In mid-March, Victoria resident Gordon Viberg returned home from a ski trip in Aspen, Colo., where he had celebrated his 75th birthday.
He immediately began his mandatory 14-day quarantine process, a new measure at the time, and for the first week or so he felt totally fine.
However, a few days later, he started to experience symptoms like sinus issues and a slightly elevated temperature.
Over the coming days, those symptoms began to worsen, and after his temperature reached 41 C, his wife called 911 and Viberg was rushed to Royal Jubilee Hospital.
“To be honest with you that portion of it I don’t remember because I was quite delirious,” said Viberg.
The 75-year-old would spend the next 12 days in the intensive care unit, fighting for his life.
“You feel like you have a 1,000-pound block of cement on your chest. The best way I can explain it is like a fish out of water when you see the mouth sort of opening and closing. You’re sort of gasping for air.”
Viberg was eventually moved from the ICU and into a different ward of the hospital. After 16 days at Royal Jubilee, he was released and is now back at full strength, a much better ending than the doctors caring for him anticipated.
“At one point one of the doctors or physicians said to me ‘you know Gordon don’t tell your wife this, but you were pretty close to the end,'” said Viberg.
The Victoria resident lives a very active lifestyle with interests like skiing, cycling and tennis.
The head intensive care doctor for the South Island, Dr. Grant McIntyre, was one of the physicians overseeing Viberg during his stay at Royal Jubilee and says that Viberg’s active lifestyle may have saved him.
“I think due to his premorbid level of functioning and his amazing health before he became sick, he was able to fight his way through this severe illness,” said MacIntyre.
Due to the quality level of care he received, Viberg is now giving back by donating to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation’s fundraising campaign.
The group is looking to raise $6 million to support the construction of a new permanent High Acuity Unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital, a first for Island Health. The unit would mean eight more critical care beds, a crucial addition for Jubilee, one of the designated COVID-19 hospitals on Vancouver Island,.
“We know that at any given time our ICUs can be at full capacity and with surges like COVID and influenza, we need to make sure that’s not the case,” said Avery Brohman, executive director of the Victoria Hospitals Foundation.
“Nobody ever wants to be in a critical care environment when you’re dealing with a life-threatening illness. And oftentimes a hospital is the safest place for them. And Gordon understood that and knew that and to spend 12 days isolated without his family or visitors, the care teams became his family,” added Brohman.
Those looking to donate can do so on the Victoria Hospitals Foundation website.