A COVID-19 miracle worker who had to relearn to walk … and eat

Jacques Goupil almost never woke up. On three occasions, his doctors predicted his death, not knowing what to do to help him beat the disease. After 40 days in a coma and 70 lbs lighter, the 68-year-old has won the biggest fight of his life, but not at any cost.

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“I knocked him out. [la COVID-19], but she managed to bring both knees to the ground. I was close to going there, ”says the resident of Lévis, breathlessly.

If the sixty-year-old is now cured, he lives on a daily basis with the “collateral damage”, both physical and psychological, left behind by the coronavirus.

“It was a hurricane that I had in my lungs,” illustrates the school bus driver, before listing the damage.

Persistent shortness of breath, a paralyzed vocal cord, two “finished” lung lobes and difficulty swallowing as a result of his tracheotomy while in hospital.

He feels numbness in both legs, from nerves that would have been crushed during his coma.

While speaking, he can also be caught in a coughing fit, hoarse and deep, enough to run out of air, he says.

And there are the anxiety attacks, times when he still thinks he’s going to die, unable to breathe. A terror he had never felt before.

“Right now, I’m breathing, that’s the essential,” admits Mr. Goupil, who knows he has come a long way.

It all started when he and his wife set foot on the cruise ship Costa Favolosa in the Caribbean on March 9.

Struggling with a serious outbreak, the ship docked in Guadeloupe. The couple then returned by plane, passing through Miami, and then passed a screening test.

The very day he received his positive diagnosis, Mr. Goupil’s body was starting to overheat. That evening, the thermometer climbed to 40 ° C and he left by ambulance for Hôtel-Dieu in Lévis.

A monster

“When I arrived, I was the monster entering the hospital. The nurses were running away from me, they were standing very far away, ”he recalls. At that time, he was one of the first, if not the first, in his area to be hospitalized with this new virus.

Jacques Goupil believed that he would be given some antibiotics and that the turn would be played. Nothing allowed him to predict the nightmare that awaited him.

He was quickly transferred on March 28 to intensive care at the University Institute of Cardiology and Pulmonology of Quebec. Still feverish, time was running out because he lacked oxygen in his blood and he had to be intubated.

“And there, I lost the card,” he says. A 41-day struggle in a coma had just begun for his survival.


The 60-year-old lost 70 lbs during his 41 days on life support.

Courtesy photo

The 60-year-old lost 70 lbs during his 41 days on life support.

Alone at home, also ill, but to a much lesser extent, her wife of the past 25 years would jump whenever the phone rang, fearing the worst.

Every day the doctors called her. At least three times, we prepared for the worst.

“You’ll see, he’s got a pig’s face,” Nicole Hains kept telling them.

Unplug it?

“I was sure he was coming back,” said the 72-year-old, who remained hopeful even without seeing her husband for two months.

When asked about the possibility of “unplugging” her husband, she asked if her brain was damaged. The answer being no, Mme Hains insisted that the doctors continue the treatment.

“What I have experienced, I am told that there is not a man who is able to pass through consciously”, blows Mr. Goupil.

His fever was so high and stubborn that the doctors put him in a refrigerated bed to lower his temperature.

Her smiling angel

Once rid of COVID-19 and out of a coma, his battle was far from over. Jacques Goupil had survived unconscious for weeks, and the real work was beginning.


After his coma of more than a month, the convalescence was also very long at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis to relearn to walk, and even to speak.

Courtesy photo

After his coma of more than a month, the convalescence was also very long at the Hôtel-Dieu de Lévis to relearn to walk, and even to speak.

Still force-fed and emaciated by 70 lbs, he returned to Hôtel-Dieu in Lévis. He had to regain his strength and relearn how to walk, eat and even speak.

Alone and overcome by illness, Jacques Goupil does not hide that he was depressed, sometimes even aggressive.

But he salutes the work of a beneficiary attendant (PAB), “an angel”, who knew how to “break it with her smile”.

“I owe it to him to be able to walk today,” he said.

This young PAB, Claudia Martineau-Ferland, remembers this patient who gave him a hard time, dizzy, as soon as he got up, hardly eating and vomiting a lot. But she knew how to give him small challenges every day.

Had to brew it

“It took someone to brew it,” she laughs. Then she also had more than one trick up her sleeve. For example, she would ask him to do 15 minutes of exercise on a seated bicycle, but only return to her room 20 or 30 minutes later.

“I said to him: ‘don’t you have the time?’ »Recalls Jacques Goupil, both frustrated and amused.

Or she would ask him to walk to the door, then to a trash can in the hallway and so on until he walked through the entire unit.

Claudia’s tips were so successful that he was able to go straight home and avoid a stay in a CHSLD.

When he left, the employees even made a guard of honor for him.

“I walked out crying, it marks a man. I never believed that I would be able to come back [à la maison] », He drops, moved.

Panties on the ground

The illness did not make him lose any of his sense of humor. Mr. Goupil remembers with a laugh that he went out with the same clothes he wore when he arrived months earlier.

But his belt no longer held his pants, which fell to the ankles as soon as he let go of his grip, relates the man who had then gone from 195 lbs to 125 lbs.

Jacques Goupil | 68 years old

  • 41 days in a coma
  • 70 pounds lost
  • Relearn to walk, eat and talk
  • Always short of breath and difficulty swallowing
  • A paralyzed vocal cord
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Will never be able to try hard again
www.journaldequebec.com

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