Rebecca’s story of survival and philanthropy

In a matter of two months, 70-year-old Rebecca's life was turned upside down. COVID-19 swept through her life like a tidal wave, first taking her husband into its fold and then pulling her in too.

Rebecca's husband Ken, 74, was her everything - her partner of 40 years, her best friend and her protector. So, when he became ill with a high fever Rebecca became worried. Her worry grew to distress when he tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-April and later hospitalized. Little did they know he would never return home.

While her husband was slowly deteriorating in the ICU at North York General Hospital, Rebecca began to feel unwell with COVID-19 symptoms. Her sister Angela took her to Mackenzie Health's Assessment Centre and, on May 1, she tested positive for the virus. At first, her symptoms were mild and physicians at Mackenzie Health recommended that she self-isolate at home. Over a week later, her fever spiked and she struggled to breath. This is at the same time that Ken lost his battle with COVID-19.

"I knew right away I had to take her back to Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital," says Angela. "We just lost Ken. I couldn't lose her too."

After an x-ray showed respiratory concerns, emergency department physician Dr. Kar Cheong Lee acted swiftly and admitted Rebecca. "Dr. Lee is our angel,'' says Angela. "If he didn't admit my sister, she would have died at home." The once active and healthy Rebecca was now fighting for her life.

Rebecca's health began to decline rapidly. She was immediately transferred to the ICU under the care of Dr. Eric Chu, intubated and connected to a ventilator as her lungs were only working at 10 per cent capacity. Dr. Chu consulted with infectious disease physician Dr. Ivan Ying on Rebecca's case.

"Dr. Ying was so compassionate, kind and empathetic. Given the loss of her husband, he wanted to find a way to help Rebecca," says Angela.

Dr. Ying turned to an anti-inflammatory drug called Tocilizumab used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which studies showed helped in the recovery of COVID-19 patients in China. Once administered, the drug proved effective and Rebecca woke up after two weeks of being in the ICU.

"The team of physicians and nurses at Mackenzie Health saved her life. It's as simple and powerful as that," expresses Angela. "Mackenzie Health is much more than a community hospital - it's larger than life."

As soon as she regained consciousness, the first thing Rebecca asked her sister was to help her make a $5,000 donation to Mackenzie Health. So, Angela made it happen.

This is only the beginning of Rebecca's generosity. She plans to continue supporting Mackenzie Health and motivate others to do the same.

"My sister and I believe that if you have a positive hospital experience, you need to give back – whatever you can," says Angela. "It's our collective responsibility."