Jude Ratt knows one thing for sure: COVID-19 is real.
Starting in early December, he, his wife, their seven-year- old grandchild, two of his sisters, a nephew and his mother have all been stricken with the virus. Other extended family members have had it, too.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see a pandemic like this in my lifetime. It’s horrible,” said the La Ronge resident. “It’s opened my eyes. It’s shown me how fast things can change in a person’s life.”
Jude Ratt (right) his wife, Francis, and their grandchild, Xander.
Jude was the first of his family to develop symptoms in early December.
“I had sore lungs and shortness of breath. That’s what triggered them to test me for COVID,” said Jude.
Within two days, he learned he had COVID-19. His wife, Francis, and their grandson, Xander, were immediately tested, receiving a point-of-care rapid test for the virus. They found out within hours that they also had COVID-19.
No sooner did Jude’s immediate family learn they had COVID-19 than his 68-year-old mother, Nancy, who lives in Stanley Mission, begin to develop symptoms.
Nancy had been feeling weak and fatigued so her daughters contacted the Stanley Mission Health Centre. A nurse came to Nancy’s home to do an assessment. She saw that Nancy needed further care and brought her back to the clinic for treatment and to wait for an ambulance. The ambulance took Nancy to the La Ronge Health Centre, an hour’s drive south.
There, she was diagnosed with the virus and promptly transferred to Prince Albert’s Victoria Hospital.
The day after Nancy’s hospitalization, Jude’s sisters Sally Ratt, who lives in Stanley Mission with their mother, and Melinda Ratt, who lives in Sucker River, were tested for COVID-19 and found out they were positive, as was Sally’s 10-year-old son, Sheldon.
Of the entire Ratt family, Nancy was the most affected by the virus.
“Her respiratory system took a hit,” said Jude. “She had to be put on a ventilator right away. Everything was working against her, so she was fighting really hard.”
Because she couldn’t breathe on her own, she was intubated for the better part of her 12 or 13 day stay at Victoria Hospital.
She was transferred to Royal University Hospital (RUH) in Saskatoon on Dec. 24 when her throat began to close after the breathing tube had been removed and reinserted a couple of times. Upon arrival in Saskatoon, she received a tracheotomy, an incision in the windpipe made to relieve a breathing obstruction.
Jude didn’t see his mom till Dec. 27, once he had tested negative, his symptoms had cleared and he was no longer required to self-isolate.
“The whole time I was worried about her,” he said. “It was the first time I’d seen my mom like that. I had to break down. She’s been such a strong person all my life. To see her in that condition was heartbreaking.
“There were times she was barely hanging on,” he said.
Nancy wasn’t the only family member to be hospitalized. Francis, too, was admitted to Victoria Hospital where she spent 10 days.
“She had COVID pneumonia,” said Jude. “She wasn’t ventilated, but she was on oxygen.”
While Jude wasn’t hospitalized, “I was pretty sick. I had double pneumonia. I got antibiotics before everything got out of hand.”
His grandson had no symptoms.
Jude’s sisters and his nephew experienced several symptoms of the virus and were in isolation for about a month because their symptoms were taking a long time to resolve.
Jude said he doesn’t know where he and his family got COVID-19.
“We were very careful. We have always worn masks wherever we go. We only went to work and back home. I was the only one who went to the store and my grandchild went to school. We have sanitizer and masks in all the vehicles – we don’t mess around when it comes to precautions.”
Jude and his sisters say they now feel fully recovered from the virus.
His wife Francis’s recovery is taking a little longer. “She’s home now and back at work. We’re having to do breathing exercises to rebuild her lung capacity. She gets tired out fast. That’s her only lasting after-effect.”
His mom, although now COVID-free, is still at RUH. Her throat is still healing and her breathing continues to be supported through the tracheostomy, the opening at the front of the neck . She is alert but not yet fully aware.
Jude said he and his sister Sally call her unit twice a day to get a health update from staff. “If she keeps on this path, they will hopefully send her back to the hospital in La Ronge,” he said.
Although no one has told Jude they don’t believe COVID-19 is real, he sees people who go about their day as if it doesn’t exist. “I would like everybody to wake up and realize it’s real. It can kill.”
Jude said he’s always been a grateful person and going through COVID-19 has only strengthened his appreciation for others and for life. “I’d hate for anyone else to go through this. This is why I’ve made our story public on Facebook. I urge people to be careful. Take all precautions necessary. Help COVID go away.”
While the pandemic isn’t over, Jude is happy the vaccine has begun to arrive in La Ronge and is available for front-line workers and other high priority populations.
Although he knows he’s going to have to wait his turn, he won’t hesitate to get vaccinated when the time comes. “I will be as close to the front of the line as I can get.”