Inside the ICU: Lower Mainland woman, 72, battles COVID-19

Cathy Gibbs didn’t think she was seriously ill. Her daughter thought differently.

Lower Mainland resident Cathy Gibbs wasn’t feeling well, but she didn’t think it was anything too serious.

She’d recently been to dinner at the house of a neighbour who was part of her “bubble” — a limited number of people she didn’t have to be socially distant with during the current coronavirus pandemic.

“All of a sudden, after dinner, she [the neighbour] got unwell,” Gibbs described.

Shortly after that, the neighbour phoned Gibbs.

“She said she had been exposed to COVID and now I had, too,” Gibbs recalled.

“We were responsible and it still got us.”

The Langley City woman decided to self-isolate at home.

She developed a persistent cough.

READ ALSO: Do you think you have COVID-19? Here is what to do next

“I just kept getting sicker and sicker,” Gibbs recalled, but she didn’t think it was too serious.

But her daughter, Tammy, could hear the difference in her mother’s voice when they spoke on the phone.

Tammy, who lives in Edmonton, phoned the local ambulance service.

“Someone’s got to check on my mom,” Tammy said.

When Tammy explained her mom wasn’t in Edmonton, but in B.C., the Alberta paramedics connected with their B.C. counterparts, and an ambulance team arrived at Gibb’s door to check her health.

“That’s when I found out I have pneumonia [caused by COVID-19],” Gibbs recalled.

“I just didn’t realize I was as sick as I was.”

A nurse at hospital later told Gibbs she was lucky that her daughter called when she did.

After about a day and a half at Langley Memorial Hospital, Gibbs was transferred to Surrey Memorial Hospital (SMH).

Gibbs recalls the paramedics applying defibrillator pads to her chest for the trip, in case she suffered a heart attack en route, and how they drove with sirens on the whole way.

“They weren’t taking any chances, that’s for sure,” Gibbs commented.

She is full of praise for the paramedics and medical staff at both hospitals.

“I can’t say enough.”

READ ALSO: Meet the ‘disease detective’ who tracks COVID-19 cases in Langley and other Fraser Health jurisdictions

At 72, Gibbs was enjoying an active retirement after several years as Langley MLA Mary Polak’s constituency assistant, as well as Polak’s predecessor, Lynn Stephens.

On the one-year anniversary of her retirement, on Monday, Aug. 31, Gibbs was at SMH, hooked up to oxygen and a blood pressure monitor, and several other medical devices – unable to get out of bed without assistance.

To help her lungs recover, “I have to lay on my stomach for two hours a day,” she told the Langley Advance Times during a telephone interview from her ICU room at SMH. She’s one of the 10 in B.C. who top doc Dr. Bonnie Henry has listed in ICU with COVID this week.

Gibbs isn’t sure when she will be coming home.

“I think it’s too early to say.”

She said medical staff seemed happy with her progress to date.

“I’m actually doing pretty well,” Gibbs said. “I can actually sit up in a chair. My energy is coming back and the COVID ‘fog’ has lifted.”

Gibbs’ advice to people who doubt the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic; “it is real” and even in a small bubble, it is possible to be exposed.

She posted a message online to say she hopes young people are getting the message.

“I know that this virus has affected your life, it’s affected everyone,” her Facebook posting read.

“You can be grateful that you won’t get as sick as I did, if you get it. I know you are young and you want to live you life, I get that. I am old, but that doesn’t mean that I want to die, do YOU get that?”

Since she posted to Facebook about her trip to the ICU, dozens of people have flooded her page with messages backing her fight to recover.

“I am so overwhelmed with the show of support I can’t even find the words,” Gibbs posted.

“Thank you hardly seems enough, but that’s what I have. Thank you and love you all.”



dan.ferguson@langleyadvancetimes.com

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