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St. Albert husband, father dies of COVID-19; leaves young family reeling

Rob Surkovic lost his fight against COVID-19 on New Year's Day.
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Rob Surkovic was only 51 when he passed away from COVID-19 on Jan. 1, 2022. His wife Jennifer and their two children are still coming to grips with the loss. This is the last photo the couple took together. JENNIFER SURKOVIC/Supplied

ST. ALBERT – The tragedy of one of St. Albert’s most recent COVID-19 fatalities is deepened by many factors. An effort has now been undertaken to try to alleviate the suffering of the rest of the Surkovic family as they struggle in the aftermath.

The moment has also afforded his wife the chance to speak out on the pandemic.

Rob Surkovic was only 51, his wife Jennifer said as she began to explain the traumatic circumstances that took place during the last month of 2021. The family, which includes two elementary school-aged children, is still coming to grips with it.

It was in the middle of December when Rob first developed symptoms, receiving the confirmation of a positive COVID-19 test the very next day. A pre-existing lung condition stopped him from being able to receive the vaccine.

“He was sick at home for a week before things got really scary. By that time, he had finally asked me to call the ambulance, as he was so weak,” said Jennifer.

Pandemic-related precautions meant she couldn’t be in the same room with the attending paramedics. Within several minutes, she explained, they were taking him out on a stretcher.

“None of us even got to say goodbye or anything. It all happened so fast, but that image of their dad being taken away like that won’t go away for my kids.”

Rob was a retired chef who chose to finish his career at GEF Seniors Housing. Myotonic muscular dystrophy weakened his lung and heart muscles, leaving him with a pacemaker.

The risks of heart complications caused by the vaccine worried him to the point of delaying getting the jab. He hoped for more evidence to come along to prove it was safe enough. “He ran out of time,” Jennifer continued.

Jennifer’s own COVID-19 diagnosis extended into the beginning of her husband’s hospitalization, and she was unable to see him during this period.

“He was in the ICU, and within three days, he was in a coma and on a ventilator. I didn’t get to see him while he was conscious. By the time I got to go in, there was so much damage to his lungs and muscles around his heart that even if he did somehow pull through, his lungs would never function again,” she said.

His chance of recovery was close to nil. On Jan. 1, she had to make the heart-wrenching decision to turn off the ventilator. She offered high praise to the health care practitioners at the hospital for their work.  

Jennifer said she is frustrated with public-health guidelines and how they have been reported. Precautions haven't stopped transmissions, and none of it makes sense to her.

"Everything is so counterproductive or contradictory so I’m just at the point where this can’t be stopped," she said.

"My husband isn’t the only one, and won’t be the last."

A GoFundMe page has been established to help Jennifer pay for Rob's funeral expenses and to help the family recover financially. It had raised just over one-third of its goal of $10,000 by Monday night.

Scott Hayes

About the Author: Scott Hayes

Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns, and profiles on people.
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