A 57-year-old Pitt Meadows dentist has a new lease on life after surviving a two-month battle with the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Michael Chow told Black Press Media that he’s lost 40 pounds, has swollen calves and ankles, and damaged vocal cords – “but I’m really happy to be here.”
Chow attended the Pacific Dental Conference the weekend of March 6, which was declared a site of outbreak that resulted in 87 people with COVID-19, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry reported June 4.
Others who attended weren’t as fortunate.
Vancouver dentist Dr. Denis Vincent died from suspected coronavirus complications just weeks after attending.
“Everyone thinks COVID-19 is like the flu, that seniors are the only ones in danger. It’s just not true.”
“I was fit and healthy,” he said, making mention of his once-active lifestyle.
“And the coronavirus still hit me hard.”
A few days after the event, in early March, Chow fell ill.
When Chow’s condition significantly worsened, his younger brother – who works as a doctor at Surrey Memorial Hospital – took him to the hospital.
On March 19, his family was given the opportunity to say a few last words over FaceTime to Chow, before he was intubated.
“Doctors told them they couldn’t guarantee what was going to happen to me,” he explained. He needed to be put on a ventilator to get more oxygen delivered to his lungs.
Chow said that his next 19 days were spent in oblivion, heavily sedated, on a ventilator.
When he was finally well enough to be weaned off the machine, it took him time to return to reality.
“I wasn’t able to recognize my brother, I wasn’t able to speak,” Chow said, as told by his brother.
From there, the survivor underwent a slow journey of relearning how to walk, talk, and eat.
“There’s still some stuff to sort out,” Chow said following a Thursday afternoon visit to LifeLabs for blood tests.
Chow wiped happy tears from his eyes on May 15 when he was discharged from the Surrey Memorial Hospital COVID-19 unit.
Surrey Memorial staff and fellow patients surprised the survivor with a COVID-19 ward full of applause.
Chow rang the COVID-19 recovery bell and said “thank you everyone” to the staff, for helping him recover from the worst of the disease.
“I was happy to be alive and happy for everyone’s hard work that got me through… For every person I encountered: the physiotherapists, dietitians, doctors, speech language pathologists… all of them,” he said.
“They would see me try to exercise and cheer me on,” Chow said, recalling it took him a week to take more than just a few steps.
Now, Chow is recovering at home with his family in Port Coquitlam.
Neighbours even surprised him with a socially-distant “welcome” celebration, of signs and cheers, the moment he returned home.