In the early morning hours of February 19, 2005, after a restless night’s sleep with abdominal discomfort, thirty-five year old Fred could not stand up from the pain, and had his spouse, Ruth, call 911. Paramedics arrived in less than five minutes, and took him to the nearest hospital, which just happened to be the renowned St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto – the hospital that had treated a lot of the SARS cases in Toronto, back in the year 2003.
By the time he had arrived at the hospital’s ER, less than ten minutes later, his blood pressure was 80/60, he had developed a fever in excess of 40 degrees, his white blood count was very high and he was spitting up pure blood.
The doctors knew this was a very critical situation, and their mission was to first stabilize him, and have him transferred immediately to the ICU. Once in ICU, he was locked in isolation, put into a drug-induced coma, chemically paralyzed, and placed on full mechanical ventilation.
Tests were being constantly done, and the initial thought was that the nature of the ailment was pneumonia, complicated by sepsis. The chances of survival were pegged at 10% that first day.
The dedicated ICU staff member assigned to Fred, was in and out of Fred’s isolation room literally every five minutes, to monitor all vitals, during those first three days.
Fred’s doctors performed a myriad of tests to try and determine the exact cause and nature of the pneumonia, which did not appear to be responding well to the antibiotics. The main objective of the ICU team was to stabilize him to the point where Fred could get off of mechanical ventilation at the earliest possible opportunity, in order to prevent secondary infections and/or permanent lung damage.
During the next few days, Fred’s condition showed very slight improvements only, sometimes with setbacks, with each passing day. Fred’s family set up a prayer group, which encompassed nearly 500 people who were praying for Fred each day. A miracle was needed, and the prayers were answered.
On March 3, 2005, Fred was taken off of mechanical ventilation and released from confinement in isolation. By March 7, 2005, he was moved out of the ICU and into a regular ward, where he experienced severe withdrawal symptoms from some of the drugs used during his stay in the ICU. He also lost 25 pounds, weighing just 120 pounds, and was unable to walk even to the washroom. He was unable to eat, due to extreme shaking from the withdrawal, and needed to be fed by his spouse, family members and nurses.
Finally, on March 15, 2005, Fred was discharged from the hospital and, as of May 4, is still not fully recovered from some of the muscle atrophy. The exact causes of Fred’s illness has never been discovered, although the doctors began to treat it as ARDS, within the first several days.
Fred feels like he has been given a second chance at life, and is eternally grateful to all those who stood by him in this time of crisis. He also considers himself inexplicably fortunate to have been brought to St. Michael’s Hospital, a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto, where both the head of critical care (ICU) and the head of the critical care research department take a stated special interest in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.