Montreal doctor hospitalized with COVID-19 describes ‘rollercoaster’ experience

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A Montreal doctor who was hospitalized earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19 has described his “rollercoaster” experience battling the coronavirus as eye-opening, saying a lot about the respiratory disease remains unknown.

Dr. Earl Rubin, division director of pediatric infectious diseases at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre, came into what he called “low-risk contact” while on the job on Dec. 28 with a co-worker who had COVID-19.

“We were together for about 25 to 30 minutes, both wearing masks and when I measured it, in the end, we were five and a half feet apart instead of six feet apart,” Rubin told Global News.

“So we still had all the measures to mitigate transmission.”

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However, a week later, he developed a fever and tested positive for the virus. As his condition deteriorated, Rubin says his colleagues strongly encouraged him to seek medical care.

Rubin returned to work on Monday

Rubin returned to work on Monday. Photo provided by Earl Rubin

The 58-year-old was hospitalized for five days at the MUHC’s Royal Victoria Hospital, where he was given the anti-viral drug remdesivir and anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone.

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“They call it the COVID coaster for a reason. There’s a lot of ups and downs in terms of clinical symptoms.”

“I felt very unwell and very weak, with no appetite and some gastrointestinal symptoms,” Rubin recalled.

With hospitals bursting with patients, the pandemic has taken a physical and mental toll on health-care workers and their families across the country.

Globally, thousands of front-line workers have also been infected and have succumbed to the novel coronavirus.

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For the past year, Rubin has been seeing patients, tracing COVID-19 contacts, as well as putting other infection control protocols in place related to the novel coronavirus.

But after being on the receiving end of the disease, he says his personal experience has given him a fresh perspective on the pandemic.  

“There is so much more about COVID that we don’t understand … and it’s constantly evolving.”

“What I’ve learned is that what we tell you with a certain degree of confidence today about COVID may be different tomorrow.”

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While still not feeling 100 per cent, Rubin returned to work on Monday after more than a three-week bout with the virus.

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“I consider myself fortunate, but I wouldn’t want to go through it again and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” he said.

Quebec is the only province to implement a nightly curfew in a bid to limit the spread of the virus.

The province is considering easing some of its lockdown measures for certain regions that aren’t as hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis starting in February.

Premier Francois Legault said on Tuesday the measures in place are helping to bring down the number of new COVID-19 cases, but that hospitalizations, despite beginning to dip, remain high — especially in Montreal.

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— With files from Global News’ Kalina Laframboise

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