LaSalle resident shares health-care worker husband's COVID-19 journey, says disease like 'wildfire'

A community in LaSalle took to the streets on Saturday to offer support for a neighbour and Detroit, Mich. health-care worker who recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

'It's doesn't let up,' says Heidi Robertston

Torry Robertson, left, tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. Torry's wife Heidi, right, says she hopes others take the illness seriously. (Submitted by Heidi Robertson)

LaSalle resident Heidi Robertson says her family's firsthand experience with COVID-19 began on March 25, when her husband Torry Robertson first began developing symptoms.

At the time, the 45-year-old Torry — who works as an intensive care unit, ER and interventional radiology nurse at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, Mich. — simply had a fever and a scratchy throat. 

Torry, who has no pre-existing condition other than high-blood pressure, visited Windsor Regional Hospital's Ouellette Campus emergency department for a COVID-19 test. When he returned home, Heidi said, his body was aching, he had fever, and heaviness in his chest. 

On Saturday March 28, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit called the Robertsons to inform them that Torry had tested positive for COVID-19.

Torry Robertson is an intensive care unit, ER and interventional radiology nurse at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit, Mich. (Submitted by Heidi Robertson)

"He had been quarantined to our bedroom, just going from the bedroom to the bathroom and vice versa," Heidi said. "When that happened, I sent my younger daughter to stay with my sister and my older daughter was here with me."

Concerned about his shortness of breath, Torry was taken to hospital in an ambulance the same day he tested positive, and was told by doctors that he was developing asthma. 

Heidi picked up her husband on Sunday around 5:30 a.m.

"After he got home from the hospital, the vomiting and diarrhea was constant," she said. "He was all through the night, and then Monday morning, I called the ambulance and they brought him to the hospital and put him on fluids, Tylenol and whatever else they had to put him on."

I don't sleep well. I don't eat well. I don't have an appetite.- Heidi Robertson

Torry Robertson spent four days on the respiratory floor of Windsor Regional Hospital's Met Campus. 

On Thursday, April 2, hospital staff called Heidi to tell her that Torry was being moved to the intensive care unit because he needed to receive oxygen through a ventilator. 

A few days later, on Sunday, April 5, Torry was taken to Windsor Regional's Ouellette Campus to receive dialysis for kidney failure. 

"He did take a few steps back," Heidi said. "They had to put the ventilator up again and it was a little rough."

Due to his ongoing condition, Torry Robertson has received ventilator and dialysis care. (Submitted by Heidi Robertson)

According to Heidi, a doctor at the Ouellette Campus called her and told her to mentally prepare for the worst.

"That was a really bad day," she said. 

As of Tuesday morning, Torry is back on a ventilator, receiving 50 per cent oxygen.

"They were able to get two litres of fluid using the dialysis machine," Heidi said.

LISTEN | Heidi Robertson shares her family's experience on CBC Radio's Afternoon Drive:

A LaSalle woman is urging people not to underestimate the threat of COVID-19. Heidi Robertson's husband, Torry is in intensive care at Windsor Regional Hospital after contracting the illness. He's a nurse in Detroit and likely came down with the virus while at work. Robertson spoke with Afternoon Drive reporter Jonathan Pinto. 9:04

Heidi said she's been in pure agony throughout this entire process, going to bed scared of receiving a call in the middle of the night. 

"I don't sleep well, I don't eat well, I don't have an appetite," she said. "When I have to call the hospital because I need an update, I'm trembling from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. I've never felt such stress in my life."

As for where Torry might have contracted COVID-19, Heidi said he believes he caught the virus from a patient he was working with in Detroit who was later diagnosed with COVID-19.

Now she wants others to take the disease seriously. 

"When it attacks you ... when it attacks the system, it's like wildfire," she said. "It's doesn't let up."

"Everyone is just praying for him that he pulls through."

Neighbours offer sounds of support

When neighbours learned of Torry's condition, they decided to show their support for the Roberston family by making noise with everything ranging from noisemakers to pots and pans to bells. 

"We decided that on April 4, Saturday night at 8:30 p.m., we would come out in the neighbourhood, obviously practising social distancing," said Kim Lidstone, who lives next door to the Robertsons.

"We had signs showing them that Torry was a hero … and we were standing with them, standing together and just trying to show them how much we appreciated the sacrifice that the family's making, along with the sacrifice Torry is making."

WATCH | LaSalle neighbours offer support for the Robertson family:

Neighbours took to the streets on Saturday, April 4 to celebrate a Detroit health-care worker living in LaSalle who tested positive for COVID-19 in late March. 1:16

Heidi described the act as a "really nice surprise."

"To see everyone supporting us was really touching and it just melted our hearts," she said. "I don't even know how they organized it or how it all came to be. Just a couple of our neighbours got together I guess and kind of texted everyone."

Lidstone said she was able to organize her neighbours because she sent out notes — placing them on people's windshields — a few weeks ago, "just giving my contact information, my email address and my phone number so that people could be in contact."

Neighbours of the Robertsons gathered on the evening of Saturday, April 4 to show their support for Torry and Heidi Robertson, as well as their children. (Submitted by Kim Lidstone)

"This was back … before we had any cases of COVID-19 here in Windsor," she said. 

With files from Jonathan Pinto


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