A 34-year-old Regina man recently survived COVID-19 said the province needs to take steps now to greater protect front-line workers from the third wave of the virus, which is now gripping younger people, due to new variants.

On March 15, Matthew Cardinal first began to experience symptoms, but by March 24, his condition worsened as he was having difficulty breathing and was rushed to hospital.

Cardinal was admitted to intensive care and told he was given only a few minutes to contact family about his situation.

“My vitals kept crashing to the point where they told me I needed to go to the ICU. You have 10 minutes to get ready, text, call your family post, whatever on Facebook,” Cardinal said. “It was scary. I didn’t know how long I was in there. The confusion, there’s no windows to the outside. It was a basically a glass or plastic enclosure.”

He was placed under a medically induced coma and put on a ventilator.

Cardinal is urging the province to open vaccines to all essential workers, including those working in retail, service and delivery.

“Frontline staff don’t have a choice. I took every precaution recommended but still got sick. That’s why we need a strategy that protects others in similar positions,” said Cardinal.

Cardinal contracted the U.K. variant.

NDP leader Ryan Meili wants the province to get the third wave under control and to ensure vaccine delivery is the most effective it can be. “It’s easy to get lost in the numbers and daily press releases but there are real people and real families behind those numbers,” said Meili.

Cardinal’s post-COVID recovery will include blood thinners for the next three months, at home physiotherapy to regain mobility and approximately three weeks of breathing exercises to eliminate the need for oxygen assistance.

“Just recently [we] did prioritize a number of our first responders as well as our additional health care workers. Ensuring that where we can continue to preserve that capacity and provide some vaccines to some of our frontline folks and grocery stores and pharmacies that we’re doing that as well,” said Premier Scott Moe.

(Photo of Matthew Cardinal in hospital courtesy of Dianne Desjarlais Cardinal)