Atish Ram was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and spent the next eight weeks at Royal Columbian Hospital. (submitted photo)

Atish Ram was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and spent the next eight weeks at Royal Columbian Hospital. (submitted photo)

‘Lucky to be alive,’ B.C. man was on COVID-19 ‘roller coaster’ for eight weeks in hospital

‘I want to tell people how this virus almost killed me,’ award-winning volunteer Atish Ram says

Even though it’s tough for him to breathe and talk, Atish Ram is using his voice to tell people about how COVID-19 nearly killed him.

The Surrey resident, 58, is back home after fighting the virus during a difficult eight weeks in hospital.

“I’m lucky to be alive,” said Ram, who called his stay at Royal Columbian “a roller coaster ride” complicated by pneumonia.

Last fall, Ram was named Volunteer of the Year during the annual Surrey Community Leader awards.

Months later, his family’s dream trip to Toronto to appear on the Family Feud Canada TV game show almost didn’t happen, after Ram had emergency surgery to take care of blockages in his heart.

By late March, he was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

“I believe I got it when I went to a grocery store – I don’t want to say which one, but I was so vigilant,” Ram said. “I went to my doctor on March 16, and he told me about how crazy this virus was, to be vigilant. So a few days later I went to the store, just 15 minutes in and out, but at the time there were no social distancing or anything, nothing like we see now. That was the only place I went, and a few days later I started getting a fever, some symptoms.”

CLICK HERE to read the latest news about COVID-19.

In a phone interview, the Newton-area resident talked slowly and paused occasionally.

“It’s still so hard to breathe,” he said.

“I’m on home oxygen – three to six months of this, at least, because my lungs are at only 25 per cent capacity now,” he added. “I’m trying to gain some of my strength back by walking, but it’s really hard to go for any length of time.”

His battle with COVID-19 caused him to lose close to 30 pounds over the past three months.

“I want to share my story because I want to tell people how this virus almost killed me, and that the virus is still out there,” he said. “And until there’s a vaccine, nobody is safe. And I could get this again, if it’s a mutated version or something.”

In March, his laboured breathing led to a chest X-ray, a positive COVID test and, eventually, admission to Royal Columbian, where Ram’s cardiac doctor was located.

“At that time, all the nurses and doctors were scared to even come into my room, for fear of catching COVID,” he recalled.

“It was a weird time, and I was there for three days in the COVID ward, I got really, really bad,” Ram added. “I just laid in bed, couldn’t do anything – my family couldn’t come to see me and that was hard. I couldn’t even get up out of bed. That Sunday I was getting really bad, I rang the bell at 3 in the morning and said to the nurse, ‘I can’t breathe.’ It was just like somebody sitting on your chest and pouring water on your face, that’s how bad it was, like drowning.”

Ram was rushed back to ICU, where doctors told him his lungs were filled with fluid.

“They managed to stabilize me,” Ram said, “and hooked me up to all these monitors and IVs. I wasn’t allowed water because the one nurse said they were going to intubate me that night. He said, ‘When we do that, you’re pretty much going to be in a coma and you may not come out of it. Your lungs are really bad. I going to be honest with you, you need to make a phone call and say what you need to say to your wife and kids, because it could be the last things you say. I don’t want to scare you but I want to be truthful with you.’ I just laid there and thought, ‘Is this it?’”

Somehow, Ram’s condition improved enough that intubation wasn’t required.

“When two guys came in to do an X-ray the following morning, I thought it was all a dream.”

During his 53 days in hospital, Ram kept failing subsequent COVID tests. He needed three negative tests in a row, but doctors couldn’t figure out why the virus wouldn’t leave his body.

Finally, it did.

The ordeal took a toll on him both physically and mentally.

“I was alone for so much of that time, just very brief visits by nurses or doctors, but only when they absolutely needed to,” Ram explained.

He says despite the relaxation of some measures to combat the virus, people need to remain vigilant.

“If people think they’re resilient and aren’t going to get it, they may not have any symptoms but they could have it and give it to someone who has an underlying condition, such as asthma, and it doesn’t matter how old you are,” Ram said.

“There was a 30-year-old school teacher who came into ICU and he had a massive stroke, and he was COVID-positive, but had no symptoms. I also saw people who didn’t make it, but some walked out of there fine.

“I say to all my friends who’ve contacted me, I say look, think of every person that you see has COVID, right, because you don’t know if that person has it or not, and you could be passing it along to someone else and do a lot of damage unintentionally.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

CoronavirusHealth

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

Nelson city council conducted an online resident survey about patios and food trucks and got over a thousand responses. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson council hears results of survey on patios and food trucks

A city’s online survey got 1,130 responses

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

One of seven kitties rescued from a property east of Grand Forks Friday, Nov. 27. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Grand Forks women rescue sick kitties from rural property

Kimberly Feeny and Lisa Valenta spent their Friday nursing seven cats rescued east of the city

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

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

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Most Read