptoms.

“Saturday, she was fevering and chilling a bit,” she said. “Then she started feeling like she was throwing up too.”

Read more: Manitoba’s latest COVID-19 deaths include 2 people in their 20s

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The family was due for another COVID-19 test booked for Wednesday, but Sarah’s time was cut short before they had the chance.

Her condition rapidly worsened on Monday.

At 17 years old, Sarah Strate always looked for ways to help others, her family said.
At 17 years old, Sarah Strate always looked for ways to help others, her family said. Facebook/Sarah Strate

“She wasn’t able to get out of bed without help,” Ron explained. “At this point, she was throwing up food. She couldn’t keep anything down.”

After calling 911 around 2:30 p.m., Kristine said she was trying to get Sarah dressed when things took a turn.

“I put a blanket on her, and I was just sitting there talking to her, and I was like, ‘OK, the ambulance is coming,’ trying to get her focused. Then it was an instant,” Kristine said.

“She was unresponsive in an instant.”

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Desperate to save their daughter, the pair said they did CPR while waiting around 25 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

Sarah was transported to Chinook Regional Hospital in Lethbridge, where she was pronounced dead.

“As soon as she lost consciousness, and the look on her face… that’s when (I knew) she was gone,” Kristine said.

According to her family, another COVID-19 test was done in hospital, which also came back negative.

Read more: COVID-19 family tragedy: Burnaby family loses mother and father on same day

They were told more time as well as blood and tissue tests are needed to determine the exact cause of death, which could take months.

Sarah Strate had a part-time job at a grocery store. Her family says some customers would shop there just to see her. Facebook/Sarah Strate

Despite not knowing for sure what caused Sarah’s death, Ron believes a variant of COVID-19 could be to blame.

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“I really want people to take it seriously,” Ron said of the pandemic. “I truly believe it’s some type of variant that they just probably haven’t discovered.

“There’s no way that she goes from a healthy 17-year-old to what happened.”

A letter from Sarah’s high school was sent to parents on Tuesday, informing them of her death and announcing supports were being made available.

“Sarah was a kind and well-rounded student who got along well with everyone in our school. She was a talented and gifted performer and an important member of our school drama program and the Raymond Show Choir,”  said Magrath High School principal Brad Sabey in a message to Global News.

“Sarah was also a leader in our school Hope Squad and worked hard to ensure all students felt safe and included at MHS.

“We are all reeling from this tragic news and struggling to process the grief and shock connected to this loss. Our heartfelt condolences go out to Sarah’s family, and our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with them in the difficult days ahead.”

Classmates are encouraged to wear onesies to school on Monday, which were a staple of Sarah’s wardrobe, in her memory.

The family will also be hosting an outdoor meet-the-family event on Tuesday at 6 p.m. outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Magrath, Alta., with COVID-19 protocols in place.

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