How a 36-year-old Yorkton mother died from COVID-19 at home after trying to 'ride it out'

·5 min read
Twila Flamont, 36, died from COVID-19 at her home in Yorkton, Sask., in early October. She leaves behind six children. Her husband, Derek Langan, said they felt they were supposed to stay at home and avoid health facilities, where they might infect others with the virus. (Submitted by Derek Langan - image credit)
Twila Flamont, 36, died from COVID-19 at her home in Yorkton, Sask., in early October. She leaves behind six children. Her husband, Derek Langan, said they felt they were supposed to stay at home and avoid health facilities, where they might infect others with the virus. (Submitted by Derek Langan - image credit)

Forty-one-year-old Derek Langan can barely remember the week he spent bed-ridden at home with COVID-19 in Yorkton, Sask., but he'll never forget the moment he found his 36-year-old wife unresponsive in the living room.

She was also sick with COVID-19.

A 911 operator told Langan and his teenaged daughter to attempt CPR, but he had no breath to spare.

"I couldn't do it because I couldn't breathe. We had a hard time getting her off the couch, " he said. "I was not coherent. I was in a daze."

Twila Flamont, a mother-of-six, died at home from COVID-19 on Oct. 5.

Saskatchewan health officials first flagged in early October that some people were dying from COVID-19 outside of hospitals.

On Thursday, the province's chief medical health officer said there is no "consistent pattern" of home deaths, but hospital admission data shows too many people with COVID-19 are waiting too long to seek medical help.

In the second week of November, two-thirds of people admitted to hospital with COVID-19 were moved to the ICU within 24 hours of arrival.

"I hope that people who need hospital care show up to hospital and seek testing even before they become seriously ill," said Dr. Saqib Shahab.

An official from the health authority said half of the COVID patients in the hospital did not get tested beforehand.

In April, Ontario officials said they were seeing a similar phenomenon of younger people dying at home. A doctor said people weren't ignoring symptoms, but rather deteriorating from stable to dead very quickly.

"Ride it out at home"

Langan said his family was under the impression that people with COVID-19 were supposed to "ride it out at home" and avoid health facilities. He said no one told them differently and he had expected someone to check up on them.

Flamont, a popular Peavey-Mart employee in Yorkton, about 175 kilometres northeast of Regina, began coughing and feeling sick in late September. She went for testing, along with her husband and children, and they all tested positive for COVID.

Langan said they had chosen not to get vaccinated because of what they had read on Facebook, which he now considers to be myths and conspiracy theories.

Submitted by Derek Langan
Submitted by Derek Langan

After testing positive, the adults "faded fast," said Langan. Their children, ages 10 to 15, cooked and cared for each other while the two adults couldn't move or eat.

"We didn't know we could go to the hospital," he said.

At a certain point, Langan became so incoherent that he lost all ability to make rational decisions, he said.

Health authority stops daily calls

Langan remembers receiving one call from a public health worker doing contact tracing shortly after they tested positive. Langan said they told the caller that they didn't have anyone to help them, so public health arranged to have groceries delivered to their house. If there were any other phone calls, he doesn't remember them.

For the first 16 months of the pandemic, the Saskatchewan Health Authority had a higher standard of care for people with COVID-19 at home than most other provinces. It included a daily phone call to every person in the province with COVID-19, except to those already receiving care inside long-term care homes, hospitals or jails.

Mike Moore/Gillette News Record/The Associated Press
Mike Moore/Gillette News Record/The Associated Press

Case monitors checked up on people's symptoms, their compliance with isolation orders and whether they needed any other services.

The health authority stopped making those daily calls on July 11, when the province lifted all public health restrictions, including mandatory isolation.

"In a small number of cases, SHA has continued to provide daily calls to people who test positive for COVID-19. This is in the event they are at risk of becoming severely ill and they do not have supports in place to check in on them regularly," the SHA told CBC News in an email.

When the province resumed some isolation requirements on Sept. 10, the SHA did not resume daily phone calls.

The SHA still calls COVID-positive people on day 10 to formally end their period of isolation.

Flamont died on day nine.

A grim discovery

Langan assumed his wife was faring better than him, but he couldn't physically check up on her.

"I couldn't go to the bathroom. I couldn't get out of my room. We pretty much didn't talk to each other for the whole two weeks were sick. I pretty much lost two weeks," he told CBC News.

Then, on Oct. 5, he woke up to his daughter screaming.

"'Dad, wake up! Something's wrong with mom,'" he remembers hearing. "I said, 'What do you mean?'"

He could barely walk, but he pulled himself into the living room and found his wife unresponsive sitting up on the couch.

While they made weak attempts at CPR, he figures she was already dead.

"It was ugly. For me and my older daughter, I don't think I'll ever get over it."

Langan was still so sick from COVID-19 that he was admitted to hospital for several weeks, unable to comfort his children or attend his wife's funeral on Oct. 12.

He said he received a phone call from public health while in hospital to clear him from quarantine.

Langan is back home now with their children. After Flamont died, they all got vaccinated against COVID-19.

"We had it first-hand. I watched my wife die … There is no bullshit in that. I believe COVID is real," he said.

If anyone is confused about what to do, he said, seek medical help.

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