On June 2, the staff at Kaiser Permanente Baldwin Park Medical Center gave 73-year-old Jun Alibadbad a hero's send off. His seven-week stay at the hospital helped blaze a trail for other COVID-19 patients.
On April 20, his twin daughters Erickzen and Zabrina Alibadbad noticed their dad's lips had started to turn blue.
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"Being nurses we checked his oxygen saturation, and it was at 45% where it should be close to 100%," Zabrina Alibadbad said.
Like many COVID-19 patients, this didn't seem to bother Alibadbad.
Pulmonology and critical care physician Dr. Hooman Mobassery said other patients often act the same way. "They say yeah, I'm doing OK. I feel kind of sickly, but I'm not in terrible shape," he said.
Within a few days, his ability to breathe fell off a cliff and he ended up in the ICU.
"He's at a higher risk, we knew the chances were pretty slim," Zabrina said.
"We decided that he was bad enough to require ventilation," Mobaserry said.
"We were we're both pretty adamant that we didn't want our father to go on a ventilator. We saw the statistics that a majority of people who go on ventilators end up expiring," Erickzen Alibadbad said.
"We decided, why not?" Mobassery said. "Let's try this. Let's try to keep this patient off the ventilator and use non-invasive ventilation."
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Mobassery and his team gave Alibadbad oxygen through a mask very much like a continuous positive airway pressure machine -- or CPAP machine.
"Because that's a highly aerosolizing procedure, you need to put the patient in negative pressure room," he said.
The problem was the hospital only had two of those rooms.
"So we started kind of retrofitting most of our rooms in the intensive care unit to be able to accommodate a negative pressure setting," Mobassery said.
These were early days in treatment. Doctors tried everything including hydroxychloroquine and anti-inflammatory medications such as steroids and Interleukin inhibitors.
"We learned a lot through that experience," Mobassery said.
"I wasn't thinking about giving it up. All I have to think is to fight it," Alibadbad said.
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Also, keeping Alibadbad connected to his daughters was key to his recovery.
"You have to imagine yourself being his age. Being in a hospital. No one can visit," Mobassery said.
"There's a component of loneliness and it can get to you," said Erickzen.
"I literally had one of our nurses go around to every single room every day in intensive care unit and FaceTime with all the families," Mobassery said.
Alibadbad said something else is crucial: a good attitude.
"Think positive and fight," he said.