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'It can just knock you down': COVID-19 sends 49-year-old father of five to Surrey ICU

Last Updated Jun 4, 2021 at 10:32 pm PDT


A 49-year-old father of five is one of the patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Surrey ICU

Karla Trudeau is sharing her family's story because she wants people to understand the severity of COVID-19

'The virus isn't gone': Frontline healthcare workers say it's too early to exhale a sigh of relief in B.C.

Editor’s Note: The video and details in this story may be upsetting or difficult to some readers and viewers. 

SURREY (CityNews) — Karla Trudeau barely recognizes her husband Joseph. She’s terrified every time the phone rings that it will be someone from the hospital telling her the 49-year-old father of her five children — who she has loved since she was 17 — has died from COVID-19.

Joseph has been in the ICU at Surrey Memorial for months. He is on a ventilator and continues to test positive for the virus. The entire family, except for the Trudeau’s 10-year-old son, contracted the coronavirus in January. That news came shortly after Joseph was diagnosed and began treatment for lymphoma.

Karla says her husband’s illness progressed rapidly, with him being hospitalized soon after getting the test results.

“My husband got sick so fast. He was a 240-pound man but now he’s a skinny, pale man. It’s like his life’s just been sucked out of him. It’s terrible. Coronavirus is real people. Look at my husband,” she says.

“This man could die. If he doesn’t make it I’m going to be all alone with my children. He’s like skin and bones. Coronavirus can really eat you alive. Some people make it and some people don’t. That’s the tragic thing about it.”

‘It can just knock you down. My husband’s dwindling away’

In-person visits are not allowed, and Karla says it’s unbearable seeing Jospeh sick and suffering through a screen.

“I saw him yesterday by video chat, I’m seeing him there like lifeless. I’m looking at this man that I don’t recognize. He has such a good spirit, he’s a funny guy, he loves, loves his family,” she says.

“It’s just unreal, an unreal situation that you think could never happen to you until it really happens to you. That’s just the strength of the Coronavirus, it can just knock you down. My husband’s dwindling away”

Still, Karla understands why in-person visits are restricted.

“We have to protect ourselves, we have to protect the world from this.”

Manjot Kaur is a nurse treating Jospeh in the ICU, and says it’s hard to see him and his family limited to virtual visits.

“For them not to be able to come in and see him I think that has been the most difficult, especially when he’s awake and alert. FaceTime is one thing, but nothing replaces the physical presence, the voices, the touch of your loved one.”

‘The virus isn’t gone’

B.C. is gradually easing restrictions, daily case counts are trending downward, and the province’s immunization efforts are progressing quicker than planned.

But workers in the ICU are wary after a relentless 15 months and three waves of this pandemic.

Dr. Greg Haljan is the head of critical care at Surrey Memorial and he is not yet ready to exhale a sigh of relief.

“You know there’s the saying, ‘It’s the hope that kills you.’ I’m encouraged but I don’t think we can let our guard down. We see time and time again — we let our guard down and then we get another wave,” he says.

“The virus isn’t gone it’s still producing variants of concern. From our perspective, we always want to be one step ahead.”

‘We need him, I need him’

For Karla and the Trudeau’s this year has dealt one devastating blow after another. On May 9, there was an arson at the home next to the one they were renting in Surrey.

“It got flooded with water, my home with my kids. We had to leave, we had to leave because the inspector said it was not safe to live there,” she explains.

“The stuff I don’t care about, that’s okay. It’s just hard not having a home.”

The family has a place to stay with relatives in Coquitlam, and for now, Karla’s main concern is her husband.

“I live day by day. It’s an awful feeling [wondering] Am I going to get that call today? Then no. Oh, thank God. Then another night with the same situation.”

“I always pray he will get better for us, because we need him. I need him.”

She just hopes he will make it until his 50th birthday in October.

Karla is sharing her family’s story because she wants people to understand the severity of COVID-19, and to think twice before questioning or violating health orders.

“Don’t take your life for granted. Stay home, they’re telling you that for a reason. Look at my husband,” she says.

“I just want people to know it could happen to you. Don’t think it can’t, because it can. This virus is very strong.”