TIMMINS -- On this day last year, a roaring welcome party ushered Graham Bushey out of the Timmins and District Hospital after battling a severe case of COVID-19.

He was in a coma and on a ventilator for almost a month. His family called it a nightmare.  

"I couldn't breathe and couldn't taste my food, stuff like this was going on," Graham told CTV.

"Once I was in there, I couldn't remember a lot."

Bushey's wife, Carole, said he almost didn't survive the disease. The Timmins hospital did all they could do for him, she said, and then transferred him to Health Sciences North in Sudbury.

In what Carole called a miracle, Bushey pulled through after being taken off his ventilator. He was transferred back to Timmins to undergo physiotherapy, she said, and was discharged a month ahead of schedule.

Relieved to have a positive ending to the ordeal, Carole said it was difficult to watch her husband go through it without family by his side.

"He was in the hospital for two months, I couldn't see him," she said, holding back tears.

"It was so hard."

Today, Bushey has been slowly recovering and is back at work in a reduced capacity.

He's "determined to get his life back," Carole said, but is still grappling with muscle soreness, fatigue and joint pain.

Those are among the common lasting symptoms among people who survive COVID-19, said Sault Ste Marie infectious disease specialist Dr. Lucas Castellani.

Shortness of breath and persistent headaches are frequent symptoms as well, Castellani said, but it varies widely from person to person.

Research still being conducted

And as for how long symptoms last, he said research is still developing globally.

"Many people recover, sometimes it takes upwards of six-plus months, but some people don't," Castellani said. "If it's like any of the other (types of) infections I've treated along the way, some people have these symptoms for many years."

Currently, Castellani said there is ongoing research into possible treatments for COVID-19 survivors, but at the moment, the best option is adopting a healthier lifestyle and waiting for symptoms to subside.

For Carole Bushey, she wishes more people would recognize the impacts that this virus can have on people — and do more to protect themselves and others.

She said it's frustrating to see people who don't take COVID-19 prevention measures seriously.

"That's the saddest part," Carole said. "As long as they keep acting this way, it's harder to get rid of this virus."

She said seeing people who don't wear a mask indoors, don't respect physical distancing or downplay the dangers of COVID-19 puts her in a rage, saying that behaviour is disrespectful to people like her husband.

"They have no clue," she said. "Until this happens to you — I don't wish that on nobody — but if it did, you would see things differently."

Carole and Graham said they are relieved to have both doses of the vaccine now and say they are hopeful that Graham can eventually make a full recovery.

Most of all, Carole said she's happy he survived.

"I didn't give him a choice. He had to come back -- he'd better come back."