Nipissing First Nation man reflects on letting his guard down and catching COVID

A 64-year-old retired police officer who caught COVID-19 and spent two weeks in intensive care is warning people to keep their guard up against the virus.

It's been about 10 days since Ken Dokis left the North Bay hospital, where he was on a ventilator

Ken Dokis with his grandson Maximus Migizi. Dokis is now recovering at home after being infected with COVID-19. (Ken Dokis/Submitted)

A 64-year-old retired police officer who caught COVID-19 and spent two weeks in intensive care is warning people to keep their guard up against the virus.

Nipissing First Nation's Ken Dokis is among the roughly 3,400 people in northeastern Ontario who have contracted COVID-19 and is grateful to be one of the many who have recovered.

He says he believes he caught the virus from his son, who is not a part of their household. Dokis speculates his son caught it at work.

"I let my guard down to give my son a hug," he said, noting that they weren't wearing masks.

That was on March 25.

A few days later he knew something was wrong.

"I suffered from body aches, severe headaches, fever and a lot of flu like symptoms," he said.

Dokis got tested and learned he was positive. His son fell ill with COVID and battled it for nine days. Several others in his family unit were infected with the virus as well.

"I felt somewhat fearful, somewhat disappointed with myself and stressed, because I knew just from listening to the news that I probably was in for quite a struggle," he said.

After the fifth day, Dokis says his breathing became laboured.

"I could no longer lay down to sleep. I had to pretty much sit up to be able to sleep so I could catch my breath. There was just total pain and discomfort pretty much all day, all night."

'Definitely in trouble'

The night of April 6, close to two weeks after his first symptoms appeared, Dokis says he started having chest pains and breathing became "a struggle."

Dokis called his son for help. As soon as he arrived, he took one look at his father and called 911.

"What I didn't realize at that time was I could barely move. I was losing strength and I had difficulty going down the stairs to my front door. He actually had to put an arm around my shoulders to hold me steady,"  Dokis recalled.

"It took every ounce of strength that I had at that time to get into the ambulance. And I think it dawned on me there that I was definitely in trouble."

He was taken to the North Bay hospital, where he eventually wound up on a ventilator in the intensive care unit for almost two weeks.

"There was a point where I made peace with myself, to prepare myself, that if I wasn't going to make it through this, that everything was going to be OK," Dokis said.

"And I think that brought me some personal peace of mind."

No family could visit, but he received a lot of texts on his phone.

"Family and friends telling me, 'Ken, we're praying for you'," he said.

"They were doing special things for me. And I truly appreciate what my family and friends did. Their prayers and their thoughts and their ceremonies were a huge help on the spiritual side of my healing."

No shame, no blame

It's been about 10 days since Dokis was released from hospital, and he says he's feeling improvements with each day.

"I've been told that problems can persist for at least a month, maybe more."

His message to others sounds familiar, but he says it's worth repeating.

"Keep your guards up, wash your hands, wear your mask. Do everything you can that way. Maintain your bubble," he said.

"And should your bubble be infiltrated, don't feel guilty, don't feel shame and don't blame. It's an intelligent virus and anybody can get it."

64-year-old retired police officer Ken Dokis is home now after spending two weeks being treated for COVID-19 in North Bay hospital, during which there were moments he thought the 'intelligent virus' would win. 10:01

With files from Erik White and Markus Schwabe


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