Tree of Caring 2021

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you've thought 'this might be the end'?

When you're so sick - so low - that you can't do anything to help yourself?

I hope you haven't. But if these words sound familiar to you at all, you'll understand how I was feeling on a night back in April when I nearly lost my life to COVID-19.

That was the night the team at our own Windsor Regional Hospital were the miracle workers who pulled me through.

A big part of that team? You. That's why I’m writing to you with my story. Because even though you didn't know it, you were with me that night, doing battle on my behalf.

So first and foremost - Thank you.

My battle with COVID began like many others' - I had headaches, I felt a bit warm, then shakes and achiness and a real fever. So many people had said that COVID was just like a bad flu, and that I'd start feeling better after a week.

Let's just say … COVID-19 is not like the flu. Long story short, 10 days in and I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. That's when I found out that my oxygen levels had gone so low that I could have arrested. Despite having my own oxygen meter that I'd been using to track my oxygen the whole time.

The ambulance team put me on 100% oxygen, and suddenly the fog I'd been living under cleared. But the battle had just begun.

I was on high-flow oxygen, but I kept getting worse. By the third day in the hospital, I needed to be intubated. At that point, I got really scared. We’ve all heard that once they have to intubate you, there's a chance that you're never coming out. All I could think about was, ‘What if this is it?' ‘What happens in the end?' ‘What is my wife going to do?'

It was the middle of the night. And of course, my family couldn't be with me because of COVID. But here's the thing: I was never left to face this alone.

The staff was incredible. Not just medically professional, but consoling.

There’s a lot I don't remember. But I have a clear memory of the respiratory therapist talking to me. She said “We know everything we need to do to get you out of this. Don't worry. I have you. I've got you.”

And the nurse - she just grabbed my hand without a word, and her grip was so firm and reassuring and comforting - it was almost overwhelming.

I was intubated for 11 days. And in recovery for weeks afterward. And the whole time, the staff were amazing.

I'm a healthy, active 48-year-old but I could barely stand. By the time it was safe for me to go home, I had lost 45 pounds. I had lost all of my motor skills. So my message today is three-fold:

First - again, thank you. Every single piece of equipment that was used to save my life was purchased thanks to donations by generous members of our community like you. You give these fabulous medical teams the tools they need to save our lives and get us back to health.

Second - if there is anyone you know who is still not vaccinated, please tell them my story. This isn't the flu. It's deadly. We need to finish this battle off, together.

And third - if you are able to, will you join me in donating to Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation's Tree of Caring campaign? They are raising funds to buy a piece of equipment known as a “Hypothermia unit,” which balances the temperature of any patient who needs it. Your gift will help purchase this and other pieces that are urgently needed to help our team keep caring for our friends and our neighbours when they need it most.

My mother was a nurse. My sister is a nurse. Nursing runs in my family. I've seen first-hand how it takes a certain kind of person to choose that life of service. Together, you and I can give the nurses - and the doctors - at the Windsor Regional Hospital the tools they need to save a life like mine.

Thank you again,

Noel Ynama