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A resident of Fort Good Hope is warning Northerners to take Covid-19 seriously after her son caught the virus and has been in intensive care in Edmonton for more than three weeks.

Myrine Kakfwi moved from the Sahtu community to Edmonton about two and a half years ago with plans to study carpentry at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT). He had been apprenticing since he arrived in Edmonton and lived in an apartment with his older brother Gabe.

His mother Dolly “Dee” Pierrot describes Myrine as a caring and funny young man who enjoys hunting, trapping and playing guitar and video games.

Myrine Kakfwi, left, lies in an induced coma in the ICU of the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, as his father Wayne Kakfwi stands beside him. photo courtesy of Dolly Pierrot

Gabe follows Covid-19 precautions and practices physical distancing even inside the apartment.

“My older son is vigilant and spends most of his time alone in his room,” Pierrot said.

Myrine however, went in and out of the apartment frequently and regarded Covid-19 as a “hoax,” Pierrot said.

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The 30-year-old changed his mind about Covid after Dec. 5, 2020, when he began showing symptoms of the virus.

“By Dec. 7 he was coughing a lot and was coughing up blood,” said Pierrot. “He and his older brother called the ambulance and Myrine was taken to the hospital at the University of Alberta.”

They were tested for Covid-19. Gabe’s result came back negative. Myrine’s was positive.

“The nurse told me he had a collapsed right lung and double pneumonia. And he had a hole in his lung. Myrine had childhood asthma so he was more susceptible to breathing problems. He went through all the symptoms and was in isolation for 14 days.

“(Eventually) it seemed like he was getting better. He was up and he was Facetiming us and going for short walks to regain his strength. He was going to be transferred down to the lung unit for recovery. On Christmas Day he Facetimed me while I was cooking dinner. He wanted it to be like he was at home as usual.”

Myrine Kafkwi, bottom, speaks through video chat from his hospital bed in Edmonton with his mother Dolly Pierrot, in December. photo courtesy of Dolly Pierrot

That was the last time she spoke to her son.

On Dec. 30 she called the hospital and was told by the doctors that Myrine was transferred to the ICU of the lung ward. He was put into an induced coma on Dec. 28.

In a three-way call with Myrine’s father Wayne, a doctor explained that Myrine was critically ill and asked the parents to come down to Edmonton. Both took flights the next morning. Wayne flew down from Norman Wells, where he lives.

“He had developed two bacterial infections in his lung. One was Strep A infection and the other was Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). He was on life support and on a ventilator. His right lung was leaking. They gave him a serious amount of antibiotics.”

His parents have been in Edmonton for more than three weeks, with each taking turns to be by his side in the hospital.

“We’re just going day by day,” said Pierrot.

“There’s some positive news and then some negative news. The ventilator caused the hole to get bigger in his right lung. In order for some antibiotics to work he needs to be off the ventilator, but he needs that to breathe. This week they said he’s had improvement in his left lung and in the top of his right lung. The Strep A ate through most of his right lung. He caught a third infection in his right lung (on Jan. 15). He has a slight fever that comes up during the day.”

Some signs point to Myrine’s condition improving. On Jan. 21, a lung specialist plans to assess Myrine to see if a valve can be put inside his right lung to stop air from leaking out.

“That means he is well enough to have that inserted,” Pierrot said. “His oxygen level (also) went from 55 per cent to 45 per cent, meaning that he requires less support and he’s been coughing more, also good because he can cough on his own.”

But Myrine’s situation is still dire.

“The doctors have warned us that they’re not sure we’ll get him back as the normal Myrine we know. He’s been under sedation for too long. It’s not good for his mental health,” Pierrot said.

“The doctors said it’s a waiting game. Our emotions are just like a roller coaster. This hospital is quite busy and that ward is quite busy.”

Dolly Pierrot, left, takes a selfie with her son Myrine Kakfwi during a shopping trip in Edmonton when he helped her buy a new mobile phone, in June of 2020. photo courtesy of Dolly Pierrot

Despite their fear and uncertainty, Myrine’s family has been overwhelmed by the support they’ve received from friends, strangers and communities near and far.

“We’ve been getting so many phone calls and messages,” she said.

“Fort Good Hope did a fundraiser event and raised $3,500. Norman Wells did a fundraiser auction that raised about $12,000. Deline and Tulita did fundraisers too. The money will go towards our meals and hotel stays in Edmonton. We’ve had people who formed prayer circles. We’ve had well-wishers from all over including from Vancouver and New Brunswick and all over Alberta.”

Pierrot said that after Myrine’s Covid-19 symptoms worsened, he came to regret his position that it was a hoax. She hopes that people who doubt the severity of coronavirus consider what the effect it had on her son, who was healthy, outgoing and athletic before his diagnosis.

“Covid is a real thing. It’s dangerous. You can die from this disease. Be careful. Be safe. Wear your mask all the time. Sanitize all the time. Keep your distance. You just don’t know who has it.”

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