'I never thought I could get it': former Hab Georges Laraque on his COVID-19 battle

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Former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Georges Laraque says he's feeling much better now, after spending five days in hospital with a serious case of COVID-19.

He told TSN 690's Tony Marinaro on Tuesday that he never thought he would get it because he was in shape, healthy and vegan, and had been spending five to six days a week training for a marathon.

But by the beginning of last week, he began to develop serious breathing difficulties, and was admitted to the COVID-19 unit at Longueuil's Charles-Lemoyne hospital.

"Oh yeah, it's way better now," Laraque, 43, said. "The first few days were the worst. The day that I got in [hospital] on Thursday, that's when my breathing was at worst, because I have asthma. I had a hard time breathing, and I needed three litres of oxygen blown through my nose. Two days later, I no longer need oxygen. I'm back to normal."

'I never get sick!'

Laraque says he began feeling symptoms last Sunday, as he was helping deliver groceries to elderly people in his community. But he was preparing for an even bigger challenge.

"I was doing [delivering groceries] for a week...but on Monday, I wanted to take it to another level. I wanted to do more than deliveries. So I agreed with [former Hab and current Liberal MNA Enrico] Ciccone to join a CHSLD. I was supposed to start to do this on Monday. But on Sunday I get sick...and I'm never sick!"

Laraque says he called in sick on the Sunday night — and says he was concerned whoever he called would think he was trying to chicken out of his first CHSLD shift.

"I don't think she believed me that I was sick," Laraque said, laughing. "Just the way she responded, I knew she didn't believe me. I was like, 'I'm sick! I swear!'"

Instead of going to a CHSLD on Monday, he went to a hospital in St. Jean sur Richelieu, and was told there was swelling in his lungs. He was sent home, without being tested for COVID-19, but the next day, he was told there was a mistake — he had pneumonia. 

Laraque was diagnosed with COVID-19 on Thursday and, still having trouble breathing, was sent immediately to Charles-Lemoyne Hospital. At first, he was hustled in a room with two other COVID-19 patients — both of them seniors.

By Monday, he could breathe on his own, and was released from hospital to free up a bed, but he says he's still not out of the woods yet — he still has pneumonia in his lungs.

"My lungs still burn, but if I don't need oxygen at the hospital, I can just self-medicate at home," he said. "It's still a long road to recovery."

Meanwhile, he has a message for health care workers having to bear the brunt of the effects of this current crisis.

"They are heroes," Laraque said. "I hope that after this crisis we're going to realize how unappreciated they are. They put their lives at risk. Some of them told me they got it, they went home, they were sick, and then they came back after, they were fine. They're unbelievable."

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