Kulwant Samra’s story

After Kulwant Samra tested positive for COVID-19, the 51-year-old Abbotsford man isolated himself from his family in a room in his home. He was tired and short of breath in the first half of June 2020, as businesses and schools in the province were re-opening following the initial protective measures taken during the start of the pandemic. Kulwant was initially still able to work remotely for his trucking company, dispatching a driver by phone the day he truly became alarmed by how he felt. His last memory was leaving his home by ambulance, before waking up eight weeks later at Royal Columbian Hospital.

“I called 911, because I know my body,” Kulwant says. “I wasn’t able to stand up. I was not able to take a breath.”

Feeling dizzy, Kulwant fell to the ground outside his home as the ambulance arrived.

“I said, ‘Give me oxygen’. I was taking my breaths very heavy,” he recalls. After being placed in an ambulance, Kulwant remembers nothing until mid-summer.

“The day I opened my eyes, it was August 6th, about afternoon,” he says. The nurse was sitting in front of me. I had tubes in my mouth, nose, and everywhere.”

During the time in between, Kulwant was initially brought to his local hospital. His family grew increasingly worried that his condition was not improving. Eventually, he was transferred to Royal Columbian’s Intensive Care Unit.

“Mr. Samra was very sick with COVID19, and he required the full spectrum of care that an ICU can offer,” says Royal Columbian Hospital Medical Director and critical care physician Dr. Steve Reynolds. “Thankfully he responded well.”

After regaining consciousness in August, Kulwant connected with his daughter by video call from the ICU. Unable to speak because of the tubes in his mouth, Kulwant took pen to paper and wrote a brief message: 1-4-3, shorthand for ‘I love you.’

“She couldn’t understand what the 1-4-3 means,” he laughs.

Kulwant has developed a special affinity for those who cared for him, the nursing team in particular.

“They were so friendly that I cannot forget their service in my life at all,” he says. “Me, my wife and my daughter, we chat every day about them. And I do remember all of their names.”

Two weeks after his first memory of the ICU, Kulwant left Royal Columbian, going straight from the ICU to his home, 48 pounds lighter than before.

“We were all delighted to see him head home,” says Dr. Reynolds. “I cared for him early on in his illness when he was on life support. I came back a few weeks later, and you can imagine my surprise and pleasure at seeing him sitting up, waving and waiting to go home.”

Four months later, Kulwant says his lungs still feel stiff, but he is otherwise okay. Four other close members of his family also tested positive around the same time as he did, but Kulwant was the sickest.

“I will say for the public, they should be careful. I almost lost everything.”

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