British Columbia

He spent 11 months in hospital recovering from COVID-19. But he's made it home in time for Christmas

After almost a year spent in hospital fighting COVID-19 and its related health complications, a Kamloops, B.C., man returned home last week, just in time for Christmas. 

Willie Corpuz, 67, spent 5 months in the ICU and another 6 in rehabilitation

Willie Corpuz was welcomed home last week after almost a year-long stay at the hospital. (Raquel de Guia)

After almost a year spent in hospital fighting COVID-19 and its related health complications, a Kamloops, B.C., man returned home last week, just in time for Christmas.

Willie Corpuz, 67, tested positive for COVID-19 on Jan. 21.

A few days later, he had difficulty breathing and was sent to the intensive care unit at Royal Inland Hospital, where he remained for five months.

Joy Bandoquillo, a family friend, said Corpuz's doctors were worried he wouldn't survive. 

"Doctors in the ICU said that with how he's looking, there's no way for him to bounce back from it."

Doctors considered a lung transplant for Corpuz, but a blockage in his arteries meant it wasn't a viable option, Bandoquillo said.

Then in June, Corpuz's condition took a turn. 

His health started to improve and he was able to move to the hospital's rehabilitation centre, his friend said. 

Unable to walk, speak, swallow, or use his hands, Corpuz spent six months relearning these vital physical functions. 

Bandoquillo, who doesn't have any relatives living in Canada, considers Corpuz and his family her own chosen family.

"He's such a kind person, he treats me like his daughter."

She said Corpuz's twin daughters visited him every day in the ICU, and one of his daughters or his wife would sleep in the hospital with him every night. 

"He was getting all his strength from his children ... their dad is their best friend," she said.

Multiple COVID outbreaks at Royal Inland Hospital prevented Bandoquillo and Corpuz's family from visiting him over the past month. Bandoquillo said everyone was ecstatic when they found out he would be coming home for the holidays. 

"We never verbalized that we hope he comes for Christmas because we don't want to be disappointed, but he came home for it," said Bandoquillo. 

A new addition

One of Corpuz's daughters gave birth to a baby girl in April, while he was still in the ICU. He met his granddaughter briefly during a Thanksgiving visit, and has been able to spend more time with her since returning home.

"I think that helped him have a reason to work hard with his therapy … we worked so hard to be where he is at now, he practised so much with his walking, sitting, standing," said Bandoquillo. 

Corpuz's granddaughter was born in April, while he was in the ICU. (Raquel de Guia)

Corpuz can now speak, eat, swallow, and walk with the help of a cane, his friend said. 

He is now also fully vaccinated, Bandoquillo said. He was not vaccinated when he got COVID-19 in January 2021 because his age group was still weeks away from being eligible. 

Corpuz's family held a walk-by parade on Sunday. He sat on his front steps as friends came by to welcome him home. 

"We want him to see how much he is loved. We wanted him to see that everybody was praying for him," said Bandoquillo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Gomez is a CBC writer in Vancouver. You can contact her at michelle.gomez@cbc.ca.

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