Saskatoon coronavirus patient’s long road to recovery: ‘I should be in an urn’

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WATCH: A Saskatoon man who spent months in hospital because of COVID-19 is asking the public to treat it more seriously. The call comes as doctors are still determining the long-term effects of the disease.

A Saskatoon man who has spent months living in hospitals because of COVID-19 is now living at home.

Helmut Sieh was a passenger on the MS Zaandam cruise who caught the virus in mid-March.

The ship spent numerous days where passengers were unable to disembark while waiting at a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dock.

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Sieh was sent to a hospital in Florida and would stay there for a month before being medically evacuated to Saskatoon.

“For about five weeks, if you asked my name, I couldn’t tell you,” he said.

His wife, Diane, was only able to see him once before flying back to Saskatoon so she could quarantine.

However, because of his condition, she was his next of kin and made medical decisions for him over the phone.

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“He woke up one time with somebody on top of him banging on his chest. So they revived him many times. I know it was a horrible experience for him, but they saved his life more than once,” Diane said noting he was intubated days before he was set to leave Florida.

Once in Saskatoon, he had to spend several weeks in St. Paul’s Hospital and then Saskatoon City Hospital for physical rehabilitation.

He was discharged on July 25.

Read more: Coronavirus: Cruise ship carrying 247 Canadians to dock in Florida Thursday

Sieh lost more than 60 pounds from the time he left home until he got back.

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Before being diagnosed with COVID-19, Sieh used to walk in and around Lawson Heights Mall for 10 to 15 kilometres every day. Now that he’s home, he’s struggling to walk up and down the hallway in his condo complex with a rolling walker.

One of the physical effects for Sieh was drop foot, meaning he has to learn to walk again.

A Saskatoon family doctor said reports show most intensive care patients will have long roads to recovery whether it’s respiratory problems or something more.

“Some need physical rehabilitation for physical changes, loss of muscle mass or nerve function. Some are dealing with the consequences of a blood clot. Some are dealing with cardiac effects and so they need heart rehab as other people do after a heart attack,” Dr. Ginger Ruddy said.

Read more: Coronavirus: Cruise ship docking in Miami after 2 passenger deaths

There is also a neurological aspect for some patients including Sieh.

He lost some of his short-term memory but said it’s slowly coming back to him.

“With all the stuff that happened to me, I shouldn’t even be talking to you, and I should be in an urn,” Sieh added.

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Read more: Saskatoon man recovered from COVID-19 donates plasma for coronavirus treatment trial

Rather than being in an urn, he was able to come home and met his newest great-grandchild.

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

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. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

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