The lawn chair where Harmandeep Singh, who died in May of COVID-19, last sat in the backyard of his Brampton family home is covered in plastic wrap.
It is surrounded by potted plants and bright coloured flowers, and attached to the back is a photograph of his smiling face.
Singh’s mother, Manmeen Oberoi, said the family wanted to keep the chair protected from the rain.
His brother-in-law said it was his favourite spot.
There is an overwhelming sense of grief as the family mourns the 36-year-old, who died following a brief battle with COVID-19.
Oberoi said it all happened very quickly.
After her own mother’s non-COVID-19 related passing in April, Oberoi began to feel ill.
Soon after, she, her husband and their son all tested positive for COVID-19.
Singh, who had recently been diagnosed with asthma, had the most severe symptoms.
He went to Brampton Civic Hospital.
“They just saw him through the screen and said, ‘You’re fine, you can go home, isolate and take some Tylenol Cold and Flu.’ He came home disheartened,” said Oberoi.
As his symptoms appeared to worsen, soon after, worried for her son, Oberoi called 911.
“He was scared. He was feeling he was going to pass out,” she recalled.
An ambulance brought him to Brampton Civic Hospital again.
Hours later, Oberoi called the emergency room to ask for an update on her son’s condition.
“The nurse answered and she said his blood work and chest X-ray is done but there are so many patients before him and, ‘We are so busy and don’t know how many are going to die.’ Yes, these are the exact words and we just tried to be really courteous to them,” she said.
Later, she phoned again and got ahold of a nurse.
“She started speaking in our language, in Hindi, ‘You all will fall sick … There are so many patients. We are so busy’,” she said. “He had spent almost six hours sitting there with that heavy chest.”
After several more hours, Oberoi said her son was discharged with a prescription for an inhaler and tablets “for sleep or anxiety.”
Feeling unwell, he sat outside on his lawn chair breathing in fresh air, said Oberoi.
It wouldn’t be long after that his condition worsened and Oberoi said his pulse was dropping.
“He said, ‘No, I’m not going to the hospital. It’s a nightmare. I’m not going to sit there. They’ll make me sit six hours. I’m not going to the hospital.’ So I stepped out. I called 911,” she said.
When the paramedics came, Oberoi said they performed CPR in the driveway of the family home.
“Thirty-two hours just after coming back from hospital, I lost him,” she said.
Global News reached out to a William Osler Health System spokesperson for comment. They said out of respect of the patient’s privacy, they would not comment on this specific incident. However, they added they “are undertaking a comprehensive care review in accordance with our regular quality review processes.”
“(The) William Osler Health System offers our sincere condolences to the family at this time. At Osler, we strive to deliver safe and compassionate care for every patient we serve, and we are deeply concerned when we do not meet the standard our patients or families expect and deserve,” said Emma Murphy, director of public relations at Osler Health.
“Osler is continually improving and re-evaluating processes and clinical practices, and plans staffing levels that support the delivery of quality care, when and where patients need it most.”
Oberoi’s son-in-law, Kanwar Singh said he “gets chills, sleepless nights to even think about going through the ordeal.”
“Just to imagine what they’ve gone through and to see him suffering like this, with the experience he had at the hospital and the fact that he never wanted to go back there is just unnerving … And the fact that the family would have to watch him be resuscitated outside the home,” he added.
Oberoi said she wanted people to know about her son’s death because it could happen to anyone.
“My son fell through the cracks. Someday, we all might go through those cracks,” she said.
Oberoi said she wonders whether an overwhelmed healthcare system in Peel Region may have contributed to her son’s death.
“We are legally here. We’re taxpayers. We are citizens of this country. And we deserve a good health system,” she said. “Harmandeep Singh had asthma and definitely he was having some symptoms of pneumonia, which later showed up in the coroner’s report … unfortunately, my son was sent home instead of being treated for this trauma. He was sent home and we were kept in the dark.”
She said her final words to her son, moments before his death, were “stay strong.”
Oberoi recalled how worried her son was about returning to the hospital.
That worry has since been replaced with sorrow, she said.
“He was such a happy, go-lucky child … and he smiled and he was very courteous, very gentle. He felt the pain for others. And he was always giving, you know, taking care of us, supporting us emotionally, morally, financially at times,” she said, with tears in her eyes.
“The most sweetest, caring, amiable, cheerful, jovial person I’ve known. What makes all this so very difficult is the fact that the profound impact he’s had on people of different ages, backgrounds, cultures,” said his brother-in-law.
There has been an outpouring of support for the family from loved ones, some as far away as India.
“We lost a few relatives in India as well … they were struggling to get good hospital treatment, and they couldn’t believe that similar situation was happening in Canada,” she said.
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