'A good kid': Family mourns son, 32, who died of COVID-19

Jevin Potvin died of a brain bleed this May after being diagnosed with COVID-19. At only 32, he may have been the youngest person in Ottawa to have succumbed to complications from the novel coronavirus.

Jevin Potvin may be Ottawa's youngest pandemic victim so far

Jevin Potvin is seen in a photo taken roughly six months before his death this May from COVID-19 complications. Potvin struggled with drug addiction for most of his adult life and lost the use of his legs due to a blood infection about five years ago. (Submitted by Dan Potvin)

Jevin Potvin died just as his father thought he might finally be turning a corner.

For more than half his life, the 32-year-old had battled addictions to opioids and other drugs. He'd been using a wheelchair for roughly the past five years after a blood infection from a needle damaged his spine.

Even so, right up until the end, his father, Dan Potvin, remained guardedly optimistic. His son had been clean for months, and while he was in hospital for his myriad health problems, he was set to be discharged in late April to the family's farm in rural south Ottawa.

Before that could happen, Jevin came down with a fever. The doctors said it was COVID-19. Given his already compromised immune system, he was placed in isolation.

They said there was nothing they could do, no surgeries. So the Sunday, they pulled the plug and that was that.- Dan Potvin

On May 3, two weeks after the COVID-19 diagnosis, the hospital called Dan Potvin and said his son was non-responsive.

"They did a brain scan and they discovered he had a bleed on his brain from the medication, because I guess he was on heavy blood thinners for the COVID. It's one of the things they do," said Potvin from the farm late last month. "And he never woke up."

"They said there was nothing they could do, no surgeries. So the Sunday, they pulled the plug and that was that."

Dan Potvin holds his granddaughter Wren Lee — Jevin's niece — on the steps of their south Ottawa farmhouse. He says his son was a 'typical young man' who enjoyed skateboarding and going fishing with his friends. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

'Before his time'

Jevin Potvin died "before his time," his father says. And when it comes to COVID-19, the statistics back that up.

As of Sunday, Nov. 8, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) had attributed 341 deaths locally to COVID-19.

More than two-thirds of those deaths, 250 in all, have been people 80 and older. Fifty-one people in their 70s have died of COVID-19, 29 people in their 60s and nine people in their 50s.

Among 30-somethings, OPH, which doesn't identify individuals who've died from coronavirus, has only connected one local death to COVID-19. That's in line with the national numbers: Health Canada's ongoing tabulation of COVID-19 statistics has confirmed only 17 deaths nationwide among people in the 30-39 age group, or roughly 0.2 per cent of the country's overall death toll. 

Immunocompromised individuals are significantly more likely to develop serious complications from COVID-19, however. Jevin's family doesn't doubt that his bad health — he'd had back and heart surgeries since losing the use of his legs, and was in near-constant pain — contributed to the complications that caused his death.

Nevertheless, before he died, they still held out hope.

"You could see it in his face. You can just tell, right, when he's not using. The last six months, he was doing really well. So I had hope that ... he'll be able to get on with his life," Dan Potvin said.

"It looked like he was going to beat it."

Dan Potvin holds his granddaughter as they walk on the farm. Jevin Potvin used to help out with the family's cash crop operation when he was a boy, picking up stones and driving the tractor. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

'A good kid'

While Jevin Potvin's family is up front about his struggles with addiction and the trouble that got him into, they also remember him — in his father's words — as a "typical young man."

Jevin would help out on the farm as a youngster, picking stones and driving the tractors. He went to high school in nearby Kars, and he liked skateboarding and going on fishing trips. 

His younger sister Jessica recalled how much he loved the animated television series Beavis and Butthead, and how he'd often impersonate the two main characters.

"His spirit was a jokester. And you know, he [always] wanted to have fun," she said. "His life was very troubled, but that's what I try to hold on [to] as his true memory."

In more recent years, Jevin had taken to posting YouTube videos reviewing the various Lego sets he'd completed. Before he died, he expressed an interest in going back to school to study architecture, his father said.

"He got lost somewhere along the way," Dan Potvin said. "He was a good kid."

Dan Potvin says his son's death from COVID-19 complications belies the seriousness of the pandemic: 'It's not a joke, the COVID ... a lot of people don't take it serious.' (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Over the next few weeks, CBC Ottawa will be telling the stories of some of the people who have died of COVID-19. If you've lost someone to the pandemic and want to share more about what they meant to you, please let us know by sending us an email.

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