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

Revelstoke Mayor Gary Sulz received his COVID vaccination April 5. 
(Jocelyn Doll - Revelstoke Review)
Liams Lowdown: It’s time to vaccinate

All Revelstoke residents above the age of 18 can get a COVID-19 inoculation

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
110 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Provincial health officers announced 1,005 new cases throughout B.C.

Black Crow Cannabis is just one of Vernon's many pot shops now open in town. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Kelowna has highest cannabis fees in Okanagan

Vernon’s 14 stores pay second highest business licence fees

(Photo: pixabay.com)
Morning Start: More human twins are being born now than ever before

Your morning start for Friday, April 16, 2021

Twin sisters Kyla, left, and Jordyn Bear have accepted scholarships to play at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York for this upcoming fall. The 17-year-olds dream of playing together for Canada in the Olympics one day. (Jesse Johnston/CP photo)
Lake Country twins inspire Indigenous hockey players

Grade 12 George Elliot Secondary students Kyla and Jordyn Bear earn hockey scholarships at NCAA Division 1 school

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

A group of youth in Kelowna's Knox Mountain Park are suspected as having violated the B.C. Wildlife Act by harassing a pair of nesting bald eagles with a drone Friday, April 16, 2021. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Nesting bald eagles harassed by youth-piloted drone in Kelowna

Conservation Officers are hoping to hear from anyone who witnessed the Knox Mountain incident

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Most Read