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Saskatchewan reaches record-high ICU admissions due to COVID-19

Matthew Cardinal spent nearly two weeks in a Saskatchewan intensive care unit (ICU) dealing with a COVID-19 variant as ICU beds continue to fill up throughout the province.

The 34-year-old first experienced symptoms on March 15 and was taken to the Regina General Hospital a week later.

He was put on a ventilator to help his breathing. Doctors also found a small blood clot in his chest. Cardinal was taken off a ventilator at the end of last week, but is still in hospital and requires oxygen.

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“It was difficult, very difficult. A lot of sleepless nights,” said Dianne Desjarlais-Cardinal, Matthew’s mother. “Words can’t (explain) what was going through in my mind.”

On Monday, the province reported there were 47 infected patients in ICU, which has reached a record high. Thirty-one are located in Regina.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority told Global News two weeks ago that Regina had 37 ICU beds in total.

Dr. Alexander Wong, an infectious disease physician in Regina, said the growing number of patients requiring intensive care in Regina is making it hard on hospitals and staff.

Click to play video: Families of young COVID-19 ICU patients speaking out

“We’re seeing a level of strain now in our ICUs where there is almost no capacity left and where we have a large number of people who are not technically in ICU, who are on hospital wards, but who are requiring essentially full oxygen support short of mechanical ventilation,” Wong said.

“We’ve never been in a situation like this over the course of the pandemic. We’ve opened up multiple search beds and despite that, we are nearly out of beds. It is a critically serious situation for us.

“Regina is a leading indicator of what the rest of the province is going to see. It is only a matter of time.”

On March 30, the SHA said there are 75 ICU beds across the province, and they were at about 67 per cent capacity with surge beds open and being utilized.

Read more:
‘It’s just surreal at this point’ — Families of young COVID-19 ICU patients speak out

“People are just really sick and they don’t recover quickly. It is a slow, agonizingly, painfully slow process to watch people who are otherwise completely healthy slowly get better,” Wong said.

“You just cannot take them off of life support. You cannot get them off the ventilator for weeks sometimes.”

Desjarlais-Cardinal said although her son is doing better, there are still a lot of question marks going forward.

“I didn’t know how this was going to play out. I didn’t know one day from another, hour by hour, if he was going to continue to be here with us,” Desjarlais-Cardinal said.

“Right now, it’s one day at a time. I can see the progress right now, but tomorrow I have no idea.”

Click to play video: Officials urge COVID-19 caution over holiday weekend as Saskatchewan adapts

Desjarlais-Cardinal said the experience has shown the reality of the situation and the importance of following public health measures.

“I don’t wish this upon anybody,” she said. “I just want people to take any necessary precautions.”

Eight people in Saskatoon are receiving intensive care related to COVID-19. Eight more reside in the province’s north-central, central-east and south-central regions.

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