The Current

He thought he was invincible. Now this Ontario man is recovering after COVID-19 put him on a ventilator

Richard Reid, an athletic 63-year-old, believes he caught the novel coronavirus after travelling to Miami in February for a sailing competition. Within weeks, he was put on a ventilator — and it saved his life.

'It's very real when it gets you. It's frightening,' says Toronto-based businessman Richard Reid

Richard Reid, 63, was diagnosed with COVID-19 after travelling to Miami. He says that he felt 'invincible' from the disease. (Submitted by Richard Reid)

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An Ontario man recovering from COVID-19 after being intubated says "if it can take me down, it can take you down."

Richard Reid, an athletic 63-year-old, believes he caught the novel coronavirus after travelling to Miami in February for a sailing competition. 

Despite growing news reports about the viral threat, Reid recalls thinking that he was "invincible" from the infection before journeying to Florida.

But within days of returning to Canada in mid-March, Reid was confirmed to have the virus.

"It was a very slow progression of … aches and pains, a headache, then the cough came in," said his wife, Lori De Luca Reid, in an interview with The Current's Matt Galloway.

"It just progressed every day with a new symptom and it became more and more serious." 

Initially, the couple thought the symptoms would be just like a "regular flu," but instead, De Luca Reid says they worsened "like a bat out of hell."

Three days after he was first diagnosed, Reid was taken to hospital, and given a chest X-ray, as his cough worsened. 

"I'm typically an optimist, so I went, 'OK, I still don't feel terrible.' I was certainly a long way from thinking about how it was eventually going to turn," Reid said in a phone interview with Galloway on Monday.

On March 30, 11 days later, he was intubated.

'He's holding his own'

De Luca Reid says she found out her husband was being put on a ventilator when, struggling to speak, he phoned her from his hospital bed.

"The nurse snatched the phone from him and, rather abruptly, told me, 'Your husband is being intubated and I've got to go,'" she recalled. 

"At that point I'd been holding up. I hadn't shed a tear because I had all this hope. That is the moment that I have to say I broke down."

Though the couple have been living under the same roof since Reid was diagnosed with COVID-19, De Luca says she has remained uninfected thanks to physical distancing. (Submitted by Richard Reid )

That phone call is the last thing Reid remembers before he was partially sedated and intubated. 

"I remember coming to [the following day] and having all this mechanical stuff around me — and now my mode of communication is a whiteboard with my nurse and my ICU doctor," he said.

Though he once felt "invincible," Reid said that seeing himself surrounded by tubes and breathing equipment made his worry skyrocket.

"With all this stuff down your throat, your throat dries out, it's very sore, and your imagination is going crazy," he added.

The same day Reid called his wife before he was put on a ventilator, De Luca Reid drove to the hospital.

Unable to go inside, she stood outside looking up into his third-floor ICU window as doctors and nurses treated her husband, standing alongside other family members of COVID-19 patients.

That night, she says hospital staff wouldn't make any promises for his recovery. 

"They just said he's holding his own," she recalled.

Recovering, but challenges remain

Over the following 72 hours, the Toronto-based businessman began to improve and, not long after, he was taken off the ventilator.

"When the tube was inserted, part of my emotional reaction was 'I've lost.' And so then the feelings of dread came in," Reid recalled. 

"But when I got extubated, it was like I'd won."

On Tuesday, Reid's 14-day quarantine will be complete. 'I can actually say, 'Honey, give me a hug,'' said De Luca. (Submitted by Richard Reid)

Now recovering at home, Reid says he's getting stronger every day but struggles with sleep.

"I'm still a little bit shell shocked, so a lot of the scenes cut through my head while I'm trying to get to sleep," he told Galloway.

"It's very real when it gets you. It's frightening," he added.

Though the couple have continued to live under the same roof since his diagnosis, De Luca Reid says she's remained COVID-19 negative by physically distancing and taking extra precautions when delivering him food.

Monday marked Reid's final day of a 14-day quarantine since leaving the hospital and the pair are looking forward to what comes next.

"Tomorrow is the day where I can actually say, 'Honey, give me a hug,'" she said.

Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Samira Moyheddin.

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