Sask. doctor who died of COVID-19 remembered by loved ones as 'a man who made a difference'

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Dr. Youssef Al-Begamy, 48, a Saskatchewan family and emergency room physician died of COVID-19 complications in Ontario early Sunday morning, his next of kin has confirmed with CBC News. (Submitted by Marvin Huber - image credit)
Dr. Youssef Al-Begamy, 48, a Saskatchewan family and emergency room physician died of COVID-19 complications in Ontario early Sunday morning, his next of kin has confirmed with CBC News. (Submitted by Marvin Huber - image credit)

Dr. Youssef Al-Begamy is being remembered for making everyone he met feel like his best friend.

"That's the impression that he leaves on anybody … that's his character," close friend and colleague Fauzi Ramadan told CBC News at a prayer service Monday night.

Al-Begamy, a 48-year-old Saskatchewan family and emergency room physician, died of COVID-19 complications early Sunday morning, Ramadan confirmed.

The doctor was among the first Saskatchewan intensive care patients transferred to Ontario for treatment amid the province's fourth-wave bed crunch, Ramadan said. Since Al-Begamy had no family in Saskatchewan, Ramadan acted as his next of kin.

Once the doctor was moved to a hospital in Toronto, Ramadan kept track of his friend's declining condition — always making sure to update his family back home in Saudi Arabia.

"We all feel sad. It's a tragic loss," Ramadan said. "It's as though I lost a son. It's not easy."

Plans are underway to have Al-Begamy's body transported to Saudi Arabia for the burial — as per his mother's request.

'A very special person'

Marvin Huber, Al-Begamy's friend and frequent handyman, was one of dozens of people who attended a prayer service at the Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Masjid mosque in Moose Jaw Monday night.

He said he remembers speaking to the doctor just hours before he was put on a ventilator last month.

"He told me he was ready and that he's accepted the fact that this might be the end," Huber said, adding Al-Begamy asked for prayers.

"It was just devastating."

Fauzi Ramadan
Fauzi Ramadan

Brad Thorpe, who worked with Al-Begamy years ago in the Moose Jaw emergency department, said he was also in touch with his friend shortly before he was intubated.

He said he wished Al-Begamy well via text message and received back three emojis: a heart, a thumbs up and prayer hands.

Thorpe noted he's remembering the doctor as someone who was "full of life" and always friendly.

"When you were being treated as a patient or whether you were standing next to him as a friend, you always felt like you were the most important person in the room," he explained. "He was a very special person … a man who made a difference."

Family doctor urges vaccination

Sources tell CBC News that Al-Begamy was not immunized against COVID-19 and did not agree with vaccine mandates.

As a family doctor, Thorpe said he wants people to understand that no one — no matter how healthy or active they are — is immune to the virus.

"If there's anything we could learn from this, it's to take it seriously," he advised. "My take home message is: vaccinate, wear your mask, physically distance — and listen to people when they ask you to do these things."

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