A survivor’s long walk to recovery

Plunged for more than a month in a coma due to COVID-19, a new retiree who wanted to discover the world has rather come close to death.

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“If my condition remains as it is now, my life will be less interesting than what I had planned for my retirement. Maybe it will come back … It’s still the unknown, ”says François Quenot.

Despite surviving a long time in intensive care, the 62-year-old is still a long way from regaining the life he led before COVID-19.

The one who was used to long walks has barely got rid of his cane, four months after leaving a rehabilitation center where he spent about six weeks to relearn how to walk, in particular.

François Quenot finally walks without a cane, but still has to put aside the long walks he loved so much with his wife.

Photo Ben Pelosse

François Quenot finally walks without a cane, but still has to put aside the long walks he loved so much with his wife.

But after all he’s been through because of his infection, he just feels lucky to be alive.

On March 25, a few days after contracting COVID-19, the retiree was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties. He believes he caught the virus on the plane, returning from France.

“Plunged into a coma, I had several problems: pneumonia, a bacterial infection, a tracheotomy”, he lists, specifying that he has no memory of it.

Paralyzed upon awakening

He woke up slowly a good month later, with about 90% of his body paralyzed. He could move his head and his right arm a bit.

In intensive care, some people intubated for breathing difficulties must be paralyzed and put into an artificial coma, explains François Marquis, head of the intensive care department at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont.

“It is necessary, otherwise the body will fight against the ventilator. This is where the problem begins, because the drugs used cause very significant muscle wasting, ”says Dr.r Marquis.

A month to eat alone

When he woke up in intensive care, Mr. Quenot, like all patients who remain in a coma for so long, no longer had functional musculature.

So it will have taken about another month before he can just sit up in his hospital bed and eat on his own.

And François Quenot is one of the lucky ones, according to his doctor, because other patients in his situation have been killed by the disease.

“Its trajectory is atypical. He has a history of champion. At least three times I believed he wouldn’t get through. Seen from where he started, he recovered in an exemplary way. Among other things, because he has great morale. He never let himself be defeated, ”emphasizes Dr Marquis.

1er June, Mr. Quenot left intensive care under a guard of honor made by the staff.

Two weeks later, the Gatineau resident was transferred to a rehabilitation center to learn to walk again.

“At that time, I still needed a lift to transfer me to my wheelchair. From the second week at the center, I managed to transfer myself ”, he explains.

He took his first steps “with a lot of help and parallel bars” in mid-July, nearly four months after contracting COVID-19.

Today, he is delighted to have regained about 75% of his physical capacity, despite the after-effects that persist.

“I still have a lack of stamina and weakness in my legs. There are things I can no longer do like carrying simple loads, running or even taking long walks, ”he says with a thin voice.

A progression that peaks

In recent weeks, his progress seems slower in his eyes and he wonders if he will be able to find the last missing part.

“I force myself to go for a walk or to move around because it’s good for me, but it’s not easy. There is an exhausting side. I can’t wait to find the same energy again, ”he explains.

According to Dr Marquis, part of the muscle mass “is lost forever. ”

Passion in peril

Retired for over a year, he hoped to be able to take advantage of his time to discover the world.

He particularly enjoys traveling with his wife for the pleasure of walking in big cities.

“If I keep a weakness in my legs forever, it won’t be possible. And even when the pandemic is over, there is the fact of having to fly. I remain traumatized by my last experience, ”he admits.

The fear of being recontaminated runs through his head, because eight months after his infection, François Quenot is still fighting to recover his health.

François Quenot | 62 years old

  • 83 days of hospitalization
  • 68 days in intensive care
  • Five weeks in a coma
  • Six weeks in rehabilitation
  • Suffers from weakness and lack of stamina
  • Some of his muscle mass is lost forever

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