Winnipeg man home for first time in almost 3 months after battle with COVID-19

By | June 18, 2020

A Winnipeg man who spent nearly three months battling with, and recovering from, COVID-19 said Wednesday “really was a homecoming.”

Neil Funk-Unrau is finally back in his own home, after a long recovery in hospital from the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

He tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Cuba with his wife in March, and was admitted to St. Boniface Hospital. But a couple of days later, he was transferred to ICU and put on a ventilator.

Funk-Unrau wouldn’t wake up for several weeks. MRI and CT scans later showed that he had suffered a series of strokes while in the coma, contributing to the length of time he was under and creating a tougher road to recovery.

“I’m doing OK, still definitely a bit weak,” Funk-Unrau, 66, said from his home on Thursday.

“It’s good to be in a space where you can do your own thing and not have everybody else kind of watching and controlling what you do,” he said.

He added, though, that he’s grateful for the health-care workers who helped him along the way.

After he got out of his coma, he was sent to Riverview Health Centre, where he rehabilitated for over a month before returning home on Wednesday.

Neil Funk-Unrau looked forward to seeing friends he hadn’t seen in months on Thursday. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

Having her husband home has “just been a relief,” said Genevieve Funk-Unrau.

“We can be together. We don’t have to be six feet apart.”

Genevieve also tested positive for COVID-19 after the trip to Cuba, but was cleared by public health nurses two weeks after her March 17 diagnosis.

The entire time Neil was in ICU, Genevieve was fighting to see him, in hopes her presence would help him wake up.

“It’s quite possible” that having his wife by his bedside could have helped wake him up sooner, Neil said Thursday.

“I think having that family right there is certainly an incentive,” he said.

“I was touched by the work she did and the tremendous community support that was out there as well.”

The two were finally able to see each other at the end of April, after Funk-Unrau was out of his coma.

He remembers opening his eyes briefly and hearing a song from the couple’s wedding playing in the background, and he knew his wife was nearby.

He wants the public to realize COVID-19 is a serious illness, and that people should ensure they’re following public health guidelines.

He also hopes people take care of their mental health, as isolation forced on people by the pandemic could have negative impacts.

Personally, Funk-Unrau said his experience has taught him to slow down.

He plans to continue some of his work as a faculty member at Menno Simons College, he said.

“But at the same time, work isn’t the most important thing around.… Taking time for family, taking time to heal and be in good health is certainly much more valuable.”

Loved ones drove by the Funk-Unrau residence Thursday evening to welcome Neil back home. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

To officially welcome Funk-Unrau home, loved ones put on a drive-by parade and a physically distanced gathering on his front lawn Thursday evening.

Speaking with CBC News prior to the event, he said he was looking forward to thanking them for their messages of support over the past few months.

“It’d be great to see some of them come by and wave, and maybe chat a little bit,” Funk-Unrau said. “Just so they could see that things are improving.”

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