The story of one Ottawa family’s journey through COVID-19, complete with a happy ending


Ottawa Paramedic Sébastien Dubé has vaccinated countless people in recent weeks as part of the City’s vaccination strike team (VST). They were all important, but there are two people in particular who were just a little more important to him personally than all the others combined.

Sébastien vaccinates Yvon.

On March 10, Sébastien got to vaccinate his grandparents.

“I get blood work twice a week from strangers, so I’m used to the needles,” Yvon says, “but getting a life saving vaccine from your own flesh and blood, just thinking about it, I get very emotional. We haven’t seen him in 14 months.”

Like many Ottawa families, the Dubés have been physically separated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yvon and Madeleine are in their 80s, living in a retirement residence. Sébastien and his wife, Samantha, who is a nurse at the General Campus of the Ottawa Hospital, are frontline workers. The healthcare workers lived in Toronto for five years and moved back to Ottawa only two years ago to be closer to family.

“I have not seen my grandparents since before March last year,” Sébastien says. “They were in the process of moving out of their apartment and into the nursing home system. We met for lunch.”

Lockdowns began soon after the Dubés moved into that new home.

“If felt like we were trapped,” Yvon says. “Things have improved now, but a year ago we couldn’t go out of our apartment, couldn’t go down to the dining room. We couldn't visit with friends. We missed our family.”

Only their daughter, Monic, as their primary caregiver, has been able to visit Yvon and Madeleine. All other contact has been limited to Skype. As difficult as the year has been, the Dubés are quick to count their blessings.

“Being a frontline worker and being up front and personal with this pandemic is difficult in its own right,” says Sébastien. “We are lucky that our jobs are stable enough that we can continue to work through the pandemic, but then going home and being segregated from everyone else, it’s been challenging.”

Sébastien vaccinates Madeleine

This was the Dubés second round of shots. The first vaccination was given a few weeks earlier by another paramedic, part of the same VST.

As if 2020 wasn’t stressful enough, Yvon has been battling Leukemia. At the outset of the pandemic, he was given a prognosis of between three months and two years.

“In a way, I am fortunate to have Leukemia because I have to go out maybe 15 times a month for chemotherapy and blood work. Madeleine has found it very difficult and is glad whenever she had an opportunity to go out for medical reasons.”

Madeleine has some health difficulties of her own, some of which make it too difficult for her to participate in an interview. Her favourite pastime is knitting and spending time with Yvon and family.

So, family reunions are often joyous, but what’s it like to get together for something as monumental as a vaccine?

“It seems surreal,” Sébastien adds. “It's been so long now that it's almost strange. It’s almost become the status quo to only see them on Skype. I realize how incredibly lucky I am to be in this profession and to have this kind of opportunity arise.”

Like all of us, the Dubés are looking forward to when the pandemic is over.

“I look forward to having a no-holds-barred gathering with the entirety of my family. A maskless, huge dinner. I look forward to being able to see everyone again all at once.”

“I’m a hugger,” says Yvon, who some may remember was a Vanier City Councillor before amalgamation. “After I kiss and hug all of my children and grandchildren, and my friends, I’m looking forward to having a steak dinner at one of our favourite restaurants with our family and friends. We haven’t been out in over a year to a family restaurant.”

“And, going out to play bridge again. I miss my bridge partners. I used to play bridge two or three times per week and won’t be able to do that for another six months, maybe.”

A meal with family and a fun night with friends. That is a happily ever after we are all looking forward to.

Next steps in vaccine roll-out