Asif Illyas clearly remembers the look on his wife’s face when he was admitted to the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s IMCU in May 2021.


“Her face was full of fear. As a family doctor, Alison knew exactly how serious it was for me.”


COVID-19 had entered their home, targeting all four family members, including their 14-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. While his family isolated and managed symptoms of migraines and stuffy noses, it was around day 11 when Asif’s flu-like feeling became something much worse.


After two trips to emergency at the QEII, Asif was given a CT scan and admitted to IMCU. His care team used a CPAP machine to deliver focused oxygen to his body — a decision, he says, which saved him from being intubated.


“As a musician and singer, the thought of being intubated was very scary,” Asif shares, who describes himself as “a nerd who loves the technical stuff.”


“The science behind things fascinated me but the unknown was the scariest. The team at the QEII are rock stars. They told me what they were doing and what I had to do, so once I knew the procedures and the flight plan, I felt very comforted with that knowledge.”


Growing up, Asif had dreams of being an engineer or pilot, but music captured his heart and took him on a different life path. After studying music at Dalhousie University, he was in a few bands that toured Canada and found great success in Germany.


As he started his family and felt the pull to stay closer to home, he shifted his musical talents to composing for film projects and business advertising.


“I started my company, The Shire, to stay closer to home, especially after my daughter, Ava, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a very young age. Taking care of her was my top priority,” he says.


So, when the QEII Foundation approached him to compose music for their new We Are campaign to raise $100 million to transform health care at the QEII, Asif says it was a no brainer.


“Health care is so important to me. Ava has dealt with diabetes for many years and now recently my son, Jet, was also diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes,” Asif shares. “Going through COVID and seeing the QEII teams suit up to care for me and so many other patients, they are just incredible. Working on this campaign is so powerful. Every project I work on is important but being involved in helping improve health care, that is the ultimate.”


Asif was in hospital for 10 days, after which he faced a slow but steady recovery at home. “At first, even walking to the end of the block was really hard. I love cycling but couldn’t even ride my bike because of my lungs and air capacity.”


Despite his serious experience with COVID-19, he has no lingering symptoms. His care team at the QEII called every week for the first six weeks to monitor his health and he is still being followed up on by respirology and infectious disease teams at the QEII.


And while he still gets uncomfortable with needles, he signed up for a research study at the QEII that required weekly blood tests to examine the treatment he received for COVID. “If it will help other people, I’m in.”


“This virus is serious,” Asif says. “When you are healthy, you don’t think you will get it. I was one day away from my booked vaccination appointment and I don’t have any other conditions, and it still hit me hard. Really hard.”


To hear Asif’s featured music in the QEII Foundation’s We Are campaign, visit