Regina man dies in hospital after catching COVID-19 in the community

Noble (Butch) Gullacher, his granddaughter Athena and his wife, Kathleen Gullacher, are shown in this handout image at a Rider game in 2019. Noble Gullacher was a family man who loved watching his sons play basketball and his grandchildren play soccer. Gullacher, known by family and friends as Butch, was a diabetic who was waiting for a kidney transplant when he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 19. The 69-year-old died April 10 in a Regina hospital. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Kathleen Gullacher .

The wife of a man who died after being diagnosed with COVID-19 says her husband did everything he could to avoid catching it and couldn’t fight it off when he did.

Noble Gullacher, 69, was a diabetic who was waiting for a kidney transplant.

“He was trying to stay as healthy as he could,” Kathleen Gullacher said in an interview Monday. “He was always very careful.

“If a kidney came up, then he wanted to be ready for it, because he knew that was the only way he would ever feel good again.”

He never got the chance. The Regina man died Friday in hospital.

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Known to his friends and family as Butch, Gullacher was a father to two boys and a grandfather to their three children. He loved watching their sporting events when he retired as a conductor with CP Rail after 35 years, said his wife.

She said her husband started feeling unwell in mid-March.

“We went to the doctor… because he had been feeling so rough and so weak,” she said.

The doctor thought Gullacher had a touch of pneumonia and sent him for a chest X-ray.

His condition worsened by the next morning, so his wife called an ambulance and he was taken to the hospital. The emergency doctor also thought he had pneumonia.

“He wasn’t presenting with any COVID symptoms,” said Kathleen Gullacher. “He didn’t have a fever. He didn’t have a cough. He was a little short of breath.”

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His COVID-19 test came back positive on March 19.

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“The hunt began,” she said. “We don’t know where he got it.

“There was nobody in the family. We searched all around. Nobody had been travelling.”

She said they had been out in the community a week earlier.

“We had been to Costco. We’d been to Safeway,” she said. “He had been to the drugstore to pick up something because he was still mobile.

“We still don’t know.”

Gullacher said she never got sick and hasn’t been tested, but she was in isolation for two weeks after her husband’s diagnosis.

“If anybody had been exposed, it was me because I was living with him.”

Their oldest son, his wife and one of their two children did get sick with COVID-19.

“Obviously, they were exposed from him and they all got it,” said Kathleen Gullacher. “My oldest son… was not well for days.”

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All had the symptom of no taste and no smell. One of her grandchildren, she said, had a fever for two days.

“Everybody was different.”

Gullacher said her husband started in a weaker state and couldn’t fight it off.

“He ran a fever the whole three weeks he was in (hospital),” said Gullacher. “They assume he was still positive for the virus, that he hadn’t fought it off.

“He just wasn’t going to get better.”

Gullacher said she was able to go to the hospital Friday after the family decided to take her husband off his ventilator.

She wasn’t allowed to be in the room, but she said she could talk to him through the glass as a nurse removed the breathing tube.

“It only took about 15 or 20 minutes and then his heart stopped. She held his hand the whole time.”

Family members decided they couldn’t put doctors and nurses at risk any more, Gullacher said.

“They (were) in a room every day with someone who’s positive for this virus and we (had) no clue how it’s going to hit them,” she said.

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Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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