When René Segura started feeling ill, his wife Tracy Segura implored him to go to the hospital.
The Barrie, Ont., resident had been to a COVID-19 assessment centre the previous day and was told he had a cold. But he decided to heed Tracy’s advice.
Then, his symptoms worsened. By the time he got to the hospital, his health was declining.
But their family’s biggest test of strength was still yet to come.
Eventually, doctors informed 42-year-old René he would have to be intubated.
Here is their story, as told to CBC Radio.
René: Tracy and I, we met 18 years ago in the Dominican Republic. We were both on vacation and that’s where our love sparked for each other and we became soul mates. And then we got married 10 months after.
Tracy: No, we didn’t. No, we didn’t. [Laughs]
René: Well, I proposed 10 months after. We’ve created a beautiful family that we are strong together.
Tracy, she insisted that I go to the hospital, which I was against just because I had gotten tested the day before.
Tracy: No, you got assessed. You didn’t get tested.
René: Yeah, I got an assessment at the assessment clinic here in Barrie. I was told I had a cold.
Luckily, I did listen to her after she grabbed my face and she looked into my eyes and said, “Rene, you know, you have to go in.”
Things started getting worse as soon as I stepped in because my breathing started to decline. My oxygen levels started to decline. I started getting fevers.
Tracy: Still, it was something we didn’t want to hear [that René needed to be intubated]. I knew though that his body was weak and that’s what the doctor said. He said his body’s just too weak right now to take in the oxygen. It’s not going in.
He had already, I think, gone through two different air machines that just were not working for him.
So the next choice that they had was to just control his whole body and shut him down.
René: He [the doctor] calmed me down and just spoke and just told me, “Hey, this is what’s going to happen. But, you know, I want you to look outside. Look out the door right now,” which was a glass door.
And there was a group of doctors there.
He said, “You see that? That’s my team. And we’re going to take care of you. We’re going to make sure that we get through this together.
So don’t you worry. Call your wife. Do what you need to do. Talk to them. But we got you.”
Tracy: Just before René got intubated, he passed along a message to our nine-year-old daughter, who was turning 10.
So it was Saturday when we spoke with him, and Monday was our daughter’s 10th birthday.
So just before hanging up with us he said, “Tell Bri daddy’s not going to be home for her birthday, but I’ll be there to celebrate with her after.”
And he said, “Tell her I’m sorry.”
René: When I woke up, it was a little bit scary because I still had tubes. I still had a breathing tube, feeding tube, everything. I was attached.
I said … ‘You have to keep pushing, and you have to keep focus, because I can’t afford for you to mentally … fall apart right now.’– Tracy Segura
And even looking at pictures now, it’s like I don’t even remember having a conversation with Tracy.
Tracy: You know, he came off of the tubes on the Tuesday, and by Tuesday night he said to me, “Trace, it doesn’t look good for me.”
And I had to… And we were on FaceTime. At this point he could FaceTime me on his own. And I had to tell him, “Look at me. You know me. If I lie to you, you’ll be able to tell.”
I said, “You are doing fantastic and you have no idea how far you’ve come. So you have to keep pushing, and you have to keep focus, because I can’t afford for you to mentally, you know, fall apart right now, especially when you’ve come so far.”
René: And he [the doctor] said, “Well, we have two options for you. We have the option of you staying here or the other option is you go home and you heal there.
We’ve checked you. We’ve done everything that we could on our end, and everything looks good.”
So I said, “Well, I’m going to choose option two. I want to come home. I want to go home.”
Tracy: It was just the most beautiful moment. He came in the car, he stuck out his hand towards the kids and they all grabbed his arm.
I buried my face in his chest and we just all cried.
And it was just such a moment of relief at that point because there wasn’t a moment that we had all let out like that.
I hadn’t seen the kids cry like that. I hadn’t seen my son cry at all until that moment.
And just to be the five of us together again was the best feeling.
René: You know what, for me it was… I cry because the battle was over. I was home.
René: I was victorious. I…
Tracy: You made it home.
René: I made it home. I was…
Tracy: You did it. You made it home.
René: I did it. You know, and I had my kids behind me, you know, my wife beside me, and it was just that family that pushed me forward.
Tracy: We sang Happy Birthday for Bri [once René returned home]. We surprised both of them.
We put out a cake and sang Happy Birthday and she broke down.
She held it together for her birthday in a way that I did not expect.
But that moment we sang Happy Birthday for her with her dad there, she melted and broke down in his arms and just poured her heart into her dad there, telling him how much she loved him.
And it was needed.
This Happened to Me: COVID-19 is a video series from CBC Radio featuring the stories of Canadians who have battled the coronavirus.