Brisbane COVID-19 patient survives after month on ventilator

A usually "fit and resilient" Brisbane man is finally home after almost six weeks in hospital being treated for COVID-19 - including a marathon 29 days on a ventilator - with his wife saying she feared for his life.

The 57-year-old's wife, a nurse, has praised the care her husband received in the intensive care unit of the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

She was in enforced quarantine at home for much of the time her husband was in ICU.

"It is very scary to have someone on a ventilator," she said.

 

"The worst part is the fact that you can't see them. You're in isolation yourself. They have a deadly disease.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Mark Cranitch.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital. Photo: Mark Cranitch.

 

"You can't visit them and you're not allowed out of your house to have any other support person. You have the phone, of course. But you are on your own at home. I suppose I was in a unique situation and I knew what a ventilator was and I knew that he was in the best possible place.

"I knew he was getting the best care he could get."

The man, who does not want to be identified, is one of just 15 Queensland patients with the novel coronavirus who have been treated in intensive care during the pandemic out of the state's 1045 known infections. Fourteen of them received ventilation.

"It's intensive care, you fear for their life," his wife said.

 

"They've got COVID-19. It's a new virus. It was new to the intensive care staff on how to manage it.

"They're trying to work off information that they're getting from overseas. It was a very hard time. It was horrendous. But realistically, he was in the best place.

"When you reflect back on it, you think: 'Gosh, we're just lucky'.

"From my husband's point of view: 'Thank goodness he was home in Australia when he got sick'."

Queensland's Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young has said half of the people who ended up in ICUs with COVID-19 in China lost their lives. In Queensland, one of the 15 patients treated in ICU died.

Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Liam Kidston.
Queensland Chief Health Officer, Dr Jeannette Young. Photo: Liam Kidston.

The wife of the man treated in the Princess Alexandra Hospital's ICU said her husband fell ill soon after arriving home from a six-month overseas working holiday in Europe on March 22.

He was diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on March 25.

Five days later an ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital.

"He was ventilated on that day," his wife said. "They took him to hospital and they realised how ill he was and he was ventilated immediately."

 

When her husband failed to return her text messages, she was left wondering what was happening as hospital staff worked to save his life.

"They're so busy trying to save his life but you don't know that," she said.

"And then, once you knew what was going on, it was so hard. I can't describe it to you, it's the most terrible thing. However, you know that they're doing everything they can to save him."

For weeks, she relied on daily updates from the "fantastic" hospital staff to keep her informed of her husband's progress.

Registered Nurse Megan Davis poses at Princess Alexandra Hospital Intensive Care. Photo: Claudia Baxter.
Registered Nurse Megan Davis poses at Princess Alexandra Hospital Intensive Care. Photo: Claudia Baxter.

 

Then, after more than three weeks she was released from quarantine but was still not permitted inside ICU to see her husband.

When he was finally taken off the ventilator, she was allowed to see him again but only briefly, through the glass doors in ICU.

He was out of intensive care and had returned two negative tests for the new virus before she could visit every day.

Her husband was discharged home on Friday, but after so many weeks on a ventilator, he will need intensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy.

"He's still got a long way to go," his wife said.

"He'll need a whole pile of therapies. You lose muscle mass in ICU. Let's put it this way, he won't be going back to work for awhile."

 

Although they were reluctant to speak to the media, they agreed to tell their story to put their support behind a QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute study into whether the rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab can help ICU patients with COVID-19.

The study is awaiting approval from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospitals ethics committee before it can recruit patients.

"I'd support any of that research. At the end of the day, if it's going to help, you'd do it," the man's wife said.

She was also full of praise for how Queensland and Australia have dealt with the virus.

"I agree totally with what they've been doing, isolating people," she said.

"This is unprecedented. Look at our outcomes compared to the rest of the world. It's fantastic."

Originally published as Brisbane COVID-19 patient survives after month on ventilator