As Ambassador of Canada to South Sudan, Douglas Scott Proudfoot has had his share of challenges. But none of them prepared him for a recent experience with COVID-19.
“I contracted COVID-19 while in Juba, South Sudan,” he explains, “although truthfully I’m not sure how. We were all working from home for the most part, with very few in-person meetings – but inevitably in diplomatic work you eventually come into contact with people.”
When he began to feel ill, his symptoms “escalated fairly quickly,” he notes. Challenges with the country’s national lab meant he couldn’t be tested for the virus, so local medical professionals instead ran a variety of other tests. After a scan found what was described as “ground glass” in his lungs, the Government of Canada decided to bring him home.
Upon arriving at Pearson International Airport he was brought to William Osler Health System’s Etobicoke General Hospital, where his COVID-19 diagnosis was confirmed and he was admitted for care on the Respirology Unit. As his condition worsened, Ambassador Proudfoot was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where he spent ten days. “Fortunately I never had to go on a ventilator, but it was close,” he says. Following his stay in the ICU, he remained at the hospital’s Respirology Unit until his release.
“At Etobicoke General, I received absolutely superb care,” he says. “I’ve never been admitted to the hospital before, but I found the physicians and nurses were all there when I needed them. They kept me informed, anticipated my needs, and encouraged me to do certain things but didn’t insist on procedures I was uncomfortable with.”
Staff also arranged for “virtual visitations” so he could chat with his family online, since they were not able to visit. Even the food surprised him. “I was impressed that they were able to make so many meals, particularly for so many people with varying dietary needs, and also make them tasty and balanced.”
Although he’s now been discharged from hospital, Ambassador Proudfoot continues to self-isolate during his recovery. He won’t return to his family home in Ottawa until a follow-up test confirms he’s completely clear of the virus.
“I’m slowly recovering,” he notes. “My breathing is better, but I’m still very, very tired. It was also hard to be in the hospital for so long and unable to move; my body has to adjust.”
Asked what he would tell people who don’t take COVID-19 seriously, he doesn’t mince words.
“This virus is extremely serious. We can help prevent the spread by taking simple measures: keeping our distance, practising good hygiene, wearing masks, and following public health guidelines.”
Despite his ordeal, Ambassador Proudfoot is immensely grateful he was able to return to Canada for care. “I’m so glad I came back,” he says. “I got through COVID-19 by the skin of my teeth, and thanks to the staff and physicians at Etobicoke General Hospital.”