A bad cough, headaches, a fever, and fatigue – 72-year-old Langley resident Roger Pinette had been battling illness for a few days before he was convinced by his family to go to the hospital.
Those symptoms are recognizable now as potential signs of a COVID-19 infection, but back in the early days of the pandemic the disease was not yet at the forefront of people’s minds.
Once in hospital, it soon became clear that Roger was critically ill and would require the help of a ventilator – part of the last line of defence for the sickest patients.
In BC, more than 1,000 people with COVID-19 have had to be admitted to Intensive Care Units during the pandemic’s first year. The number of ICU admissions serves as a reminder of the important role of donors to TB Vets in arming the medical frontline in the fight for respiratory care. In Roger’s case, the charity’s priorities of respiratory equipment, research, and education are all present.
Roger Pinette, one of BC’s first COVID-19 patients
As his condition deteriorated, Roger was intubated at his local hospital and transferred to Royal Columbian, where he became one of the New Westminster-based hospital’s first COVID-positive critically ill patients to be ventilated in the ICU.
While the ventilator helped save his life, a profoundly weakened Roger remained on the breathing machine for several weeks before he was weaned off.
“His breathing muscles had wasted away while the ventilator breathed for him,” notes Respiratory Therapy Clinical Supervisor Jason Zurba. “We needed to help him strengthen his muscles to a point where he could manage his own breathing without the ventilator.”
This is one challenge that TB Vets is currently helping to study. The charity is funding research into how to wean patients off mechanical ventilation faster to reduce the risk of muscle atrophy and ventilator-induced lung injury.
After a number of challenging and uncertain weeks, Roger finally returned home in July, four months after first becoming ill.
“My lungs are going to require some time,” he adds. “My left side has nerve damage, but I’m doing some physio. I feel positive.”
To help more patients like Roger, TB Vets is running a 50/50 raffle to provide a ventilator to four more BC hospital foundations this year, supporting patients of all ages in Northern BC, the Interior, on Vancouver Island and in Lower Mainland.
Now more than ever, frontline medical heroes – and patients like Roger – need the support of TB Vets supporters like YOU.*