‘I’m sorry that I didn’t get it’: Cornwall, Ont. woman promotes COVID-19 vaccine after spending 24 days in ICU

A Cornwall woman’s near-death experience and long-term stay in the intensive care unit is pushing her to speak publicly about COVID-19 vaccinations.

Brenda Lee Legault is back in her catering kitchen, doing what she loves to do – Cook.

Only a few weeks ago she was fighting for her life in a Cornwall hospital after contracting COVID-19.

“They put me on 95 per cent oxygen and they put me in ICU immediately,” Legault told CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday.

Legault thinks she caught the virus at an event she catered in early August, coming down with a cough, diarrhea and fever.

She went to the hospital and was given antibiotics, but when that didn’t work she returned. Legault ended up in the intensive care unit for 24 days, scared and alone.

“It’s like my life flashed in front of me, it really changed me inside, you know?” Legault said. “The experience I went through was horrific I would say, because 10 days being sick, on the tenth day I thought I was going to die.”

“It’s pretty scary, because it’s almost like you’re feeling like you’re drowning because you can’t breathe,” Legault added. “It’s something that I don’t wish upon anybody.”

Like so many others, before Legault got sick, her and her husband Gilles were drawn in by misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines and didn’t get the shot, even though they were both eligible.

“When the pandemic emerged there was conflicting stories. Some were saying maybe it’s a silent war and different things, where it could have been a plot of man of some sort,” said her husband Gilles.

“Different ideas were being shared abroad and so we were mixed on that and then also side effects of some of the vaccines. So we were on the fence about it because we didn’t really know what we were getting into,” he added.

He said both of them were considering getting their first shots when talk of the fourth wave began over the summer, but then his wife got sick.

“It was tough to see her go from being perfectly healthy and to see her health deteriorate to such a degree,” Gilles said. “Eventually leading to the closure of the business and things, it was tough.”

The couple has been married more than 29 years. Former long-haul truck drivers, they quit that careers and opened up a catering business in Cornwall five years ago.

When Legault got sick, they had to close the business, cancelling catering jobs for summer weddings and losing that revenue.

“If you are in small business and you are unvaccinated and you get ill from COVID, it not only affects your health but it will likely destroy your business, so it is not worth if from either perspective,” Gilles said.

“I would encourage anyone out there who is on the fence, do the right thing go and get vaccinated. It is the smart and right thing to do,” he added.

The couple say that’s why they are sharing Brenda’s horrifying ordeal – A total of 30 days in hospital and 24 in intensive care. She just got home mid-September.

“The doctors and nurses at the Cornwall Community Hospital were amazing with me. They saved my life, so I’m really thankful,” Legault said.

But her recovery is far from over, she’s still on oxygen and is worried about long-term damage.

“I’m still having problems breathing, I have to be on oxygen. I’m hoping it’s temporary but they don’t know,” Legault said. “I do have lung damage, so they don’t know the severity of it yet. They will know in another three weeks.”

Her heart might also be damaged and she’s also on other medication because of COVID and she can’t take the vaccine yet.

“It’s a steroid that I am taking right now to heal my lungs, so I have to wait for my vaccination,” she added.

Her near-death experience, changing their outlook on being vaccinated.

“My status now? Brenda encouraged me while she was in ICU to go get vaccinated. It was not a difficult decision at that point,” her husband said.

He will get his second shot next week, with the couple planning to reopen their business next week as well.

“I’m looking forward to serving my customers again and doing my talents,” Legault said. “I actually got a call today for somebody for homemade soup and a sandwich, so yeah I’m going back to work. I’m really thankful.”

“I’d like to add that people who are skeptical out there, please get your vaccine. It is so important. Don’t risk your life. I’m sorry that I didn’t get it,” Legault said.

“We were skeptical, but at this juncture we have a totally different view of the vaccine,” added Gilles. “It is something that is an absolute must, that all people be vaccinated.”