Struggling for his life for a month in intensive care at the CHUM, an attendant for beneficiaries in his forties died Thursday from the consequences of COVID-19. His death is a reminder of the heavy price paid by healthcare workers and their families since the start of the pandemic.
“I don’t know when this roller coaster of emotions will end,” said Camtu Ho, a liaison nurse still shaken by the death of his former colleague, Thong Nguyen. The 48-year-old attendant had 17 years of experience at Jean-Talon Hospital in Montreal, where he worked night work in emergency and intensive care.
At the front since the start of the health crisis, Mr. Nguyen was declared positive to COVID-19 on May 1. In isolation at home, he quickly developed serious complications from the disease. He was transferred on May 12 to intensive care at the University of Montreal Hospital Center (CHUM), where he died Thursday morning, leaving to mourn his wife and two children.
The CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal (NIM) does not know how it was infected. For them, this is a second infected attendant to fall in combat, after the death on April 29 of Marina Thenor Louis who had worked for 12 years at CHSLD Cartierville. Across Quebec, the virus claimed the lives of at least eight beneficiary attendants.
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A good father
Camtu Ho heard the sad news from a sister on Friday morning, just arriving at work. She received it like a blow from the club. “I cried, I found it hard to work,” she slips, eyes misted behind her smoked glasses. ” It shocks me. “
“I knew him because he was Vietnamese, like me. I met him over a decade ago when he started working at the hospital, “recalls the nurse.
“I often met him on the street when he came home. We were talking about the family, our growing children, our plans … “, she said before stopping briefly, moved. “He was a good father, he looked after his family very well. “
A vigil in memory of the deceased was held Friday at the foot of Jean-Talon Hospital. The initiative came from the NUS CIUSSS workers union, which also laid a wreath near an entrance to the building.
Slightly back on the sidewalk, a woman in a pale green uniform looked thoughtfully at the crown. “Before they test everyone, and he learns that he had caught COVID-19, I remember he was crying because he didn’t want to have it. He wanted to protect his family, “said the hospital employee who preferred to keep her identity quiet. She remembers the memory of a devoted, “very hardworking” man.
At noon, a few dozen people gathered in front of the wreath, observing a minute of silence. Colleagues for the most part, having worked closely or from afar with the missing attendant.
“I saw him in the locker room, in the basement. We were joking together, “said Nancy Zéphirin, patient attendant at the cardiology unit. “Our work is very physical and very stressful. But some of our comrades help us get through our days. It was the case with him, he was someone very jovial, “she adds.
“Thong was an extraordinary man,” adds Mélanie Chartrand. She and her husband made their way to attend the vigil on Friday, insisting on placing a bouquet of flowers at the foot of the crown.
Mme Chartrand, beneficiary attendant at Jean-Talon until 2016, was very close to Mr. Nguyen. He showed her the workings of the trade when she was hired in 2009, fresh out of school. They then worked together in the emergency room, at night, between 2014 and 2015.
“He was someone in good shape, doing martial arts. He ate well and slept well, ”she says, still struggling to believe that the virus could have knocked him down. In his view, one thing is certain: his ex-colleague, “an experienced attendant”, did not skimp on the measures to be taken to protect himself and the patients. “I’m sure it’s bad luck,” she says.
“He was always smiling, really kind and friendly, both with us and with the patients. He was a chic guy, “remembers the Dre Myra Lemelin, Jean-Talon emergency doctor. She does not know how he got the virus, but she knew “between the branches” that his health had deteriorated, anticipating a tragic outcome. “We are still hoping for a miracle,” she says.
The Dre Lemelin indicates that the death of his ex-colleague has rekindled the concerns of staff within his department. Is the lack of protective equipment a source of anxiety? “There is no shortage,” she replies. Employees re-use the equipment once it has been disinfected, and also use construction masks, the doctor said. Plexiglas panels were also installed.
“But what we have been missing a lot, and it has been said for a long time, is what we call companions: people who watch us putting on and above all removing the equipment. It’s often when you take it out that you get infected, she says. We know they are working on it, but there is a shortage of people all over the network. “