Atish Ram was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March of 2020 and spent two months in hospital. Nearly a year later, he’s still dealing with what people call “long COVID.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Atish Ram was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March of 2020 and spent two months in hospital. Nearly a year later, he’s still dealing with what people call “long COVID.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘Long COVID’: How a B.C. man is dealing with the effects of the virus one year later

Surrey’s Atish Ram is one of thousands of people continuing to deal with COVID-19 symptoms

Nearly a year after contracting COVID-19, Surrey’s Atish Ram says he’s looking at his recovery from three sides.

Ram was diagnosed with COVID-19 in late March 2020 when he believes he caught it while grocery shopping, before masks, face shields, distancing and plexiglass barriers were commonplace.

He ended up spending two months in hospital, and when he was able to finally return home, he continued to use medical oxygen for six months.

READ ALSO: ‘Lucky to be alive,’ Surrey man was on COVID-19 ‘roller coaster’ for eight weeks in hospital, June 11, 2020

When it comes to his year-long journey, Ram said there are physical, mental and spiritual aspects to his recovery.

For the physical, Ram said “you can’t really do the things that you want to do, and the way you can help yourself do that is basically get up, get moving.”

After “weaning” himself off the medical oxygen, he said he would walk around the house to build up his strength. Then he moved on to a walk to the mailbox with his daughter.

homelessphoto

Atish Ram, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March of 2020 and spent two months in hospital, walks with his wife Mandy as he starts to build back his strength post-COVID. Nearly a year later, he’s still dealing with what people call “long COVID.” (Photo: Lauren Collins)

“I walked literally three houses down and I couldn’t walk anymore. I had to stop. It was just slow progress,” said Ram, adding that he’s “much better” about three months since he stopped using the oxygen.

“Yesterday was the best that I’ve done. Even my neighbours are saying, ‘You kept your pace,’” Ram said on March 4.

But he still gets shortness of breath.

“My lung capacity is not the same as before… I know that my lung is not the same anymore. It’s not full capacity.”

After meeting with a respirologist, Ram now knows his lung capacity is 63 per cent of what it used to be.

This is what people have dubbed “long COVID.”

On Facebook, Ram said he’s among a 12,000-strong group of people dealing with lingering symptoms, despite being deemed recovered from the virus.

His lingering symptoms include a reduced sense of smell and taste. A shooting pain down the right side of his body from what the doctor told him was “from coughing so much in hospital that (he) pulled out (his) two discs in the back.” A CT scan showed thrombosis and scarring on his lungs. His blood pressure continues to fluctuate.

Through the Facebook group, Ram found out about post-COVID-19 recovery clinics, one of which is at Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre in Surrey.

READ ALSO: Surrey gets one of three post-COVID-19 recovery clinics, Jan. 22, 2021

Ram said he got a referral to the clinic through his doctor, and was then assessed by an “amazing doctor who took two hours with me and really listened to me as to what was going on with my body and what I was going through.”

This was in February, but from what he’s heard, Ram said not many people seem to be aware of these clinics.

“That’s a year after I got COVID, and 10 months after I got out of the hospital, I finally got some help. And I had to go find it.”

Dr. Sharry Kahlon, medical director for the Surrey post-COVID recovery clinic, said one of the things people in the medical field realized throughout this pandemic is that “we are watching an illness unfold in real-time.”

“And as we’re doing that, we’re trying to put together the resources to help patients manage both the acute unwellness or acute illness they have,” she said, “as well follow them over time because we are seeing patients continue to suffer even after the initial diagnosis is done.”

One of the most common post-COVID symptoms Kahlon is seeing in a “significant number of patients” is fatigue that’s affecting their ability to function day-to-day. It’s called post-exertional malaise.

“When they do feel well enough to try and do regular activity — for example if they were to try and exercise or return to work — they are quite fatigued or debilitated for a few days after that sort of stress or exertion in their life,” explained Kahlon, adding she’s also seen it in patients who experienced milder cases of COVID-19.

“Those type of symptoms aren’t physical, you don’t see them. So they’re feeling a lot of stigma or feeling quite isolated that no one is recognizing those symptoms.”

The other piece that’s “really come to light,” she said, is the mental health aspect.

Kahlon said people are struggling with anxiety, depression, negative feelings around their illness and “sometimes almost a PTSD-like phenomenon.”

When it comes to his recovery mentally, Ram said he doesn’t know how to deal with that yet.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with this brain fog. I try to say something and my thoughts go blank. That’s something I’m worried about. I was very sharp thinking.”

He’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. “When I went into the hospital just a month ago to get my respiratory test, I started having a panic attack,” he said.

“The other thing is the psychological part of it because you’ve been through so much trauma. With me, and fighting for my life and not knowing if I’m going to be alive the next day.”

homelessphoto

But one of the many hurdles he’s managed to jump is returning to the grocery store. “I’m still staying safe. I’m wearing two masks. I’m wearing gloves everywhere I go. I don’t really go anywhere, maybe grocery shopping, that’s it,” he said. “I’m not afraid to go to the grocery store. I’m not going to have this virus control me.”

The final piece to Ram’s recovery is his spirituality.

“I know I’m going to get through this because what I had gone through in the hospital, what I experienced in the hospital, how I came out of it, I don’t have any answers to that other than my faith in God.

“If I have that faith, I believe I can conquer the rest of this stuff. At least two out of three ain’t bad, right?”



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Bears are waking up hungry and starting to forage, Conservation Officer Service said on April 9. Prince Residents are advised to keep garbage in sealed containers to lessen bear attraction. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Keep bears wild – they are not teddy bears

Conservation Officer Service warns bears are waking up hungry

Prince Rupert couple Alvin Tait and Loni Martin have postponed their wedding two times due to COVID-19 affecting the marriage rates in Prince Rupert. (Photo: supplied/L.Martin)
No marriages in Prince Rupert in 2021 so far

Weddings down 23.9% in P.R. since COVID-19 with B.C. wedding industry loss at $158 million

Three North Coast organizations are granted funding to promote multiculturalism and support anti-racism, Jennifer Rice MLA announced on April 8. Conrad Elementary School students recognized the first Black Shirt Day on January 15, 2021, to advocate for anti-racism. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
North Coast organizations to benefit from anti-racism funding

$944,000 granted in provincial funding to aid multiculturalism

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Most Read