More concerns were expressed this week about overcapacity at Red Deer hospital. (File photo by Advocate staff)

Unvaccinated Central Alberta man recounts battle with COVID-19

After being hospitalized by the virus, Tracey Barclay plans to get the vaccine

A local man has changed his tune on the COVID-19 vaccine after a scare with the virus.

Tracey Barclay, 52, was unvaccinated and tested positive for COVID-19 before being hospitalized by the virus at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre last week.

“I was unvaccinated. I thought, I got a strong immune system. I’ll just try my best without it,” Barclay said in a video published on the Alberta Health Services Facebook page. “Well, that didn’t work out quite as well as planned.”

Barclay said he was slipping in and out of consciousness because of a lack of oxygen and he has his mother with him because he feared for his life before he was transported to the hospital. He was admitted to one of three COVID units at the hospital in Red Deer.

After treatment, Barclay is now on the mend.

“There are no words for it. I feel buoyant. Overjoyed. I’m bouncing off the walls,” he said.

Barclay, who now plans to get vaccinated, has a simple message for those who are worried about the vaccine.

“I’m terrified of needles. But, how many chances do you get? Most people don’t get the two chances I got,” he said.

Kelly Longard, director of critical care for AHS Central zone, said the Red Deer hospital over the last 10 days has had to deal with anywhere 24 to 28 COVID-19 patients on ventilators.

As of Friday, AHS said the Central zone ICU is at 92 per cent capacity, with 26 beds including 14 additional spaces.

“People have made choices to not be vaccinated and protect themselves and unfortunately, we’re seeing those patients here,” said Gillian Brown, ICU manager at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.

“There’s a lot of heartbreak. Families are being destroyed by this illness and it is real.”

Provincially, ICU capacity (including additional surge beds) is at 80 per cent. Without the additional surge spaces, provincial ICU capacity would be at 173 per cent.

Red Deer had 797 active cases of COVID-19 as of Friday. In the city, about 65.6 per cent of the population over 12 has received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 57.4 per cent of the eligible population is fully inoculated.