May 4, 2020 / 12:18 AM / in a month

NHL: Georges Laraque hospitalized with COVID-19: 'It's the worst thing ever'

(Reuters) - Former NHL enforcer Georges Laraque, who is in a Quebec hospital after contracting COVID-19, said his condition was steadily improving but that people needed to take the respiratory disease seriously.

FILE PHOTO: Green Party of Canada deputy leader and Bourassa by-election candidate Georges Laraque smiles following the opening of his new campaign office in the riding of Bourassa in Montreal August 15, 2013. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi/File Photo

In a series of videos posted over the weekend, the 43-year-old Montreal native said he was training for a marathon and delivering food to the elderly when he fell ill.

After a few trips to the hospital, the asthmatic Laraque said he was finally able to get tested for the disease despite being told there was a shortage of tests.

The test came back positive and he was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, where he developed pneumonia in both lungs and was hit by nightly fevers.

But in the most recent video, he said he slept through the night without having a fever and was beginning to feel better.

Laraque praised the healthcare workers attending to him at Charles-LeMoyne hospital in Longueuil, near Montreal, as well as doctors and nurses helping people battle the disease around the world. COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus.

“You’re putting your health at risk just to help me,” he said in a self-shot video punctuated with coughing fits that showed him hooked up to an oxygen tank.

“It’s so crazy because I was running six days a week, 10 kilometres a day, to get ready for a marathon. I was doing that for months.

“Now, after the COVID attacked my lungs, I can’t even get up to go brush my teeth without struggling,” said the former Edmonton Oiler, Phoenix Coyote, Pittsburgh Penguin and Montreal Canadien, who retired from the National Hockey League in 2010.

“It’s the worst thing ever. It takes all my energy just to get up,” he said.

He also pushed back against suggestions by some online that he was not really sick.

“Are you kidding me?” he said. “They have no idea. This is serious stuff.”

There have been 60,503 COVID-19 cases in Canada and almost 3,800 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Laraque, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, also criticized Quebec’s plan to reopen elementary schools this month. Quebec has the most deaths from the illness than any other Canadian province.

“If we in Quebec are limited in the number of tests that we have, why are we reopening schools to kids? Obviously there’s not going to be enough tests to test all the kids in school.

“It’s not going to be a safe environment for the parents when the kids go back to school or for the teachers, who are already underpaid,” he said.

“For two months of schools, is it worth it?”

Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney

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