The son of the latest local COVID victim, says his father tested negative, then fled the Lancelot Apartments to safety in Ottawa, days before dying of the disease.
Ross McPherson, 82, lasted six days, before passing away alone in an Ottawa hospital on March 1.
Paul MacPherson was his father's caregiver and says his Dad was tested at the North Bay hospital, and when results came back on Feb. 7 they were negative.
"I took my Dad to Ottawa on the 11th because his test came back negative and he never left the apartment during those days,
"Everything was good for three or four days, then my Dad starting feeling a little bit shitty. He was having a hard time getting to sleep but had no symptoms. We took him into the hospital to get him checked again for an x-ray to his chest and he was full of the variant virus.
"The doctors traced the time and incubation period and because of the incubation period, it can be five or six days before you show any signs, even after being tested negative.
"He was afraid. He didn't want to be there. (Lancelot) He had a compromised immune system and a blood cancer, dementia, and a bad heart, so the safest thing was to get him out of there. So that's what I did and that's what has happened. It started in the building that my Dad was a resident of for 10 years."
The variant was traced back to the Lancelot but Paul says the family has no idea how he caught it.
"PSWs come in but they had all the garb on and all that stuff. I don't know if he touched something on the way out because he had a couple of doctor's appointments that I had to bring him to before we left and he could have touched an elevator button or door, I don't know.
"I could not see him in the hospital. It was horrible. They never told me I could go down for compassionate reasons until the last day that he lived," said Paul with his voice breaking. "I got a call at 3 Monday morning and jumped into my vehicle and got halfway to Ottawa and got the call he had passed away. It was very hard."
He regrets never being able to speak with his Dad after the COVID diagnosis as his father became incoherent.
"I left my Dad on the 11th and I haven't seen him until today (Wednesday) when I went to visit the funeral home," he recalled, the pain evident in his voice.
Paul returned to his Dad's birthplace, Burk's Falls, yesterday to view his father's body.
"Because of COVID protocol anybody with infectious stuff can't be in the open so they had him in a box with a plexiglass cutout so I could go in and visit him. Nobody else was allowed in, just me, and I couldn't touch the cardboard box I had to stay a few feet back from it."
The family plans a small burial ceremony in Burk's Falls this summer if COVID protocols allow. Ross's wife Donna passed away three years ago.
His son says people need to think about the effect on friends and families before speculating on social media about what happened and he wants to set the record straight.
"All the negative comments. The public is making it sound like it's the person's fault that the virus is spreading. He followed all the procedures. My Dad never left the building unless I went with him and we didn't talk with anyone in the building. People insinuate it was a parent or family member. I want to tell people to have a heart and respect family wishes. Everybody is talking about the COVID numbers, but what about the victims? How is their story getting out?"
Paul says he would love to see a plaque eventually erected for the victims, "something for the record with names so they won't be forgotten."
This experience had taught him that COVID must be taken seriously.
"Seniors, once you get it, it's a death sentence. I was told, once a senior with a poor immune system goes onto a ventilator it's a death sentence and you're not going to come out of it. So if you have not requested a DNR (do not resuscitate) and you put your family member on the ventilator, that's the only thing keeping them alive. They're never going to come back out of it, that's what I was told by the doctors in Ottawa. It's scary."
Paul feels it is important that his Dad's life be remembered, not just as another COVID statistic.
Ross was born in Burk's Falls and became a 30-year military veteran as an aircraft mechanic who served in the navy and the airforce.
"He joined the service in 1957 and served on one of Canada's aircraft carriers, the Bonaventure. He served in Ottawa and North Bay, and in Europe from 1980 to 83 as an aircraft mechanic.
"He loved hunting," remembers Paul. "He loved horseshoes and he loved old country music and old Newfoundland and Nova Scotian music.
"We visited a lot of places in Europe and that was one of my father's highlights...he enjoyed it very much."
Paul says his Dad knew a lot of people around North Bay because he used to work for Gateway Well Drilling after he retired from the service.
"He was very strongly disciplined and loved his kids. There were three of us, all boys. He took care of anything we needed, always there for us. Never had an enemy at all.
"He was a kind, loving man. A caring father. He was a really, really good guy."