'I just want my mom to wake up': Kitchener family rocked by COVID-19 variant of concern

A Kitchener family is feeling the devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic with a husband and wife both admitted to the Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary’s General Hospital just days apart.

On Friday, Boualay Phomsaphao’s father returned home after a two-week stay in the ICU after contracting a COVID-19 variant of concern. She says her father was brought to the hospital looking blue due to a lack of oxygen on May 22 and was put into an induced coma for three days.

“I really thought I lost my dad because he wasn’t waking up, he wasn’t getting better,” said Phomsaphao.

When Phomsaphao’s father awoke, he found his wife next to him – in another ICU bed.

She too contracted a COVID-19 variant of concern and has remained in an induced coma since May 31.

Boualay Phomsaphao's mother was put into an induced coma after being admitted to St. Mary's General Hospital suffering from a COVID-19 variant of concern. She was admitted to hospital on May 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy Boualay Phomsaphao).

The husband and wife were able to share a few words before being separated.

“My mom told my dad, ‘It’s okay, don’t worry, we’re fine, we’re going to get through it.’ They told each other they loved each other, and that was the last they spoke,” said Phomsaphao.

As public health restrictions are set to be relaxed in Ontario and COVID-19 vaccinations ramp up, Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, the medical officer of health for Waterloo Region, says the variants that drove the third wave remain a threat.

“We need to hold onto our gains. We need to protect one another,” said Wang. “The fight is not over.”

Phomsaphao and her brother have only been able to keep in touch with their parents through video calls offered by the hospital.

The stress has weighed on the mother of four, who has taken a leave from work to look after her parents.

“To see your parents trying to fight for their life, not knowing if they’re going to wake up, it’s scary,” said Phomsaphao. “I can’t work, I can’t function, I don’t eat, barely sleeping, you consistently worry.”

Boualay Phomsaphao's father was put into an induced coma after being admitted to St. Mary's General Hospital suffering from a COVID-19 variant of concern. He was admitted to hospital on May 22, 2021. (Photo courtesy Boualay Phomsaphao).

Phomsaphao has taken to an online crowdfunding campaign to help alleviate some of the family’s concerns. She says the fear of losing both her parents has taken a greater toll than she could have expected.

“I just want my mom to wake up,” said Phomsaphao. “There are days I think about losing them but, I can’t because I know they’ll make it through.”

Phomsaphao says while her father is recovering at home, her mother’s condition is not improving.