‘We weren’t thinking about other people’: unvaccinated Alberta man on his time in ICU with COVID-19

Click to play video: '‘We weren’t thinking about other people’: unvaccinated Alberta man on time in ICU with COVID-19'
‘We weren’t thinking about other people’: unvaccinated Alberta man on time in ICU with COVID-19
WATCH ABOVE: An Alberta man who recently spent time in the ICU with COVID-19 is sharing his story of vaccine hesitancy and pleading with those who are unvaccinated to get immunized. Su-Ling Goh has more – Sep 27, 2021

An Alberta man who recently spent time in the ICU with COVID-19 is sharing his story and pleading with those who are unvaccinated to receive the vaccine.

Read more: 58 Alberta ICU doctors pen letter saying it’s ‘not too late to change course’ on COVID-19 crisis

Read next: ‘It was my heart’: Women with heart disease face barriers to care in Canada, report says

Click to play video: 'Kenney rejects calls for ‘fire break’ lockdown as Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis deepens'
Kenney rejects calls for ‘fire break’ lockdown as Alberta’s COVID-19 crisis deepens

Bernie Cook tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 31. He had the Delta variant and says his health deteriorated rapidly.

Story continues below advertisement

“It was hitting me hard and I didn’t know what was going on, like whether or not I would live or not.”

A health-care worker holds up a phone to facilitate a video call while Bernie Cook is in the ICU with COVID-19. Credit: Alberta Health Services

He lost 30 pounds, shed muscle mass and now finds simple tasks, like climbing the stairs, difficult. During his interview with Global News, he was often out of breath just from sharing his story.

Cook said he was in the ICU for 11 days. His condition progressed quickly and he was intubated just a few days after being admitted to the hospital.

Story continues below advertisement

What people don’t realize, he said, is when the intubation tubes have to be removed, the patient is awake for the unpleasant process.

“I had to be a part of the process and literally my body convulsed from having the tubes taken out of my stomach and lungs. I did not enjoy that experience at all. It was a physical trauma to have that,” he said.

Read more: ‘It’s scary’: Nurse explains what it’s like to be redeployed to the ICU during COVID pandemic

Read next: Health Canada reviewing safety of breastfeeding drug domperidone

Cook wasn’t vaccinated when he caught COVID-19. He said he isn’t against vaccinations, he just thought he didn’t need this one, saying he is a healthy guy and felt he could fight the virus if he caught it.

As of Monday, 83 per cent of eligible Albertans over the age of 12 had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Almost 74 per cent were fully vaccinated.

A health-care worker helps Bernie Cook walk at the Peter Lougheed Centre in Calgary. Credit: Alberta Health Services

Cook says he understands people have free will, but urged anyone who isn’t fully vaccinated to get both doses as soon as possible.

Story continues below advertisement

“All of us that were in the ICU and are flooding the COVID wards, we were only focused about ourselves, we weren’t thinking about other people, we weren’t thinking about how overwhelmed the AHS system is.”

Cook said everyone in his ward at the Peter Loughheed Centre in Calgary was unvaccinated except for one person who had received one dose. He was in one of three COVID wards in that hospital and said the health-care workers are overwhelmed.

“I talked to the nurses. I wanted to know what the hell was going on around me. I wanted to know… I mean, I could hear it. I could see it,” he said.

“Sometimes I really saw the stress because I’m around the nurses. I get to hear what they’re saying and I get to see what they’re doing.

Story continues below advertisement

According to chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, of the people admitted to Alberta’s ICUs with COVID-19 between June 1 and Sept. 23, 88 per cent were unvaccinated, while six per cent had one dose. Six per cent of ICU admissions were fully vaccinated.

“We’re clogging up the AHS system. We’re clogging it up,” Cook said of the unvaccinated.

“I think that if people saw that side of AHS, of how overwhelmed they were, I think they really would change their mind about getting the vaccine.”

Read more: Alberta doctors plead with new health minister for ‘fire break’ lockdown amid 4th COVID-19 wave

Read next: First step or misstep? Mixed reaction to B.C. drug decriminalization

Cook’s daughter got married last weekend, an event he almost missed because of his ICU stay. While he was being intubated, he said his focus was to make it to that day, to push through and be there.

“So much happiness to be there… It felt so good. It’s like when I got intubated, (I thought) I’m not missing that for the frickin world.”

Now Cook is working to get his strength back. He said he was able to do five pushups on his knees on Sunday and did some curls with a six-pound weight.

Story continues below advertisement

But mainly he’s grateful to the health-care workers who helped him in the ICU.

“Despite it all, they’re so kind and compassionate to all of us that are in the units, which is a testament to their character.

“It really is their character. I am I am so proud of our AHS system, of our nursing staff.”

Anyone looking to receive their first or second dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Alberta can do so online or by calling 811.

On Monday, Alberta Health confirmed an additional 5,181 cases had been confirmed over the previous three days. Alberta no longer provides COVID-19 data on the weekend.

There were 1,882 new cases confirmed on Friday, 1,541 on Saturday and 1,758 on Sunday. There were 1,063 Albertans in hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 265 were in the ICU.


Sponsored content