'I am so, so sad': Grieving husband speaks out after wife, a Cargill employee, succumbs to COVID-19
CALGARY -- It’s still difficult for Nga Nguyen to speak about the loss of his wife, Hiep Bui, who died 15 days ago after contracting COVID-19.
They were like two peas in a pod and did everything together.
Through translator Anthony Chim, Nguyen tried his best to describe his wife and best friend at a vigil held near his house, which was broadcast live on Facebook.
Nguyen reminisced fondly of their adventures together and highlighted how generous and compassionate she was.
“She was a wonderful wife. She spoiled me and she never argued with me and whatever I wanted to buy she would buy it," he said.
Their story is a unique one, their love surviving wartimes and uncertainty.
The two met in a boat while escaping the Vietnam war and they both found safety at the same refugee camp.
Bui was sponsored to Canada first and Nguyen followed a year later. They reunited in Calgary and shortly after, tied the knot.
With no children or relatives, they’ve been each other's shadow for almost three decades.
“I am so, so sad, up to the point I am speechless because I know I will not see my wife anymore,” said Nguyen, fighting back tears.
Bui worked at the Cargill meat packing plant in High River for more than 23 years. Her colleagues said she loved working and did so diligently, eight hours a day, meticulously picking out beef bones from hamburger meat.
In online messages, those who worked with her said she didn’t speak much English but was funny and hardworking and always had a smile.
The plant was closed for two weeks due to a COVID-19 outbreak, which saw more than 900 employees – nearly half the total number -- become infected.
The plant was reopened on Monday.
Nguyen says he remembers his wife coming home from work on April 16 saying she felt ill and very tired. They thought she might have had the flu. The next day she didn’t go to work and her conditioned worsened.
On April 18, Nguyen called an ambulance for his wife in the morning and by evening, they had confirmed she had contracted COVID-19.
Nguyen went to see her the next day but she had already passed. He didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. She was 67 years old.
“I’m just so sad, I want to end my life and be with her,” said Nguyen.
The executive director with Action Dignity said it was important to host a vigil for Bui so people would remember her as a person and not just as a Vietnamese worker at Cargill who died from COVID-19.
“We would like to put a face to this worker because they have contributed much to our food industry and to our economy,” said Marichu Antonio.
“We need to also give them the same amount of support no matter what their colour or race is. We have to give them the same respect and dignity they deserve.”
Nguyen says he still hasn’t processed his wife’s death and still feels numb. With the Cargill plant open again, he hopes the proper safety measures are in place.
“I hope Cargill will be able to control the safety at Cargill plant so that they will not be any more victims like my wife.”
Those who want to support essential workers can visit the Action Dignity website.