Leafs give Norfolk COVID-19 patient a boost

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On Sunday, Mike VanNetten was able to go outdoors for the first time since arriving at Hamilton General Hospital in April with COVID-19.

The Norfolk County chicken farmer, husband and father of four spend 30 minutes outside, enjoying the sunshine, said his wife, Sarah.

“It’s like they have a deal,” Sarah said about the bond between her husband and the hospital’s intensive care unit medical team. “They’re making each other feel better.

“They’re helping Mike recover from COVID and, by getting better, he’s giving them something to celebrate.”

Mike, 45, spent more than a month in a medically induced coma on a ventilator – the last resort for COVID-19 patients clinging to life. He was able to come off the ventilator on May 10.

A big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Mike got a boost when he learned he had been sent a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey signed by all the players.

“It’s No. 13 and it also has his nickname ‘Chicken’ on it,” Sarah said. “More people call him by his nickname than his real name and he’s really going to enjoy wearing that jersey some day soon.”

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Mike has been able to follow his beloved Leafs in their first-round playoff series with the Montreal Canadiens. With Game 3 set for Monday night, the best-of-seven series is tied 1-1.

Watching the Leafs is just an example of the remarkable progress Mike has made in recent weeks thanks to the tremendous work of his medical team, which now includes physiotherapists.

“I can’t say enough about their efforts,” said Sarah. “They’ve been great and as a result of their work, Mike is getting stronger.

“It’s truly a miracle and we’re grateful for all they have done.”

Mike is now COVID-19 negative. He has been moved to the ICU’s COVID recovery ward. He is learning to walk and has made it out to the unit’s hallway a couple of times.

But there’s still a long way to go and Sarah said she is grateful for the support she and her family have received from so many people.

“We have received so many generous gifts during this time,” she said in social media post. “None that I can ever repay.”

Vball@postmedia.com

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