‘Kind of hero:’ Calgary care aide who died of COVID-19 passionate about his job

‘Kind of hero:’ Calgary care aide who died of COVID-19 passionate about his job

CALGARY — Ephraim Tiangha says there’s been a painful absence in his home since his best friend, a health-care aide at a long-term care centre, died from COVID-19.

Tiangha dreads another void that awaits him when he returns to work later this month at Calgary’s Bethany Riverview, where he worked alongside Joe Marie (Jing) Corral in the same dementia unit.

“There is emptiness in the house,” he said. “In the workplace, there will be emptiness because we work together as a team.”

Tiangha and Corral, whose families are from the same area of the Philippines, became friends in 2014 through work.

Two years later, Corral moved into the basement of the house where Tiangha lives with his wife and two daughters.

Despite the age difference — Corral was 61 and Tiangha is 45 — the two men became best friends. Tiangha said he feels like he has lost a family member.

The province said earlier this week that Corral was the first Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19. And the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees said the Workers’ Compensation Board of Alberta had confirmed that Corral acquired the virus from work.

Corral leaves behind a daughter in British Columbia and a son in Edmonton. A GoFundMe page has been set up to support his family and, as of Friday afternoon, it had raised more than $10,000.

Tiangha said his friend was quiet, but his jokes could unleash torrents of laughter. And when he gave love, it was unconditional.

“He was a genuine kind of friend.”

Corral was also passionate about his job and took the time to get to know each resident so he could tailor his care, said Tiangha.

When the novel coronavirus spread in his unit, Corral was undeterred.

“Even though he was scared, he didn’t stop working and taking care of the residents,” said Tiangha. “That’s the kind of hero he is.”

Tiangha said Corral tested positive for COVID-19 on Dec. 20 and for several days he was at home with mild symptoms. But within a week, he lost his sense of taste and had trouble breathing.

Tiangha told Corral to let him know if he needed to go to the hospital, but his friend said he was managing.

Tiangha texted and knocked on Corral’s door to check on him on Dec. 28. There was no response.

Because his wife is on dialysis and is immunocompromised, Tiangha knew he could not enter Corral’s room without wearing full personal protective equipment. He picked some up from a friend, got suited up and went inside.

Tiangha said he tried to wake his friend up, but Corral was unresponsive. Tiangha yelled to his wife to call 911 and the operator said to start chest compressions.

When paramedics arrived, they said Corral had been dead for hours.

“Every time I close my eyes, I remember the day I found him,” said Tiangha. He said he has had trouble sleeping and his employer has offered counselling.

“I’m trying to push myself to accept everything,” said Tiangha, who expects to return to work Jan. 18. “I don’t think he wants me to be like this, to feel depressed and to feel alone.”

Tiangha and his immediate family did not catch the virus, but another tenant in the basement did.

The province has said a second health-care worker also recently died of COVID-19 — a woman in her 50s, whose name and occupation have not been released.

On Thursday, the province said a physician in the Calgary zone had also died after contracting COVID-19, but he did not catch it at work.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 9, 2021.

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. A British Columbia company that feeds food waste to insects to produce pet food has received $6 million from the federal government for it’s new state-of-the-art plant just north of Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
B.C. company turning fly larvae into pet food gets $6M in federal funds

Fly larvae fed a mixture of food waste and agricultural byproducts

FortisBC is reporting record electricity usage as temperatures spike. (File photo
AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink submits proposal to Alberta Utilities Commission

Annamie Paul, leader of The Green Party of Canada and byelection candidate for the Toronto Centre riding, walks back to her car after greeting supporters on election night, October 26, 2020. Paul has spent most of the past 10 months holed up in her apartment, just like you. But that stationary, pandemic-induced state belies the sharp pivot her party is making as it manoeuvres to break the tether of a one-issue party and reframe itself as a fresh inheritor of Canada’s social justice tradition. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Annamie Paul charts new course for Green party — through crowded waters

Paul’s calls for guaranteed livable income, universal pharmacare and child care, and free post-secondary education

ATB Economics released new vehicle sales stats for November. (Contributed by ATB Economics)
2020 will be remembered as tough year for new car and truck dealers in Alberta

ATB Economics releases new vehicle sales stats for November

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

Opinion
Opinion: A trend that should keep Freeland up at night

With a raft of fresh economic forecasts and a promised $100 billion… Continue reading

A yard in Gascoyne, ND., which has hundreds of kilometres of pipes stacked inside it that are supposed to go into the Keystone XL pipeline, should it ever be approved are shown on April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
TC Energy decarbonization response to Keystone setback unlikely to sway ESG investors

Plans announced for the Keystone XL project to achieve net zero emissions

President-elect Joe Biden waves to reporters as walks out of The Queen theater Monday, Jan. 18, 2021, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Joe Biden to propose 8-year citizenship path for immigrants

An estimated 11 million people living in the U.S. without legal status

This screen grab from a Zoom call shows new New York Mets general manager Jared Porter Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. (Zoom via AP)
Report: Mets GM admits explicit texts to female reporter

Another embarrassing development for the Mets

A man wearing a protective mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus walks near banners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics are to open in six months on July 23. Interestingly, Tokyo organizers have no public program planned to mark the milestone. There is too much uncertainty for that right now. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Tokyo Olympics Q&A: 6 months out and murmurs of cancellation

Instead of a countdown celebration, the focus is on COVID-19

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard is shown during a bail hearing in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in this courtroom sketch. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tadens Mpwene - POOL
Canadian fashion mogul seeking bail on U.S. charges of sex trafficking, racketeering

Lawyers for the Attorney General of Canada say Nygard has a history of not showing up to court

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Montreal Canadiens down Edmonton Oilers 3-1, sweep series

Most Read