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'A second chance': Ontario woman beats COVID-19 after 2 weeks in a coma

Bradford woman Julie Lingan spent two weeks on a ventilator and in a coma after contracting COVID-19, but now is back home with her family.

Julie Lingan of Bradford, Ont. is now back home with her family

Julie Lingan spent a month in hospital and two weeks in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator after contracting COVID-19. Now, the 39-year-old is back home with her family in Bradford, Ont. 7:00

When Julie Lingan was told she was going on a ventilator, her first thought was of her family.

The 39-year-old mother of two from Bradford, Ont. kept picturing her twins, Ysabelle and Edwin, as emotions bubbled inside her from a hospital bed at Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket, Ont.

"Who will take care of them? … How will they go on without their mother?" she wondered. Who would take them to appointments, to school, and plan their activities?

"Who will love them as much as I love them?" 

Thankfully, that question can go unanswered. After contracting COVID-19 and spending a month in hospital and two weeks in a medically-induced coma and on a ventilator, Lingan is back at home with her children and her husband, Mark.

"I'm really thankful that I have this second chance to be with my family … I'll enjoy every moment of it," she told CBC News.

The family's plight started when Mark fell ill last month. He first went to hospital on March 13 with a fever and a dry cough, and was initially told he had pneumonia, Lingan said.

Lingan is seen here with her kids, Ysabelle and Edwin. The twins are 4-years-old. (Submitted by Julie Lingan)

In the coming days, she developed similar symptoms. Lingan called public health, and spoke with a nurse who said she needed to go to the hospital.

"But still I don't have any help for the kids, so I waited for a day," she said. Her son has autism spectrum disorder, and is non-verbal.

Public health called again the next day and told her she absolutely had to go to hospital — even over the phone, the nurse could tell how serious her situation was.

Two hours after getting a COVID-19 test in hospital on March 17, Lingan's condition rapidly worsened. She couldn't even catch her breath while walking to get a chest x-ray.

Doctors gave her puffers, which helped for a day or two. She was told to use them when necessary — but soon, she was reaching for them 15 to 20 times an hour, just to breathe. Her temperature rose to 40 C.

Lingan's husband Mark, left, was the first to get sick. Though he tested positive for COVID-19, he did not have to be hospitalized. (Submitted by Julie Lingan)

On March 19, Lingan was placed in a medically-induced coma and intubated. She spent 14 days on a ventilator.

She still gets choked up telling the story.

"I get so emotional because it's a journey I will never forget," she said.      

According to the latest provincial figures issued Wednesday, 878 patients are now hospitalized with COVID-19, with 243 people in ICU and 192 on a ventilator.       

Doctors took Lingan off her ventilator on April 2. She woke in severe delirium. Any memories of what she'd been through were fleeting.

"I had a lot of hallucinations," she said. But as time went on, her condition improved. She was released from hospital on April 16.

Now back home with her family after a negative COVID-19 test, Lingan still can't do much of anything. She's exhausted, and has to walk with a cane. Even getting a shower is an ordeal.

Still, she's overjoyed to be home. Lingan's kids are thrilled to have their mother back too, even though they don't really understand the severity of what happened.

"When they picked me up, [my daughter] said, 'Mommy, what took you so long? I'm happy that we're a family again.'"

adam.carter@cbc.ca

About the Author

Adam Carter

Reporter

Adam Carter is a Newfoundlander who now calls Toronto home. He enjoys a good story and playing loud music. You can follow him on Twitter @AdamCarterCBC or drop him an email at adam.carter@cbc.ca.

With files from Sannah Choi

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