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HDS's post-Covid Rehabilitation Program - Avi's Story

Posted Sep 2nd, 2021 in News

HDS's post-Covid Rehabilitation Program - Avi's Story

Waking up after an induced two-week coma, Avi Campbell’s mind was racing. “I had no idea where I was. I thought I had been kidnapped,” she remembers. “My first thought was, how can I escape?”

Finally allowed to phone a close friend, Avi was told that she had almost lost her life after contracting COVID-19.

Her journey started on April 6, 2021, when her Toronto roommate tested positive. Avi was tested but the test came back undetermined.

Four days later, Avi developed breathing problems. She had a fever, and couldn’t get out of bed. “We finally called the ambulance,” she says. “I just couldn’t breathe.”

Avi was in critical condition, but with beds running out at Toronto hospitals, she was sent to Niagara. “I couldn’t move at all. Not my legs or arms. I couldn’t even lift my head.” Doctors placed her under a coma to help her body heal.

“When I woke up, I was so confused. My mind went to a really dark place, and I felt so alone.”

What she didn’t realize was that she was far from alone. Her friends and family had started a praying circle, with over 1000 people praying in churches, synagogues and mosques all over the world for her recovery.

“One day I saw the most beautiful sunrise outside my window,” she remembers with a smile. “I knew it was God, and I was being given a purpose. I felt so grateful.”

As the final step in her recovery, she was on her way to Hotel Dieu Shaver’s new post-acute COVID rehabilitation program.

“As this pandemic has evolved, it has become clear that many COVID-resolved patients now require rehabilitative care in order to regain their pre-COVID quality of life. Our in-patient program focuses on customized rehabilitation for physical, respiratory, and/or cognitive challenges that have resulted from their COVID-19 illness,” says Executive Vice President David Ceglie.

Avi knew immediately she was in the right place to regain her strength. “The care here is unbelievable. All the staff and the nurses - I can only hope that I could be here if I need it again.”

At first, it was hard to Avi to let others take care of her. She is more comfortable helping others, volunteering her time and services by donating haircuts and nail care to over 200 homeless people. She also takes her mobile salon to provide the same services to those who are developmentally or physically challenged. “To pace myself, to slow down, to have all the attention on me, was hard for me.”

But now, getting dressed was like running a track. Trying to climb stairs was a cross-country marathon. “Everything, literally everything, was a task.” With nerve damage on her lower left leg, Avi had to relearn to walk. Her memory was also affected.

“My team - Lindsay, Erik, Stacey, Amanda, Jack, Bonnie, and everyone - was amazing and worked with me on my goal of getting stronger. They made sure I stayed within my abilities, even when I pushed myself,” she says. “They took the time to make sure I was ready to go home safely, and I didn’t feel rushed.”

The team had to be sure Avi could climb the stairs to her townhouse, which has 30 steps. Avi made her goal 31 steps, adding one more for good luck.

Avi’s greatest moment came when she was finally able to climb 31 stairs. While she made her way slowly through the stairwell, grabbing the rails firmly with each step, her therapists played the theme song “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.

She reached the top just as the song did, smiling ear to ear – all captured on video that Avi shared with family and friends of her achievement. “I could not be more grateful to Hotel Dieu Shaver for that experience.”

The outdoor Healing Garden will also be a special memory. “Gardening was amazing! I had missed my garden so much, and to get outside with the Recreation team, to plant some flowers and have the sun on my face - I can’t describe how good it made me feel.”

As Avi prepares to return home for the first time in months, she is having a hard time saying goodbye. “I could not have done it without each and every one of them. I don’t think I would’ve had the same motivation if I had to do it on my own.”

“You can see that everything they do is for the patients, and how invested they are in what they do. You can feel the passion, it’s not just a job for them.”

After having her life turned completely upside down because of COVID-19, Avi remains positive. “Everything has brought me to this experience. I plan to help as many people as possible.”

She hopes to return to Hotel Dieu Shaver, this time as a volunteer. “Before, I was alive, but not living. But now, my path has never been clearer,” she says. “For the first time, I want to live with purpose. If I can help one person and pay it forward, light someone’s light with God’s light, they can light someone else’s.”