Gordon Viberg was the fifth person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Provided by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation)

Gordon Viberg was the fifth person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. (Provided by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation)

Islander awakens from the ordeal of COVID-19

Gordon Viberg, Royal Jubilee’s ‘patient 5’ recalls being so weak he couldn’t get out of bed

After spending 12 days in a hospital intensive care unit battling COVID-19, doctors and nurses lined the hallway to applaud the discharge of Gordon Viberg.

“They were so happy and relieved,” said the 75-year-old Victoria resident.

“It was a powerful moment.”

Viberg was the fifth person to be diagnosed with the coronavirus at the Royal Jubilee Hospital back in March. He had returned from a birthday ski trip and was isolating for 10 days when he started to notice “what felt like a sinus cold,” followed by a “brutal” headache.

“I kept getting worse – my temperature was climbing and I was delirious.”

When Viberg’s temperature spiked to over 40 degrees, his wife, a retired registered nurse, called their family doctor who recommended calling 911 immediately.

The next thing Viberg remembers is waking up in the ICU, finding out he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

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His breathing was getting worse, and his blood oxygen absorption levels had dropped to 72 per cent. The situation became even bleaker when an X-ray showed Viberg also had pneumonia.

Dr. Grant McIntyre, medical lead and division head for ICUs in the South Island region for Island Health, said the medical equipment in the High Acuity Unit has made a big difference during the pandemic. (Provided by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation)

“I met Gordon in March when he was admitted to an isolated room,” said Dr. Grant McIntyre, medical lead and division head for ICUs in the South Island region for Island Health.

“Our care teams quickly made a connection between his recent travel history and severe flu-like symptoms. Less than 24 hours after being admitted, lab results confirmed our suspicions.”

Over the next several days, antibiotics helped lower his temperature but his oxygen absorption levels were still low. Viberg was so weak he couldn’t’ get out of bed.

“Despitethediscomfort,Iwasdeterminedtothinkpositivelyandgethometomyfamily.BeingintheICUfor12dayswasincrediblylonelyandisolating.Mywifeandsoncouldn’tvisit;Icouldonlytalktothembyphone,”hesaid.

But even through their masks, the hospital staff’s positivity helped him keep calm through his stay at RJH.

After spending a total of 16 days in hospital, Viberg was walked out of the front doors by the same nurse who admitted him more than two weeks earlier.

“That was an amazing feeling.”

According to McIntyre, the equipment for the interim High Acuity Unit funded by the Victoria Hospitals Foundation in April, has greatly increased patient safety.

“Not only do we have more capacity, we have a new safe place where patients can be monitored and receive more intensive nursing,” he said.

For more information on the Victoria Hospitals Foundation, or to make a donation, visit victoriahf.ca.

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