Patsy Lesiuk’s family is asking the community to remember their kind, feisty and loving wife and mother for the way she lived.
Not for the way she died.
The stark reality, however, is that Patsy died of COVID-19 related pneumonia in the Trail hospital on March 11.
“COVID is here and it has taken a life, so we urge people to keep following protocols especially now while the vaccines try to outpace the variants,” began Whitney Lesiuk, Patsy’s daughter. “We are just wanting to inform the public by being transparent with our experience since Interior Health has been everything but.
“This is also a way for us to thank the amazing ICU team at KBRH (Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital) for all they did to try and save her,” Whitney shared.
“And we also would like to thank everyone who helped and is still helping us through this nightmare.”
Patsy’s last breath, taken that Thursday in an isolated room in intensive care, came only 16 days after she first tested positive for the virus.
She was infected with COVID-19 on the fourth floor of Kelowna General Hospital, where she spent the third week of February for a specialist visit.
Upon her release from the Kelowna hospital on Saturday, Feb. 20, Patsy was driven back home to Warfield by her husband.
It wasn’t until two days later that a friend of Whitney’s sent her a news story about a COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital.
“My heart just dropped because that was the exact floor she was on,” Whitney recalled.
Because Patsy was going to have to go the Trail hospital for a chemotherapy appointment later that week, the family thought it necessary she get an immediate COVID-19 test.
They waited but never received a contact tracing phone call alerting them to the exposure.
“When I went to book my mom a test they were very reluctant,” Whitney said. “I had to fight, and explain why we were getting her tested even though she hadn’t come down with symptoms at that time. I myself had to lie and say I had a headache in order for them to test me,” she added.
“You’d think being a close contact of a COVID positive case would be enough.”
Patsy tested positive on Feb. 24.
She had no symptoms except for tiredness.
“Our family was extremely careful and we are devastated she picked up COVID-19 from a place that was supposed to be safe,” Whitney said.
Quarantined in the same house with Patsy were her husband and son, while Whitney quarantined in her own home.
“My dad and brother were having to keep any eye on her but were trying to protect themselves at the same time,” Whitney recalled. “I was checking in on them over the phone, especially my mom. We have a very supportive network of friends, family and co-workers who were dropping off things while we quarantined and we are so grateful for everyone’s love and support.”
All the good wishes and prayers weren’t enough when it came to Patsy’s battle with this novel coronavirus.
She was hospitalized the evening of March 1 after Whitney and her family started noticing red flags such as her mom not making sense when speaking.
Once in the ICU, family was told that if Patsy got to the point of needing to be intubated, that she would be too weak for the procedure and would likely never come off life support.
She went downhill extremely fast after developing severe COVID-19 pneumonia. Requiring more and more oxygen each day, and becoming less and less responsive, Patsy’s lungs started to fail on March 9.
“We opted not to put her on a ventilator, which was the hardest decision we had to make,” Whitney shared. “If she survived the procedure of intubation, which was very unlikely, it would have only kept her breathing for maybe a few more days.”
There were other serious complications brewing from both COVID-19 and from chemotherapy.
“She didn’t have a chance,” Whitney said.
“So we made the decision to say goodbye to her.”
The evening of March 10, a registered nurse phoned the family to tell them that Patsy had only hours left to live.
“We had to say goodbye through the window of the isolation unit using FaceTime since going in the room was risky for us and we would’ve had to wait a certain amount of time until the air was ‘cleaned,'” Whitney recalled. “She didn’t have that time, once they took her off support, it only took minutes.”
The nurse brought Patsy’s bed over to the window so the family could be next to her while the RN held her hand as she slipped away.
“We wanted to make sure she wasn’t alone in the end,” Whitney said. “It was the closest we could get and we are devastated but grateful that we at least got to be there in some way, realizing many families haven’t been so lucky.”
The family says the ICU did all they could; that Patsy was treated with such care and compassion and the team reached out to every specialist they could.
“We want to thank them for everything they did for her, while putting themselves at risk,” Whitney said.
Patsy was 65 years of age when she died.
She leaves behind her daughter Whitney and son Morgan, her high school sweetheart, husband Paul, much family and many friends.
Interior Health Patient Quality Care Office is investigating how Patsy failed to be on Kelowna’s radar.
Why wasn’t the family contacted?
And why was it so difficult for the family to get tested?
The family also wants to know why they had to advocate for Patsy every step of the way, noting the absence of information and support from Interior Health before Patsy’s family made the decision to hospitalize her.
“The whole experience was unbelievably heart wrenching and very traumatizing,” Whitney said.
“I don’t think we will ever get over it.”