COLORADO SPRINGS — Last week we told you about UCHealth’s new COVID-19 project, in which students from the University of Colorado School of Medicine Colorado Springs Branch are closely tracking COVID-19 patients to learn how they are doing after being released from the hospital.
Paul Nielsen is a Colorado Springs resident who contracted COVID-19. In fact, he says he was the 741st case officially diagnosed in El Paso County.
Paul says it all started sometime in late April and he is unsure where he may have come in contact with the virus. He remembers, “I woke up and I felt like I was just hit by a train -really burning eyeballs, a terrible headache, body aches really bad. I didn't have a cough and I didn't have a fever so I figured it was not coronavirus, but probably some strange sinus infection or something like that.”
A few days later Paul says he had developed a cough and had grown very weak. “I couldn't even take a shower; I could barely walk to the restroom which is like 10 steps from the bed. I was in isolation and kept getting weaker and weaker.”
He was certainly aware of COVID-19 but didn’t think he had it for a couple of reasons. “I could breathe. I did have to focus on every breath, but I was thinking I'm OK, I don't need a ventilator. It never occurred to me to go to the hospital. It was my family that figured out how sick I was and they got me to the ER.”
When Paul showed up at UCHealth Memorial Hospital North in Colorado Springs, the health care professionals immediately recognized he was a potential COVID patient. “The ER brought me right into an isolation room, they gave me a bunch of tests and X-rays and when they took my blood oxygen it was down to 81. The guy said your blood oxygen is as low as 81. I said how am I alive? He said if you'd waited two or three more days you wouldn't be. I was then admitted and overnight I got worse. The next morning there was a parade of doctors coming through and they were all talking about ventilators and explaining how they work.”
Paul says he was presented with another option. “I was about to go to the ICU to be put on a ventilator and then Dr. Steve Mohnssen the pulmonologist asked, ‘Would you be interested in participating in a new study we're starting with COVID plasma?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds great.’ So, they gave me the COVID plasma along with six other medications and that's how it turned around.”
Looking back, Paul says, “I'm convinced that the convalescent plasma is what saved my life. That's what kept me off of a ventilator, that's what turned it around relatively quickly. I really thought coming to the hospital I might have been there for one night. It turned out to be eight days of full isolation.”
In our next story, Paul talks about the effects COVID-19 is still having on him and how he hopes his role in UCHealth’s COVID-19 project will help other patients in the future.
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