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

There are few details but neighbours a Second Avenue house in Chilliwack say a huge police presence descended on the home after shots were heard. (File photo)
RCMP looking for witnesses in $5000 auto part theft

Two catalytic converters valued around $5000 were taken Oct. 22

Mayor Bruno Tassone was presented with a poppy to launch the Castlegar Legion’s annual poppy campaign. Photo: Submitted
Castlegar Legion kicks off poppy campaign

Remembrance Day ceremonies will look different this year

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 18 COVID-19 cases, highest daily count since July

The total of COVID-19 cases in the region is now at 662

A Kelowna clinic decided to immunize their patients in a drive-thru flu clinic earlier this month. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
Interior Health anticipates increase in flu vaccinations this season

Some 300,000 doses of flu vaccine ready for distribution across Southern Interior

There is currently no limit on the amount of cannabis shops that can operate in Castlegar. File photo
Cannabis operators propose limit on number of pot shops in Castlegar

Cannabis operators said six pot shops in the city is already too many

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read