40-year-old Edmonton man documents his heartbreaking decline before COVID-19 took his life

Click to play video: 'Fatal COVID-19 experience documented on Instagram'
Fatal COVID-19 experience documented on Instagram
WATCH ABOVE: COVID-19 has claimed the lives of 500 Albertans, but rarely do we know who they are - let alone their how their final days played out. That's not the case for Edmonton's Ricky Lam, who documented his swift decline from the infection on Instagram. Morgan Black reports. – Nov 25, 2020

A series of stark descriptions of the vicious toll COVID-19 can take on humans have been gaining increased attention on social media after the Edmonton man who posted them died of the disease.

“Breathing has become difficult,” reads an Instagram post by Ricky Lam on Monday, one day before the 40-year-old died of COVID-19.

“Every few breaths I go into a coughing fit. Last night, one was strong enough to make me vomit. It’s so brutal, it doesn’t allow me chance to recover.”

READ MORE: Hinshaw warns young Albertans that long-term effects of COVID-19 remain unknown

Members of Lam’s family told Global News that he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday and died just a few days later on Tuesday. They said that to their knowledge, he did not have any underlying health conditions.

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Melissa Gonzales, Lam’s cousin, told Global News on Wednesday that the posts highlight “how quickly someone can deteriorate with this virus… someone who is typically so healthy and full of energy.”

Family members said Lam was a singer and dancer who loved performing, whether in a production or at a wedding.

“Ricky is just full of life,” Gonzales said. “He took every opportunity to be with his friends.

“Every day he was always doing something with his friends or his family — he’s very loyal. He basically brings up the room as soon as he walks in.”

Family members say 40-year-old Ricky Lam died just a few days after being diagnosed with COVID-19. Supplied by Petterson Lam

Lam posted eight times on Instagram about his harrowing journey with COVID-19 in the days before he died. The social media posts detail his battle with fever and extreme exhaustion.

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“Even the simplest things are exhausting,” one post reads. “Brushing my teeth required me to rest afterwards.

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“Even chewing a little required me to rest afterwards.”

Gonzales said she believes Lam was trying to convey how serious the illness can be for people that are still skeptical about it.

READ MORE: ‘It isn’t a hoax’: Alberta family grieves as father lies dying of COVID-19 in B.C. hospital

“This is real. It’s not just the simple flu,” she said. “People are suffering from this and it’s real. It’s not a hoax.

“It’s so heartbreaking… to hear how quickly someone can deteriorate with this virus… someone who is typically so healthy and so full of energy can be floored like that.”

Kristopher Harvey told Global News that he will remember Lam for living his life with energy and often being drawn to dance floors. He said the last time he spoke to his friend, he told him he felt like a stranger in his own body and “never had anything like this before.”

“Sharing that (on Instagram), I think, was part of his way of educating people on what everybody is going through,” Harvey said.

READ MORE: ‘It’s not just a flu’: B.C. man with COVID-19 still suffering from blood clots in his lungs

Lillian Lam-Lopez, another of Lam’s cousins, told Global News that while what happened to Lam is very sad, she hopes his messages will see something positive come from “a dark situation.”

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She said she’ll remember Lam for his “big heart, big personality” and for always having his friends’ or family members’ backs.

“You could just feel his love in the room,” Lam-Lopez said.

Lam’s family said what made his illness even more difficult is that they could not physically be with him before he died.

“He’s isolated, you don’t have any support and all we can do is just communicate through technology,” Lam-Lopez remembered of Lam being in hospital before he died.

“I saw the posts every day,” said Petterson Lam, a cousin of Ricky’s. “It was hard seeing him cope and going through what he’s going through every day and not being able to be there for him.

“It was very hard to read.”

“It’s hard to think he’s not here anymore,” Lam-Lopez said.

–With files from Global News’ Morgan Black and Jessica Robb

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