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99-year-old West Vancouver man recovers from COVID-19 in retirement home

British Columbia

A 99-year-old West Vancouver man who tested positive for COVID-19 has recovered completely and is back to his "cheerful old self," his daughter says.

Reuben Huva, 99, gives a thumbs up after being declared free of COVID-19 on Wednesday. (Linda Horspool)

A 99-year-old West Vancouver man who tested positive for COVID-19 has recovered completely and is back to his "cheerful old self," his daughter says.

Reuben Huva, who lives in Hollyburn House retirement home, started developing minor symptoms earlier this month, Linda Horspool said.

He was tired, not eating well and had a slight cough, so staff initially thought her father had a cold, she said. On March 11, she got a call saying he'd tested positive for COVID-19.

"We were probably seeing what was dad's death sentence," recalled Horspool, a retired doctor.

"I didn't really think a 99-year-old in a wheelchair could possibly survive it, to be honest."

Huva has dementia and was not completely aware of what was going on, Horspool said. Confined to his room, he asked what all the fuss was about.

Horspool was able to visit him wearing a mask, gloves and gown. She tried to explain to him that he had the flu, but he told her he felt fine. Other family members were able to see him and communicate through his closed window.

After a few days, his symptoms resolved and he was back to being his "cheerful old self," Horspool said.

He tested negative for the virus and was declared recovered on March 25, she said.

'A sigh of relief'

Twelve long-term care homes in the province have had at least one resident or staff member test positive for coronavirus, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Saturday.

Huva and a staff member are the only two people who have tested positive for COVID-19 at Hollyburn, said Graham Freeman, regional director of operations for Revera, which runs the care home.

He said they were "ecstatic" that both Huva and the other staff member have fully recovered, he said.

About a dozen staff and a dozen residents have been tested for the virus, he said.

All the other tests came back negative.

"The challenge with this virus is we are two weeks behind it, not knowing where it's been," Freeman said.

"So you're always on pins and needles waiting to hear results back from testing. So it was a sigh of relief and a bright spot in this whole pandemic."

Retired doctor Linda Horspool, left, was permitted to visit her father in his care home. She says workers at the facility took tremendous care of him as he recovered.(Linda Horspool)

Stopping the virus from spreading came down to "relatively simple" steps, including keeping residents in their rooms, extra cleaning and hand hygiene, Freeman said.

Staff are still keeping up those measures, he added.

Horspool credits the workers at Hollyburn for caring "tremendously" for her dad and taking precautions to prevent the virus from spreading further.

Huva came to B.C. from Russia in 1926 and worked in Okanagan orchards, she said. He was generally healthy and had an "amazingly full, happy life," she added.

She says social distancing and other measures put in place made a difference in his case and will protect other vulnerable people.

"We need to stay the course, we need to stay apart from each other to protect our elderly population because even though some will do well with this, as in my father's case, there are many more who won't," she said.

"We assume now that he's gotten over this, as long as nothing else happens he'll carry on to his 100th birthday in December."

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.

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