It pains me to have to write this again but there are still a good amount of people that believe COVID-19 is a hoax. Newsflash: it isn’t.
This pandemic, which has been going on for months, has claimed the lives of thousands at this point. Others who have contracted it have been able to recover in various stages.
There have been those who are lucky and get back to normal pretty quickly. Not all are like that though. Take for instance Greg, pictured above next to his partner Matt and their adorable dog.
We profiled them two months ago while Greg was still in the hospital and in the middle of this horrific battle that affected not only his life but Matt’s and all of his loved ones.
Good news has happened since then where he’s headed home but still has a long road ahead of him. Matt was nice enough to once again take time out of his busy schedule to talk about how the man of his dreams is doing all this time later and to once again speak on all those nasty COVID disbelievers.
It’s been 2 months since we last spoke to you. How has Greg been doing?
In the last two months Greg has soared in his recovery, though there still remain a number of hurdles.The last time we spoke, he was just coming off the ventilator and spending his last days in the ICU before being moved to the rehabilitation ward. After seeing him in person just once in the prior seventy days, I was able to visit him every day, which made a huge difference for us both.
To our surprise, the rehabilitation ward even allowed me to bring our dog Viggo to visit Greg, which we did on a weekly basis. Having our family together for that first time after more than ten weeks apart was amazing.
At the time he was moved from the ICU, he could not sit up in bed on his own, he could only talk in a faint whisper, he had extreme fatigue, and was still on a feeding tube. Over the course of his thirty-five days in the rehab ward, he slowly gained the ability to sit, stand, and then took his first steps before long, albeit with the assistance of a walker.
While those physical aspects improved, his ability to speak and swallow did not. His medical team were hoping to ease him off the feeding tube sooner, but after prolonged intubation, his ability to swallow and speak were impacted, and he suffered from vocal cord paralysis.
He was able to have a nonsurgical (though rather uncomfortable) procedure where his vocal cords were injected with JUVEDERM filler, which allowed him to produce more sound. His speaking improved after this, though he is still at around 40-50% of what he used to be volume-wise, and does not sound like himself.
Soon after this, he was able to beat the final obstacle to him being released from the hospital: the ability to swallow, though he was limited to thickened liquids and puréed foods.
The hospital made him eat a puréed tuna sandwich the morning his feeding tube came out. If he could eat that, it proved he could get enough calories to sustain himself, and he managed to do so—he’s far braver than I would be!
Within a few days of the tuna sandwich ordeal, he was discharged, and as we wheeled him out of the hospital, he was given an ovation in the lobby by much of the hospital staff; he was one of the longest COVID-19 patients in the country, and certainly the longest from the hospital.
It was incredibly moving for us both, and after getting him into the car, we pulled off our masks and kissed for the first time since before he was admitted to the hospital on March 26, 2020. Now that he has been home, we have worked hard on increasing his mobility, increasing his weight, regaining the ability to swallow properly, and building up lung capacity.
He is now 229 pounds, after being as low as approximately 192 pounds in the ICU (he is 6’6 and was approximately 280-290 pounds prior to getting sick), walks without a walker, climbs the stairs on his own, and is even preparing meals for us again. While there remain some restrictions on what he can eat and drink, the ability to swallow is improving gradually.
Greg still speaks with a deep rasp, and there is a sizeable chance that he might speak like this for the rest of his life (though some surgical options remain that might give him a bit of a boost). We will not know for certain if the condition is permanent until we hit the one year mark after the initial assessments of his vocal cord paralysis this past June.
There also remain major issues with his left shoulder, though with physiotherapy, his strength and mobility are increasing, though at a very slow rate.
What has been the toughest thing for you in all of this?
The two biggest challenges have been the manner in which our names have been dragged through the mud by COVID-19 deniers, and PTSD relating to Greg’s time in the ICU.
My husband and I live in a beautiful home at the foot of the mountains, relatively close to the sea, just outside of downtown Vancouver. Greg has devoted thirty-six years of his life to the practice of medicine—to helping other people—and yet, people have repeatedly accused us of fabricating our story as paid “crisis actors” by rat-licking, anti-maskers on various forums. Not only do we not need the money (we live quite comfortably), why in the hell would we put ourselves and our families through such trauma for cash we do not need?
We had several people allege that Greg was sick because of HIV/AIDS (because we appeared on television as a gay couple). Also there was a gay man from Spain who alleged that Greg was not actually sick because of COVID-19, he was hospitalized because Greg and I constantly use meth and go on five-day benders (which could not be farther from the truth).
A common thread in these deniers is a lack of humanity or empathy—we have lived it firsthand. On the PTSD side of things, one would think that having my husband home and improving drastically would be all I would need after getting through such a challenging time.
Unfortunately, all it takes is the mention of the word “Thursday” (the day of the week he was admitted), reading something about the month of April (when he nearly passed multiple times), or hugging him and feeling all of his protruding bones, and suddenly I am a complete mess.
After having so many people applaud my strength during Greg’s time in the hospital, I feel like a fraud for having complete meltdowns during what have been far gentler times and calmer waters since he has come home.
Furthermore what has been his biggest challenges in adjusting to this new normal?
Greg has always been a fiercely independent guy. After needing help constantly during his time in the hospital, and initially when we got home, he struggles to ask for it and feels guilty when he needs it.
He also missed months of the outside world when he was in the hospital. That world has changed and he had to learn things about queuing to enter a store, walking the correct way down one-way aisles, avoiding handshakes etc., that we all got to learn more gradually.
Lastly, he also struggles with seeing how many people are still not taking measures to avoid the fate we suffered. It hurts and disturbs him on a very personal level when people are not practicing social distancing or wearing masks in group settings.
I know you both have an adorable dog. Do you think they’ve noticed the differences in Greg
Newly anointed hairy nurse and support dog extraordinaire, Viggo? He has definitely noticed differences in Greg. Just moments ago I tried to climb on top of Greg in bed to give him a hug, and Viggo started barking to make sure I was not hurting his dad!
When people come over, he is definitely a lot more protective too, and overall he sticks quite close to Greg. He also seems to be very fascinated when Greg is doing his physiotherapy.
We are now, state side, in month 5 of COVID being in our lives. Do you think people still aren’t taking it seriously all this time later?
I would say that overall people are taking COVID-19 more seriously, though there is certainly an increasing degree of COVID-fatigue, even amongst those who have been following guidelines more rigorously.
While I remain worried about people suffering the same trial as us, I am also empathetic toward those who are having their livelihoods stripped, especially in regions where there is little-to-no safety net for those out of work.
I think that if we could mandate better compliance with mask-wearing and other guidelines, we could see the economy open up further. That said, there are a lot of people who would rather die or risk other people’s lives than wear a piece of fucking fabric on their faces.
What are you hopeful for in regards to Greg’s recovery? Do you think he will be able to get back to where he was?
With time I think that Greg should be able to recover to somewhere near his prior baseline on most fronts. The jury is out on the vocal cords and use of his left arm.
Given the amount of damage to his lungs, I would have thought that the prognosis would be incredibly grim, but after a CT scan a few weeks ago, we were thrilled to learn that he is improving far quicker than anticipated. He still has a large abscess in his right lung that is healing, but when compared to the prior medical images just weeks before his release and to when they first discovered the abscess back in April, everything looks very promising (both the COVID-related damage and the damage from the necrotizing pneumonia/abscess).
He still gets very tired and short of breath after a bit of exertion, but the medical team overseeing his recovery remain quite optimistic, and we continue to see improvements every week.
I’m asking you this again as I feel like it needs to be answered one more time. What do you have to say to people who think COVID is still a hoax?
It was hard enough reading about people (including your bumbling president) calling this a hoax without any evidence to back it up, but to have people piss on the graves of hundreds of thousands across the globe who have now died because of this scourge, is beyond angering.
And while I fully expected a bit of backlash for going public with our story, the manner in which people have tried to slander us has been incredibly frustrating. There is literally no hope for the majority of these people (aka plague rats, rat-lickers, covidiots). Engaging with them in any kind of debate just gives their fire more fuel.
Lead by example, shun the deniers (not shame), and make the politicians who downplayed this crisis pay at the polling stations. That is how we win. And while I would still encourage those calling COVID-19 a hoax to sit on something girthy, hard, and riddled with shards of glass, I will do my best to ignore them.