Regina man awakens from 5-week COVID-related coma in time for son's birth

Doctors didn't think Hien Thach had a good chance of survival following a COVID-19 diagnosis. After five weeks in a coma, he awakened to his wife's prayer: that he would one day meet his unborn son.

Doctors told Hien Thach's wife, who is seven months pregnant, that her husband was unlikely to survive

Three weeks ago, Hien Thach woke up from a coma resulting from complications due to COVID-19. Doctors told his wife, Tina, who is seven months pregnant with their first child, that it was unlikely Thach would awaken. (Hien Thach)

A Regina man whose wife is seven months pregnant will get the chance to be a father after recovering from a five-week long COVID-19 related coma.

Hien Thach was hospitalized at Regina General Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 25. 

The second day he was admitted, Thach went into a coma after experiencing seizures, difficulty breathing and a high fever. Doctors told his wife, Tina, who is due to give birth to a son in August, that it was unlikely Thach would awaken. 

"During that time, there isn't a moment in the day or night that I am not scared," Tina, who speaks Vietnamese, said through a translator. 

"I'm very scared that the baby I'm carrying won't have a father."

Tina, Thach's wife, feared her husband would die without meeting their unborn son. She is due to give birth on Aug. 8. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Tina would pray every hour for her husband to wake up.

Han Le, Tina's boss and best friend, started a GoFundMe to help Tina. More than $13,000 was raised and was initially earmarked for funeral expenses. Others donated diapers and baby supplies.

Thach woke up at the end of May. His seizures stopped, but his fever remained high. Doctors and nurses would ask him questions, like if he knew who his wife was, and his eyes would meet Tina's. 

Tina told Thach, who had always wanted a son and had even picked out a name prior to his illness, that they were expecting a boy. 

"She told him, 'You have a boy and you need to fight for him and come home with me and your son. We're waiting for you,' " Le said. "He understood that and he cried."

Thach gradually improved. His fever broke and eventually he was able to eat solid foods again and began talking. 

He's now recovering at Regina's Wascana Rehab Centre.

"How I'm feeling is happiness and the feeling that there isn't anything more that I value than my husband returning," Tina said. "I just need that my son has a father and that my son is born healthy, then I will be happy in life."

Thach talks with with wife Tina and their friend Han Le via Facetime from the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre, where he is recovering from his coma. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Thach family pays it forward

The family is so appreciative that they plan to return the money donated to them back to the health-care professionals who helped save Thach's life.

"She just wants to thank everyone who helped her and give it to the hospital. They work so hard for the whole time during COVID," said Le, who organized the GoFundMe. "A lot of people need help, that's why she wants to give that money back."

The family is now waiting for Thach to get well enough so he can deliver the cheque to Regina General Hospital himself. 

Han Le, left, and Tina are all smiles as they FaceTime with Thach. The family is so grateful that they have decided to donate money from a GoFundMe back to the health-care professionals who helped save Thach's life. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Phong Le, who is not related to Han Le, had planned to donate $5,000 to Thach through his humanitarian group Quỹ Bác Ái Regina to help him with his recovery. In addition, the humanitarian group raised $5,390 from the community to donate directly to Thach.

He said he supports Thach's decision to pay it forward and will instead donate the money to help others.

"He feels so good about the supports the community put together. The health-care system needs money more than him right now and he wants to give back the money to the organization to help others in a more difficult situation," said Phong Le.

"He's not just thinking about himself, but he's in this situation and he's thinking about other people, too."

Phong Le, who is the chairman of Quỹ Bác Ái Regina, a humanitarian group, said the Vietnamese community came together to help the Thach family. (Richard Agecoutay/CBC)

Vietnamese community unites 

Phong Le said it's not unusual for Vietnamese people to come together during times of need. 

"Even though we have a small Vietnamese community in Regina, in a situation like this there's so much love, caring and bonding." 

He said they have been praying every night for Thach and others who continue to suffer from COVID-19. 

Those who spent months praying for Thach's recovery, and holding out hope he would awaken to meet his son, said it wouldn't have happened without the health-care workers. 

"Tina went to the hospital a lot," Han Le said. "She saw the worst cases there. And doctors and nurses work so hard. That's why she wants to donate the money. A lot of people need help right now."


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