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‘This could happen to anyone’: Golden man, 38, with COVID-19 fighting for life in ICU

Fundraiser launched to support family of former Sicamous resident Ryan Milligan
Ryan Milligan, pictured with wife Amanda and kids Raya and Emmett, was in the ICU at Kelowna General Hospital fighting against COVID-19 on Sept. 23. A gofundme has been launched to support his family. (Contributed)

When his wife Amanda had to go to Abbotsford for medical care during her pregnancy, Ryan Milligan’s one and three-year-old kids would ask, “where’s my mommy?”

Now, 38-year-old Milligan is in the ICU at Kelowna General Hospital (KGH), intubated and sedated, fighting for his life against COVID-19.

Milligan’s young kids now ask where their daddy is too.

The Milligan family has resided in Sicamous since 2001 and consider it their home. Ryan attended high school in the district and moved to Golden in 2017.

Not long after his wife went to Abbotsford, Ryan, who works in Golden, began leaving the two kids, Raya and Emmett with his sisters, Elizabeth Fair and Sheena Braun, who live in Sicamous. His older stepson Jari went to live with his biological dad in Golden.

Ryan would work during the week and stay with family in Sicamous on weekends.

When he tested positive for COVID-19, Ryan couldn’t keep working, having to self-isolate due to his diagnosis.

Fair said in terms of health, Ryan had good and bad days throughout isolation as the virus attacked his body. He went to the hospital in Golden once, but was sent home as his breathing was OK. However, when he tried to return to work after his isolation period finished, his health took a turn for the worse.

“He tried to walk up the stairs, and he was out of breath,” said Fair. “He found a supervisor and went home. Shortly after, he found himself struggling to breathe, gasping for air.”

Ryan went back to the hospital in Golden. Fair said Ryan’s cousin called him, and Ryan couldn’t even get out three sentences.

“The nurse took his phone and said ‘listen, Ryan’s not doing good, he needs to be put on oxygen right now’,” said Fair.

The Golden & District Hospital said Milligan needed to see a specialist in an intensive care unit. Milligan was transferred by air to KGH. Ever since, he’s been non-responsive. He’s been intubated and is on sedative medications.

On Sept. 22, Fair and Braun went to visit their brother. They had to take turns visiting due to COVID-19 protocols, and speak to Ryan through a baby monitor, but were thankful they could visit at all.

“It put us in a state of shock, it made the whole situation so real. In the morning, the doctors had phoned and said Ryan was in critical condition,” said Fair.

“We never thought it would be us, people from a small town, visiting our 38-year-old brother in the ICU.”

When Braun went in, she played Ryan a recording of his son saying “I love you daddy.”

Fair said Ryan’s body tried to come to, causing him to have a panic attack. She said nurses didn’t want to say 100 per cent that he could hear, but they like to think he can. Fair said the nurses encouraged her and Braun to tell Ryan to fight.

“The nurses and doctors there were unreal, they’re unbelievable people. They wanted to know who was in that ICU bed, their story,” said Fair. “They were so kind, and you could see so much care in them. But you could see exhaustion, I could see they were just so tired.”

On Sept. 23, Fair received a call from doctors at KGH.

She said doctors hope to wean Ryan off the high dose of sedatives he’s currently on, to a point where he can answer questions. However, he’ll still have to be on ventilation. If Milligan can’t be coherent, or panics too much when the sedatives wear off, he’ll have to be put back under.

“They said most COVID-19 patients in the ICU have multiple-organs being attacked. Ryan’s lungs are extremely bad, and his oxygen levels even on the ventilator are very low. Without it, he wouldn’t be here and his organs would be shutting down,” said Fair.

While doctors say Ryan has a long way to go, Fair said they noted it’s a blessing the disease had only hit one organ at that time.

As Ryan’s health lies in uncertainty, Fair set up a gofundme to help him and his family not have to worry about finances in this difficult time. Fair said support has been amazing so far.

However, Fair said the family has also received hateful messages saying Ryan does not deserve an ICU bed, or medical care, as he chose to not get vaccinated.

Most of Fair’s family, including her, are vaccinated. “Ryan did his own research,” she said.

Fair wished to share this message: “In a world that feels so heavy, we need to put our opinions and judgment aside. We need to show others empathy and compassion. Take a moment to listen. Take a moment to not place shame. Understand that this could happen to anyone.

“No matter what side you’re on, we need to respect and understand that someone’s decision is not our own. And the fact is, he is a brother, a son, a father, a husband, a friend that is in critical condition who needs to be sent words of encouragement and be uplifted in prayers.”

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