Winnipeg couple finally reunited after husband wakes from COVID-related coma

By | May 1, 2020

For a man who had just come out of a coma, Neil Funk-Unrau looked good.

Maybe it was serendipity, or maybe the nurses wanted the 66-year-old to look as sharp as he could when he saw his wife for the first time in weeks, after being put into a coma to recover from COVID-19.

“The nurses had just finished washing his hair and he was in a wheelchair. He saw me and he kind of smiled,” said Genevieve Funk-Unrau, who visited her husband Thursday.

“Unfortunately he has difficulty talking right now … so [communication] was more just through holding hands, smiles.”

Funk-Unrau and her husband both contracted the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 while on a trip to Cuba in March. She has since recovered, but Neil had to be hospitalized. His condition worsened and he was put into a coma and placed in the intensive care unit.

For weeks, Funk-Unrau tried to visit her husband, but couldn’t because hospitals are barring outside visitors in order to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus.

“It’s been extremely hard, especially for my girls,” said Funk-Unrau, whose daughters are now adults.

Neil Funk-Unrau during his vacation to Cuba with wife Genevieve in March. Both tested positive for COVID-19 soon after returning to Winnipeg. (Genevieve Funk-Unrau)

“They haven’t seen Neil in person since March 4.”

Doctors had taken Neil off sedatives in early-to-mid-April, but Funk-Unrau said he had trouble waking up. 

“Even up until two days ago he was very unfocused. He knew that we were there and would try to look, but he was very sleepy, couldn’t pay attention too long,” she said.

After running an MRI and a CT scan, doctors learned that Neil had suffered a series of strokes. This is partially why Funk-Unrau was finally allowed in — so she and the physician assistant could develop a care plan for Neil.

“The doctors aren’t real hopeful for how much recovery he’ll have,” she said.

“I’m not sure I totally got the message because I just feel he’s there, you know? He just now needs to fight to start speaking, to physically move more. Brain-wise, it might not be 100 per cent, but he’s there.”

Although she has recovered from the virus, Funk-Unrau says her body is not operating on all cylinders, citing that fatigue still sets in sometimes.

She says she doesn’t know when she’ll be allowed to visit her husband again.

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