Ian St. John was a healthy adult from Cornwall who took precautions to keep himself and his family safe from COVID. A few months ago, however, he caught the virus. The following is St. John’s story, in his own words, of his harrowing experience, road to recovery, and the health issues that still plague him.
When I was tested for COVID and then found out I was positive I was scared as to what I should do. I was told to stay home and isolate and my wife had to sleep in another room. We used the same bathroom but disinfected every time we used it. The four of us in our home isolated. But 4 days later my breathing got worse and a wonderful nurse, Aleta from EOHU, after talking to me and realizing I couldn’t breathe called 911 and I had to go by ambulance to the hospital. Two paramedics came and I was having such a hard time breathing so he gave me a shot to relax me and gave me oxygen. My wife tells me that she and my daughter in law were standing at the window in tears and my son was outside making sure they took care of me. They were all in shock, I was too because I don’t remember that part. It was a long ride to the hospital.
When we got to the hospital, we went to the second floor and I was put in a room by myself with blasts of air and then I was put in an isolated room. Two days later I was transferred to ICU. I don’t remember much of those first two days in ICU and later I found out that they almost lost me. They watched me 24 hours. Only doctors and nurses one at a time fully protected with PPE could come in. I could ring the buzzer and talk to them over an intercom to let them know what I needed however I had a hard time talking without gasping for air. My window wouldn’t open because of my isolation. I was completely sealed off. There was just a bed in the room, no bathroom. I was hooked up to an air machine and the tubing crossed my chest was so hot! I was not allowed to use a fan because of COVID and there was no air circulation. I was sweating all the time. All they could give me was ice water which helped. I had an IV, was given gravol, pain meds, had a needle every morning in my tummy to prevent blood clots which hurt so much, I was tested for diabetes with a needle prick every morning and I wore an oxygen mask.
Luckily the doctors, nurses and staff in ICU were amazing! Doctor Westergaard was instrumental in my recovery and I want to thank him. I don’t remember much of that time, but he spoke with my wife on the phone and explained what he was doing. Doctor Arab was also there to help with my breathing. The nurses were so good, one girl looked at me and said, you are going to be ok. I will never forget those words, they helped me so much because I felt so down. I was so uncertain about everything. Her words mattered so much.
I was in ICU for 13 days including Christmas day. I was able to stand up on that day and wave to my wife, son and daughter in law from the window. They were outside about 100 feet away, finally cleared of COVID themselves. I was exhausted but I could see them.
When I finally left the hospital after 17 days, I hadn’t seen any family during that time other than through the outside window that one day. I was so excited to be home! I still had to isolate myself from everyone which was so hard. I had had COVID for 23 days by that point. I was weak and had lost 40 pounds including muscle during the two weeks I was in hospital.
I want to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at the Cornwall Community Hospital. They saved my life. I get emotional just thinking of everything they are doing. They don’t stop. They are working all the time to make sure every patient is cared for and makes it through. Thank you to the EOHU, especially two nurses Kim and Aleta who were so important in helping myself and my family through a very scary time. Thank you to Vital Aire who set up my oxygen tank in our home and have always been there to answer any questions.
I also want to thank family, friends and neighbours who brought us food and anything else my family needed. While my family was also recovering from COVID and couldn’t do much of anything it was so important, especially while I was in hospital, to know they were being taken care of. To everyone who prayed for me, I can’t say enough how much that helped. A great friend of ours, Kahontineh, recorded her voice in a Mohawk prayer. It was one of my weakest days and I firmly believe that everyone’s prayers were also instrumental in my healing. I am writing this 16 days after coming home. 39 days after contacting COVID. I have now been diagnosed with diabetes, COPD, and high blood pressure. All of which I am on medication for the first time. All due to COVID. I am hoping that with time and a good diet that my body will get better. I am still on oxygen attached to a 50-foot hose. My body is weak, I was always known as a strong man, so this is very strange to me. I can only do small tasks before I have to sit or have a nap. My days consist of being in my bedroom, bathroom or sitting in a chair in the living room. I can’t go anywhere else. My family is isolating from me as I am now immune compromised. If I get the slightest cold, it could be deadly.
I don’t know how I got COVID. I always wore a mask and we haven’t had people in our home for months and months. All I can think of is one day shopping for Christmas going into a store in Cornwall and I must have touched something that someone else had. I always sanitized going into the store but please everyone remember to sanitize on the way out. This virus is like nothing before. It is dangerous. The Cornwall Community has helped in so many ways but so many more people are getting COVID, it is tough on them already. Be safe.
Seaway News asked Mr. St. John what words of warning he might have for the public.
You might compare COVID to having the flu or take it lightly, but you don’t want to go there under any circumstances, COVID can be a life and death situation.
It affects people differently but there are so many unknowns. You don’t know how it will affect you until you get it. Why take that chance? My wife had it. She is only two years younger than me. She wasn’t hospitalized but I was.
Before COVID I was more fit than my wife and yet COVID hit me like a ton of bricks. She was very sick but could manage her symptoms at home. I almost died. There are too many unknowns with this disease to take any chances at all.