'He could hardly even talk': COVID-19 puts prominent Calgary business owner in ICU

Adrian Bussoli's family says he tested negative for COVID-19 on April 7, but was admitted to the ICU with severe symptoms more than a week later. (Supplied)

The family of Adrian Bussoli, whose company is helping in the pandemic by producing masks, gowns and other PPE, is praying for his recovery after he was admitted to hospital last week with a serious case of COVID-19.

Michael Bussoli, Adrian's son, said during an interview with CTV News Thursday that the risk of his father contracting COVID-19 had always been a concern for his family.

As co-owner of Alberta Garment, 68-year-old Adrian did his best to adapt to a work-from-home environment, but certain situations required him to go into the office.

"It's a workplace where people have to be coming together," Michael said. "You can't sew things over Zoom calls. Yes, you can 'farm out' home sewing projects, but for industrial purposes, it's not really practical."

Adrian was supposed to receive his COVID-19 vaccine on April 14, but had to cancel when he came into close contact with a positive case.

Michael says his father's business partner tested positive April 3 and Adrian was tested on April 7. The results on the first test were negative, but he felt ill afterward.

"He was progressively feeling kind of crappy after that," Michael said. "Wednesday April 14, the day he was supposed to be vaccinated, he got a COVID test and then, by the next morning, he could hardly even talk. We had a conference call with him and convinced him to go to the hospital."

He says when his father got to the hospital, his oxygen levels were recorded at 56 and he was immediately admitted to the ICU and put into a medically induced coma.

Michael says that initially he was put on a ventilator that took over 100 per cent of his respiration, but things have looked up since then.

"In the last couple of days, his lungs have been able to produce about 50 per cent of his oxygen. He's still in a medically induced coma and so it's looking better, but he's not out of the woods."

COMMUNITY STEPS IN TO HELP WITH GOFUNDME

Ever since Adrian came to Calgary, Michael say he has been a volunteer.

"He's been a long-time minor hockey coach. He was the president of the Italian club in the mid-80s," he said.

Michael also says he's been a mentor to Calgary youth for decades, using his prowess at the game of handball to teach others at the Eau Claire YMCA.

"He's very central (to the sport). As a 17-year-old, he was the junior Canadian champion. He didn't play for a long while and then he took it back up at the Eau Claire YMCA in the early 90s."

In addition, Michael says Adrian has worked to improve conditions for workers in many different industries, including through his own business.

In return for all of that work in the community, Michael says the support in return given the current situation his father faces has "been tremendous."

Donations have also been flowing into a GoFundMe campaign from a number of people throughout Calgary.

"The community has come together so amazingly and we deeply appreciate the support," Michael said. "It's been coming from all corners of all the various communities that we've been involved with."

ALBERTA GARMENT HAS DONE ITS PART IN THE PANDEMIC

Alberta Garment, Michael says, was hit particularly hard during Alberta's economic downturn in 2015 and his father and his business partners were striving for ways to "reinvent themselves" and revitalize the business.

When COVID-19 became a full-blown pandemic in March 2020, he says it was a "natural progression" for Alberta Garment to help in the effort.

The company began manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gowns and other items needed to prevent infection.

"They were producing it for the City of Calgary, the Canadian military, school boards, private businesses and a whole lot of entities across Canada," Michael said.

The provincial government even recognized the efforts of Alberta Garment, as well as many other local businesses, during its announcement of the Bits and Pieces program in April 2020.

"They took it very seriously in wanting to step up and ramping up production," Michael said. "In 2020, they were hiring people because they needed more and more production, which was kind of like a bright spot – an economic bright spot."

Meanwhile, Premier Kenney's office has shared a message for the Bussoli family during this time of crisis for them.

"It is with a heavy heart we learn of Mr. Bussoli’s fight against this terrible disease," a spokesperson wrote in an email to CTV News. "When Alberta was in the early stages of the pandemic, Mr. Bussoli stood up and looked around him for what he could be doing to help others. With true entrepreneurial spirit of giving he adjusted his business to help his fellow Albertans. Our prayers are with him and his family at this extremely difficult time."

The GoFundMe campaign for Adrian and Sue Bussoli has raised more than $25,000.