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 Surrey man is dealing with the effects of the virus one year later

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

First in a four-part series looking at how people in the community are rebuilding a year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

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?”

Part two in this series will look at how students and teachers are adapting to face-to-face, remote and blended learning, and what the future could look like for schools.



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

Traffic was tied up at the intersection of Scott and Old Yale Roads in North Surrey on Tuesday afternoon, after a semi truck hauling a load of pipes flipped while making a turn. (Shane MacKichan photos)
VIDEO: Semi hauling load of pipes flips in North Surrey intersection

Traffic near Scott and Old Yale Roads tied up by Tuesday afternoon incident

Photo collage of loved ones lost to substance use and overdose. (Photo courtesy Moms Stop The Harm)
B.C. 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

Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions (Screen shot)
Minister of mental health tells Surrey audience COVID-19 ‘has made everything worse’

More than 23,000 people in B.C. are receiving medication to treat opioid addiction

Farmers raise slogans during a protest on a highway at the Delhi-Haryana state border, India, Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. Tens of thousands of farmers descended upon the borders of New Delhi to protest new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Delta council stands in solidarity with protesting Indian farmers

Farmers have been protesting for months new laws they say leave them open to corporate exploitation

A sign posted to a tree in Maccaud Park urges people to email White Rock City Council and oppose the construction of pickleball courts in the park. (Contributed photo)
White Rock council deems Maccaud Park pickleball courts out of bounds

Unanimous vote against constructing courts follows public feedback

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has restricted indoor dining at all restaurants in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 indoor dining, drinking ban extending into May

Restaurant association says patio rules to be clarified

Titanic was the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. Photo provided and colourized by Jiri Ferdinand.
QUIZ: How much do you know about the world’s most famous shipwreck?

Titanic sank 109 years ago today, after hitting an iceberg

In a 2019 photograph, Yin Yin Din held a picture of her brother Kyaw Naing Din, 54, and her late father Hla Din who passed away in 2014, during a trip to Victoria. (The News files)
Family of B.C. man killed by cop appeals to Attorney General for help

The Din family want B.C. Attorney General David Eby to forward their case to Crown

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
Tougher COVID-19 restrictions in B.C., including travel, still ‘on the table’: Horgan

John Horgan says travel restrictions will be discussed Wednesday by the provincial cabinet

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Protesters occupied a road leading to Fairy Creek Watershed near Port Renfrew. (Submitted photo)
B.C. First Nation says logging activist interference not welcome at Fairy Creek

Vancouver Island’s Pacheedaht concerned about increasing polarization over forestry activities

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

Of 46 arrests made between March 16 and 19 at Metrotown mall in Burnaby, 27 suspected shoplifters are now facing charges. (Twitter/Burnaby RCMP)
RCMP arrest 46 people in 4 days during Metrotown shoplifting crackdown

$4,800 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to businesses inside of the mall

Maple Ridge's Doug Ubell caught some photographs recently that he was anxious to share, one taken while on the Trans-Canada Trail looking southwest towards the Pitt River Bridge, and another from on Golden Ears Bridge. (Special to The News)
Traffic on Golden Ears Bridge returning to pre-pandemic levels

Commuters from Greater Vancouver still driving more, taking transit less

Most Read