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,’ Surrey 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

Surrey Little Theatre is located on 184th Street at Fraser Highway. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey Little Theatre, Langley Players look to merge as single company at 200th Street theatre

A ‘really exciting’ development for the volunteer-run theatre companies

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. (File photo)
Surrey mayor taking it on the chin during budget public hearing

So far, he’s cut five callers off during Monday’s virtual meeting

The entrance at Fleetwood Villa in Surrey. (Photo: dignified.ca)
Fleetwood Villa resident tests positive for COVID-19, leading to ‘outbreak’ at facility

Fraser Health says it’s ‘critically important’ for people in the region to use COVID-19 assessment tool

A Surrey protest now in week 12 against a local resident has frayed the nerves of neighbours fed-up with the group’s presence. (Submitted photo)
Surrey neighbourhood fed-up with strange protest

Surrey Mounties say they’re monitoring the situation

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

Business groups have been advocating for years that local approvals for construction in B.C. are too long and restricted, and that B.C.’s outdates sales tax deter business investment. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents worried about COVID-19 deficit, business survey finds

Respondents support faster local approvals, value added tax

The first of two earthquakes near Alaska on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, is shown in blue. (USGS)
No tsunami risk after two earthquakes near Alaska

Both earthquakes hit near the U.S. state on Dec. 1

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

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Menno Place. (Google Street View image.)
32 family members respond to Abbotsford care home’s plea for staffing help during COVID-19 outbreak

Menno Home asks for relief workers for food service, laundry and housekeeping

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Most Read