‘I Almost Died’: Pittsburgh Man Recalls Haunting Experience Of Being On Ventilator For 2 Weeks After Testing Positive For Coronavirus
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Pittsburgh man recalls the traumatic experience of being on a ventilator for 13 days and almost dying after testing positive for coronavirus.
James Kauffman, of Mt. Washington, had a week of flu-like symptoms, including fever and no appetite.
His wife, Wendy, took him to the hospital but couldn’t go in with him.
“If it were me, I would feel so alone and frightened,” Wendy said. “I would want him there. I was more upset and frightened for him.”
James could speak and wasn’t gasping, but the doctors were worried.
“He was at maximal oxygen, and his chest x-ray was very abnormal,” says Dr. Gregory Fino, a pulmonary critical care doctor at St. Clair Hospital. “Early intervention with a breathing tube in his lungs was the way to go.”
James was tested for coronavirus but his positive result didn’t come until three days later.
He was on the breathing machine for 13 days.
“They put me under,” James said. “They also used the drug that paralyzes you, so my lungs weren’t fighting it.”
“I was, at that point, devastated,” Wendy said. “I called the hospital every morning and every night.”
After five days, James’ condition worsened.
“We actually had to do what’s called prone positioning,” says Dr. Fino.
This is where a patient is positioned facedown while on the ventilator. This allows for more expansion of the lungs.
He also started on medicine to treat the inflammation.
“In this particular case, I think what was the major factor that really turned him around, was we started steroids,” Dr. Fino says.
James had vivid dreams while on the ventilator.
“There was somebody in my dreams that would have water and wouldn’t give it to me,” says James, who was thirsty throughout his ordeal. “And there was a point where I was getting really frustrated. I honestly feel I had to choose, I could either give it in, give up or fight. That’s the last dream I had.”
Eventually, the doctors dialed down the ventilator, and James was breathing on his own.
He was soon good enough to go home.
“It’s so emotional, so profound, to go through something like this, almost losing someone,” Wendy says.
James thinks he may have caught the illness from visitors from New York, but he can’t be sure.
His wife believes she had it, too, with five days of aches, pains, low-grade fever and cough. She was never tested.
James is now doing physical therapy at home.
“I have never in my life been so sick, and I almost died. Understand there’s a reason why they want you to stay in and take precautions,” says James. “They can’t say I will not get this again.”
James does not plan on leaving his house for at least two months.