‘This virus is an assassin’: Son of COVID-19 victim at B.C. care home shocked by disease’s speed

During his final weekly visit to his father at the Haro Park long-term care centre in Vancouver on March 14, Bruce Hampson noticed his 93-year-old father, Arthur, did not look well.

By the early morning hours of March 22, Arthur Hampson was dead. 

He was the first person diagnosed with COVID-19 at Haro Park and the first person at the facility whose death was connected to the disease, his son said.

“I was with him Saturday morning and he looked fatigued. He wasn’t very happy,” Bruce Hampson said.

Arthur was taken to St. Paul’s Hospital on Monday, March 16 with a high fever. The next day the diagnosis was confirmed.

“They told me that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and all they could do was really make him feel comfortable,” Bruce said. “There was no treatment for his age or for his condition.”

Arthur Hampson, front row right, appears in a 2012 family photo. Seated next to him is his wife, Barbara, who predeceased him. In the back row, left to right, are his children: Bruce Hampson, Sharon Henderson and Douglas Hampson. (Bruce Hampson)

He said he’s still baffled by the speed of his father’s death. His dad, he said, was healthy for his age.

“This virus is an assassin. It’s a killer.”

On Wednesday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said there were now 28 infected residents and 27 staff members with confirmed cases of the virus at Haro Park.

The 154-resident care home in Vancouver’s West End is the scene of one of the worst outbreaks in B.C.

Haro Park Centre has become one of the worst-hit long-term care centres infected with COVID-19, with a total of 55 confirmed cases on Wednesday, March 25. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

An adventurer

Arthur — who also went by Bill — was an adventurer, his son said.

His family were Lithuanian immigrants to South Africa. Arthur moved to Canada in 1955 after seeing a postcard of Canada with mountains and a red serge-clad Mountie.

He brought his wife and firstborn to Canada and lived in towns like Kitimat and Uranium City, seeking work before settling in Vancouver. There he ran a locksmith and repair shop in Mount Pleasant for many years.

Bruce Hampson said his father, Arthur, was an avid dancer until his mid 80s. (Bruce Hampson)

“He was an avid dancer. He loved jazz. He loved life,” Bruce said, adding his father was a longtime volunteer at St. Paul’s.

“He was always concerned about the community and a very giving and caring individual.”

Now, Bruce is worried about his own health. He is 66 and has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Despite this, Bruce and his wife haven’t been able to get tested for COVID-19, he said. Health officials told them to stay home, self-isolate and monitor their condition.

“Everyday [we’re] waking up anxious and asking each other, how’s your chest? Are you coughing? How do you feel?” he said. “It’s a horrible feeling not knowing.”

On Wednesday, B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the criteria for testing depends on where patients are located, what the local health authority knows about clusters of COVID-19 cases and how severe the person’s illness is.

“We are focusing on where it makes the most difference,” Henry said. “We are focusing on health-care workers, we’re focusing on the health system — so people in long-term care or people who are in hospital are or likely to be in hospital.”

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