COVID-19 survivor in Montgomery County shares experience after 17 days on ventilator

WORCESTER, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A Worcester man is home recovering after becoming the first COVID-19 patient treated at Penn Presbyterian, and the first with a severe case to go home after 17 days on a ventilator.

Mike DeWan is barely able to speak after spending more than two weeks with tubes down his throat during his battle with COVID-19.

His wife, Kelly DeWan, four daughters and the couple's parents all had the virus, but Mike was the only one hospitalized.

Mike said he first got sick on Monday, March 9, after a birthday party, just before it became a widespread problem in Montgomery County where they live.

The county has been one of the hardest hit in Pennsylvania.

"He woke up with the chills and a fever and we just thought maybe he had the flu," Kelly said.

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Mike said he took Tamiflu, but he wasn't getting better. Two days later, the entire family had symptoms.

"We have four daughters, they all had it and then my parents and his parents had it all by the end of the week, Kelly said.

Mike and Kelly are in their 40s and they said they don't have any underlying conditions, but it got worse for Mike.

"Labored breathing. Like I can't get a deep breath, I can't breathe. That's when I was like, 'We need to go to the ER,'" Mike said.

Mike said he initially was admitted at Einstein Medical but ended up at Penn Presbyterian where he spent 17 days on a ventilator.

Meanwhile, his family struggled at home with symptoms. They were unable to visit due to hospital protocols for COVID-19 patients while suffering from intense headaches, fever and fatigue.

"I could barely get up out of my bed to get to the bathroom. I wasn't out of breath, I just had no energy to do it," Kelly said. "Our two older daughters are 15 and 13 and they had it like I did. The younger two, who are 12 and 8, had a fever and after two days bounced back. They were fine."

Mike remembers bits and pieces of the time spent on the ventilator.

"It was almost like a Wizard of Oz type of thing. There was these characters, these nurses, who were amazing. These young, really smart, determined nurses and doctors," Mike said.

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Dr. William R. Short, an infectious disease doctor at Penn Medicine, said he treated Mike as he fought for his life.

"Everyone in the hospital was really happy because he was our first patient admitted to the Penn Presbyterian side and he was the first to go home," Short said.

Short said the family granted permission to use Remdesivir.

Remdesivir, which is delivered through an intravenous infusion, was initially developed by the pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences to treat Ebola. Although initially promising, it didn't prove as effective as other Ebola treatments, so research was halted.

"While he did get better, I just want to emphasize that I don't know if he got better on his own or if he got the drug," Short said.

Short said Penn Medicine is taking part in an international clinical trial and results are still being compiled.

Results from the study are expected to be completed by May, according to Short.

There is still no cure or official medication to treat COVID-19.

Short said there is currently no data that shows Remdesivir works for everyone.

As more information is being compiled, Mike now has a new take on life and hopes others take it seriously.

"There's all these people that are still in these ventilators and trying to get off. I think about it every day," Mike said.

"I would say, stay inside. If you do not have to go out. To go through what we went through it's just not worth it," Kelly said.
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