Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Left to Right: Rebecca Lam, Ronald Lam, Ricky Lam, Robert Lam

Handout

For four days in November, Ricky Lam documented his experience with COVID-19 on social media. He went to the emergency department on Nov. 20 because he was having difficulty breathing. He had chills and a fever. His X-rays showed signs of COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, there’s nothing they can apparently do for me if I don’t need oxygen so I’m getting sent home,” he wrote on Instagram Nov. 21. He punctuated the post with a sad-face emoji.

He woke the next day with chills, extreme fatigue and diarrhea. He vomited. His COVID-19 test came back positive. “Brushing my teeth required me to rest afterwards,” Mr. Lam wrote Nov. 23. “Even chewing a little requires me to take a break in between.” Stairs were daunting.

Story continues below advertisement

Linda Zhang and Ricky Lam.

Handout

“Breathing has become very difficult. Every few breaths I go into a coughing fit. Last night was strong enough to make me vomit. It’s so brutal, it doesn’t allow me the chance to recover,” he continued, again punctuating the update with a sad face.

The next day, his father found him dead in their Edmonton home. Mr. Lam was 40 and, as far as his cousins know, did not have any underlying conditions that may have complicated the infection. His death makes him an outlier – only 124 people under 50 have died of COVID-19 in Canada, less than 1 per cent of the country’s 12,750 fatalities as of Dec. 9 – but families like his are warning others of the potentially deadly consequences of the disease for younger people.

Mr. Lam took COVID-19 seriously, according to his family. He wore masks and followed the health protocols. His cousins believe his final eight Instagram posts – the ones detailing his COVID-19 symptoms – were his way of alerting others to the risks associated with infection.

“He spent basically his dying days doing what he liked to do, which was help people,” said Lisa Friesenhan, one of his cousins. “Changing one mind of one person to think about the potential severity of this virus, I think that would mean so much to Ricky.”

In Alberta, 653 people have died of COVID-19 as of Dec. 8, and only 12 of those have been under 50. The province’s youngest COVID-19 victim was 27; the oldest, 106. In Winnipeg, COVID-19 killed an Indigenous boy – identified only as being “under 10″ – with other health problems at the end of November. Nationwide, the disease has killed three people under 20 as of Dec. 9, according to federal statistics, as well as 14 people between 20 and 29, another 28 individuals between 30 and 39 and 79 people between 40 and 49.

Left to Right: Ricky Lam, Rebecca Lam, Robert Lam

Handout

Young people who contract COVID-19 often have mild symptoms, if any at all, according to Tara Kiran, a family doctor at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. But the stealth of the disease in young people can be problematic as the illness spreads widely. If, for example, 1,000 young people contract COVID-19 and 1 per cent suffer complications, that’s 10 severe cases, she noted.

“We are going to be seeing more complications,” Dr. Kiran said, noting that they are not limited to those with prior health conditions.

Story continues below advertisement

“There’s also the luck factor,” she said. “Some people just come down with a more severe condition and more severe complications over the course of COVID, and we don’t really know why.”

Jevin Potvin was 32 when COVID-19 complications took his life in May. He had previously lost the use of his legs because of a blood infection – the result of drug use with needles – and had other underlying conditions, according to his father, Dan Potvin.

Jevin contracted COVID-19 while staying at the Ottawa Civic Hospital, where he had been for four or five months. He was clean during that stretch, putting on weight, and was set to be released, his father said. But he developed a fever and, days after testing positive for the virus, medical staff found him unresponsive. An MRI showed a brain hemorrhage. He was put on life support. His mother was with him when he died. His father was not – he did not want to see his son in that state.

“I hope people take it seriously and be cautious until this is over, until we get a vaccine and things get back to normal,” Mr. Potvin said.

He remembers his son as someone who liked to skateboard, worked hard in construction and was recovering from addictions.

In Edmonton, Ricky Lam’s family remember him as someone who would spontaneously sing at weddings and whip out Asian fans while dancing.

Story continues below advertisement

“He would get absolutely everybody going on the dance floor,” Ms. Friesenhan said. “He wanted people to feel included.”

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies