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

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. and Victoria’s overdose deaths still rising five years after public health emergency declared

Moms Stop the Harm calls on B.C. to provide safe supply in response to deadly illicit drug use

Former Saanich councillor Dean Murdock hosts a live episode of his podcast on April 14 and tackleto tackle housing issues in the region. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Live episode of Saanich podcast focuses on region’s housing issues

Dean Murdock, panel of guests go live on Zoom for Amazing Places podcast April 14

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip wave goodbye to the crowd at Vancouver International Airport in October 2002. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam)
SOOKE HISTORY: Remembering dinner with the Queen and Prince Philip

Royal couple visited Victoria for Commonwealth Games banquet in 1994

New programs and services aimed at helping the unhoused find shelter or housing in Victoria, and to take advantage of support services of various kinds, could be funded if a City of Victoria grant application is successful. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria seeks $3M to $4M in grant funds to enhance community services for unhoused population

Various supports, services for unhoused population part of broad-based funding application

A Victoria parks staffer turns compost made from organics collected in the parks. Piles of this steaming, nutrient-rich stuff will be handed out between April 12-18. (Zoë Ducklow/News Staff)
Victoria shovels free home-made compost out to gardeners

Ideal for prepping food gardens, the compost, mulch and wood chips will be at city parks for pick up

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

Most Read