From inside his family home where he spends most of his time, COVID-19 survivor Delroy Noble leans down to lift up one of his three young nieces.
He struggles at first, but then he rests her on his lap.
“When I first came … I could barely lift her up,” he muttered.
In April, he left his job at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport feeling ill. A few days later he was rushed to Humber River Hospital with a fever. Soon after, the then-29-year-old was intubated.
Noble ultimately spent 59 days hooked up to a ventilator.
“They thought I’d have long-term lung damage. They thought I was going to have long term kidney damage because … my renal system failed. They thought I was going to have even liver damage,” he recalled.
Eight months later, he said he is grateful to be alive. However, Noble said he is dealing with some long-lasting effects.
“Mostly just stamina issues. I wouldn’t want to go far because I get tired relatively easily,” he said.
Noble spent time in a rehabilitation centre to re-learn how to stand and walk.
He said he is making huge strides every day and is especially enjoying spending quality time with his three nieces. But the recovery process is not over.
“The only thing I really couldn’t escape was the nerve damage because of COVID and when you’re in ICU for so long, especially when you’re in a coma, basically the rule of thumb is if you don’t use it, you lose it,” he said.
Noble is one of nearly 400,000 Canadians who have now recovered from COVID-19.
Some survivors said they’re experiencing side effects months after the infection.
“Even if they survive, there is a very prolonged recovery process associated with it,” said Dr. Brian Cho, a critical care specialist at Humber River Hospital.
“Some of our patients were on a ventilator for quite a long period of time, sometimes months — that’s difficult.”
Known as “long-haulers,” he said the symptoms vary.
“Because of the nature of the illness and how severe it can get and how long it can take to treat, we do see a lot of these patients being a chronic patient,” explained Cho.
In the emergency department, doctors are seeing new patients presenting every day with COVID-19 and some others who have been there before.
“We have seen some people coming in with prolonged shortness of breath and prolonged fatigue,” said Dr. Tasleem Nimjee, the physician lead for Humber River Hospital’s COVID-19 emergency response.
“I’d say those are the two things that really stand out where people are saying, ‘I was sick like three months ago, but I’m still really tired. I still fatigue easily.'”
Meanwhile, Noble now uses a walker to get around but he said he is improving every day and is feeling optimistic about the future.
“It seems like I can make a full recovery, but even if I don’t I’m not complaining,” he said.
“I’ll fall asleep at night and I’ll wake up in the morning. I’ll live to see another day.”