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‘It’s just surreal at this point’: Families of young COVID-19 ICU patients speak out

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WATCH: With a handful of people under 40 now in Saskatchewan ICUs, it’s becoming clear COVID-19 and its variants don't discriminate by age. Now, some of the families of those patients are pleading for other young people to take notice – Mar 31, 2021

Two families are asking others to take COVID-19 measures seriously while their young family members are hooked up to ventilators in the ICU after catching one of the virus’s variants.

Justin Linder said about a week ago his 32-year-old brother, Jarrid, went to the hospital in Indian Head when he was feeling sick and some shortness of breath. Justin said it was nothing alarming, and his brother was put on oxygen for a day.

Jarrid stayed in hospital overnight but was sent home the next day after feeling better.

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Two days later, he felt shortness of breath again. This time, he was taken to Regina General Hospital by ambulance and has been there since.

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“They’ve had to put him in a medically-induced coma and he’s been paralyzed. They paralyzed him to try and control the spread,” Justin explained.

Justin said Jarrid’s lungs are very infected, but he’s getting a little better and holding steady at the moment.

Although he’s doing better, Jarrid’s doctors told his family that he’ll need to stay in intensive care for at least two to three weeks.

Justin told Global Regina his brother tested positive for a COVID-19 variant.

Justin describes his brother as a healthy and outdoorsy guy who loves fishing. Jarrid works as a mechanic and has a one-year-old son at home.

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“He’s been just totally involved in that life. It’s just so shocking because it just came out of nowhere. He went from living a normal life to just all of a sudden being paralyzed on a respirator. It’s just surreal at this point,” Justin said.

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Justin added he never thought the virus was going to infect someone he knew.

It’s a very, very tough experience to deal with,” Justin said.

Another person is sharing her 34-year-old son’s story, who is also in ICU now.

Dianne Desjarlais-Cardinal said her son, Matthew Cardinal, sent her a text on March 15 saying he didn’t feel well and had a bad headache all of a sudden.

She told Cardinal to go home and monitor his symptoms.

Desjarlais-Cardinal said it didn’t take long for Cardinal to start getting chills, body aches and a fever. He also started to lose his sense of taste.

Cardinal tested positive for COVID-19.

He started isolating at home. His mom also noticed that he was coughing and didn’t have an appetite.

Read more: With COVID-19 variant cases on the rise, what do experts recommend?

“He was just bedridden,” Desjarlais-Cardinal said.

Over the next few days, Cardinal’s condition started to worsen to the point where he was gasping for air.

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Cardinal called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

“It was heartbreaking to see him seeing him leave the premises like that in that condition,” his mother said.

Cardinal was diagnosed with a COVID-19 variant after further testing was completed.

Desjarlais-Cardinal said her son is now on a ventilator to help him breathe.

Doctors also found a small blood clot in Cardinal’s chest.

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“Right now, it’s like he can’t speak or anything like that, so he communicates by either (squeezing) your hand or he’ll give a thumbs up or wave,” Desjarlais-Cardinal said.

Desjarlais-Cardinal described her son as a healthy and vibrant 34-year-old and she’s praying for good news. While it’s hard to talk about it, she said, she needs to share her son’s story.

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I have to share because this is true life experiences, what we’re — myself and my family — are going through right now,” she said.

Desjarlais-Cardinal said she feels an obligation to raise awareness about how COVID-19 can impact someone.

— With files from Connor O’Donovan

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