Coronavirus: Daughter of COVID-19 victim warns about viciousness of the virus

Calgary’s Cambodian-Laotian community is mourning the loss of 70-year-old Nouden Phon after the great-grandmother succumbed to COVID-19 Sunday.

“We thought she was just going in [to hospital] for a cold/flu/pneumonia kind-of-thing. The timeline of how fast it affected her was astronomical,” said her Toronto-based daughter Sophon Chou in an interview Thursday.

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Phon had been taking the pandemic seriously. The devout Buddhist avoided the temple, staying at home and only leaving to pick up vitamins and groceries.

Her family said they believe she became infected after one of these trips.

“My mother was healthy and very active… she had no underlying health conditions and hadn’t travelled recently,” Chou said, calling the virus “vicious.”

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She said it killed her mother less than two weeks after she fell ill. The virus led to several complications including cardiac arrest and a stroke, which left Phon with permanent brain damage.

Chou said the family made the difficult decision to take Phon off life support. Under normal circumstances, they would have had more time to process what to do, but with the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to climb in Calgary, the family said they didn’t have that luxury.

“[The hospital] needed the bed and ventilator for other patients who have a better percentage of recovering. Rest her soul, she would have wanted someone else to have that opportunity to get better.”

Phon survived the Cambodian civil war, losing one of her five children to starvation. She came to Canada as a refugee, creating a new life for her young family which included four adopted nieces and nephews whose parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge.

Chou described her mother as a very resilient and vivacious woman who was always the life of the party.

Phon was considered a pillar of the Cambodian-Laotian community and gave back through charity work. At the core of everything she did, was family. She worked hard to provide for them, as well as extended relatives back home in Cambodia.

“She was a giving and very selfless person… the welcoming house – that was our family and she’s the heart of it. A lot of people are hurt across the world because of her passing,” said Chou.

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Phon would have celebrated 50 years with her husband this year. She leaves behind four children, six grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.

Her family is urging people to be responsible and practice social distancing.

“If you care about your elders, if you care about your community, and if you care about your world – stay home.” said Chou.

Phon will be laid to rest Saturday in Calgary.

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