In April, Ramchand Ramdhine worked at a UPS depot in Vaughan and portrayed the health picture of a man his age, his daughter Soma said.
He returned home to his wife on April 28, suffering from what he believed to be a cold.
“He didn’t have a fever, but he felt bad, like he had a cold,” Soma said.
Two days later, he drove to a COVID-19 testing center, but was refused, with staff saying his symptoms were not similar enough to those typically associated with COVID-19.
His daughter then took him to Humber River Hospital for a test, but they were out of kits for the day.
So Soma took it back on May 1, clear and early in the morning before going to work.
“By the time I got out of work (that day) – he was in bed with chills and fever. ”
On Friday, May 1, he went to the emergency room at Humber River Hospital and was released and given amoxicillin for what Soma learned to be “pneumonia developed by COVID.”
Over the following weekend, Soma said her father struggled with normal things like eating or taking a shower.
On Tuesday May 5th, he couldn’t get out of bed, his blood pressure was skyrocketing and they decided to call an ambulance.
When the paramedics arrived, Ramchand’s blood oxygenation rate was 70%.
Normal is considered to be around 94 percent and even 90 percent is considered dangerous.
The family did not know then that he would not return home for more than two and a half months.
At first, Ramchand received oxygen through a nasal pin in a regular hospital ward.
By May 9, his condition worsened.
He collapsed in his bed.
He had developed hypoxemic respiratory failure and medical staff declared a “code blue” indicating respiratory arrest.
He never lost his pulse during the episode, Soma said, but moving into the ICU meant he was one step closer to intubation, which medical staff wanted to avoid.
“The nurse was telling him – ‘you have to stay lying down or they’re going to put a tube on you and you don’t want it,’” Soma said.
Soma and his mother would call him and video chat with him every day.
On May 16, after a particularly harsh night where Ramchand was having trouble breathing, let alone sleeping, Soma was talking with him on video chat, when she noticed more commotion in his hospital room than usual.
” It’s your father? A man in a blue scrub asked Soma over the phone. “We’re going to have to put it on a vent.
The video call ended abruptly.
“I was numb,” Soma recalls. “I didn’t know how to tell my mother – it was like my heart stopped. ”
Under sedation and intubation, there would be no more home video calls.
Visits to Ontario hospitals would not resume for another month.
“I was hearing all these stories,” Soma said. “Once they’re mounted on the vent, they don’t come off.
An April study in Britain showed that more than two-thirds of intubated COVID-19 patients died, while a May study in Critical Care Medicine that looked at COVID-19 patients at six hospitals across the country. Washington State revealed that 36% of intubated patients died.
Without video calls, Soma and her mother depended on phone calls with nurses for updates. His condition, measured in oxygen saturation levels and ventilator settings, rose and fell.
Ramchand eventually needed a tracheostomy.
On June 29, Ramchand’s condition improved to the point that he was moved out of the intensive care unit.
But he still needed a feeding tube, oxygen therapy, and could only talk to his family when his tracheal tube was covered.
On July 2, Soma and her mother went to the hospital to visit.
Soma put on a gown, gloves and a mask and entered the room, where her father was covered with a blanket.
She lowered the blanket and saw her father for the first time in almost two months.
“The man I was looking at didn’t look like my dad, he looked like 10 years old. ”
He was unkempt, with a bushy beard.
Soma said he looked like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway.
He tried to speak, but Soma said all she could hear were soft puffs of air.
Through whispers and gestures, Soma said that she and her father got to the point.
Ramchand, through his sedation and lack of oxygen, had forgotten where he was.
Soma said his father made the gesture with his hands for money, as if he was worried about the cost of his treatment.
She reassured him that everything was free.
On Tuesday, the whole family, including the grandchildren, came to Humber River Hospital to see their dad leave the hospital after 78 days.
He rolled, in a wheelchair, with a white stain covering his tracheal tube.
Soma said he has a long way to go.
He lost 25 pounds while in hospital, he cannot walk alone.
“He needs comprehensive care,” Soma said.
They are happy to have him at home, but say the impact of the virus on him is devastating.
“I was able to watch this man who was like the pillar of our family, it is he who kept us on earth, I could see him deteriorate before our eyes. ”
Ramchand was not the only one at his workplace to be infected.
As of May 21, Ramchand’s workplace had 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to York Region Public Health.
Tomorrow, Ramchand will be 64 years old.
“He looks like he’s 85,” Soma said.
She said that as Toronto waits to enter the third and final stage of reopening its economy, she doesn’t think the public properly understands the impact COVID-19 can have.
“Until people know how dangerous this virus is, it can destroy your family, it doesn’t discriminate based on age or your money, I want people to know we were your ordinary people. ”
In recent days, officials have accused the partying young people of sporadic clusters of infection and begged them to change their behavior. Soma said that without this humiliating experience with her father, she too would be one of those partying young people.
“If that didn’t happen to my dad, I would probably be one of those people. If you don’t go through this nightmare, you don’t know better.