“It was so overwhelming when they were clapping for me,” Roy Taylor says. When the 58-year-old was wheeled out of Oak Valley Health’s Markham Stouffville Hospital (MSH), his care team – and others on the Intensive Care Unit – took a moment and applauded.
They had reason to celebrate: Roy had beaten steep odds. Severely ill with COVID-19, he had spent more than four weeks in the ICU — and almost lost his life.
Roy, who describes himself as a very active person, worked as a transport heavy duty mechanic for more than 20 years, and now conducts home renovations and car audio installations. Roy was in generally good health.
In May 2021, Roy’s health was deteriorating. He talks about the moment he entered MSH’s doors. “My tongue was out of my mouth and so swollen I couldn’t speak, but I could hear voices,” he explains. “I felt like I was in a dream, people telling me to hang on – Roy you have to fight.”
Roy needed a breathing and feeding tube, and ended up in a coma for 17 days.
Even with a team fighting on his behalf, he had several close calls. And, while the doctors, nurses and technologists worked tirelessly to keep Roy alive, family and friends did their part, gathering to pray for him. Roy says this helped significantly.
Finally, there was reason for hope. Roy was showing some signs of improvement, and the team took steps toward removing his breathing tube. Eventually, after weeks of intubation, Roy was off the ventilator.
“My beard was so long,” he jokes. “And I was lit up like a Christmas tree,” referring to all the machines in his room.
Roy’s next phase of recovery would take him to MSH’s Medicine Unit, and once he was well enough inpatient rehabilitation would take place.
COVID-19 is a complex illness, and physicians, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation (rehab) specialists, mental health professionals and physical therapists all had to worked together to get Roy on the road to health. He would need to relearn how to do simple things such as walk, eat, and swallow food and drink without choking.
After spending many weeks in the ICU, Roy’s body was very weak and he easily became fatigued. He went to rehab needing total assistance, and left able to walk on his own. A moment Roy will never forget.
“I couldn’t control the tears, learning to walk again is a very humbling experience, and I am so thankful for the generous care I received. All of these people were put in my life for a reason, and it showed me there are truly still people out there that really, deeply care.”
James Polk, Respiratory Therapist at Oak Valley Health, was there every step of the way and Roy talks about him with great admiration. “I feel a close bond to James, he was there through every moment, we really aligned and he pushed me through.”
His mental and emotional recovery was important, too. And Roy credits his positive outlook as a crucial aid in his recovery.
“You must maintain a healthy mindset, you can’t start to worry, or these thoughts will take over, explains Roy. I’ve always had a positive outlook on life – this experience has exuberated my thoughts towards living.”
With the help of his care team, a loving spouse and his own determination, Roy made it home on July 16, his 58th birthday. “The best birthday gift I could have asked for – a second chance at life,” says Roy.
He knows he is fortunate to be alive. “Most people as sick as I was don’t make it,” he says.
Roy continues to recover, but the process is slow. “I am still tired, and taking it easy. The back and joint pain has slowly disappeared and I’ve started putting weight back on and getting my strength back.”
“I can’t say enough about Oak Valley Health and the truly incredible health care professionals who helped me along the way – they gave me another shot at life.”