Washington, United States.
Rodrigo Valderrama He has just won a battle that he never imagined fighting three years after leaving his military career in Colombia, and has become one of the first patients in the US recovered from COVID-19, after having received the so-called “convalescent plasma”.
Wherever you look at the history of Rodrigo It does not conform to the manual so far written about the disease: he was 30 years old when he contracted it, he ran almost 10 kilometers every day and his diet, primarily organic, consisted of fruits, vegetables and proteins.
However, after dinner at a friend’s house, she ended up in intensive care.
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– A dinner that ended badly –
From the Inova Hospital in Fairfax Town, in the state of Virginia, where he is admitted, Rodrigo He tells Efe that he went to dinner last March 18 with several of his friends without fear of getting it, but days later they all presented symptoms related to the disease.
His first alert was on a Saturday when he went out for a run, like every day, but he was unable to complete his routine: “I ran a little and yes, I felt weird,” explains Rodrigo, who ended up going to bed that afternoon overcome by exhaustion that managed to explain.
The next day, he ran again with a friend, but then he started to feel feverish and decided to take showers with cold water, until he felt such discomfort that he called the emergency services to take him to the hospital, where they helped him control his fever, but he was returned home soon after with a diagnosis of pneumonia.
– Mom, they are going to pipe me –
Not improving, he called again 911 and he was transferred to a hospital in Alexandria, on the outskirts of Washington, where he was admitted last March 29 to the Intensive Care Unit.
“The last thing I remember is that I called my mom for a video call and I told her: ‘Ma, they are going to intubate me, don’t worry, I will be fine,” he recalls of that communication with Colombia. He also had the opportunity to speak to his cousin, Julián Valderrama, who lives in Virginia, to alert him to his situation.
Of the five weeks that he remained in an induced coma, he only remembers seeing “many people” around him before falling asleep, and his surprise when he woke up to see that he was in another hospital in the town of Fairfax.
His cousin Julián became, from March 29, the bridge between the mother of Rodrigo and the doctors.
“I never thought about everything that was going to happen,” Julián explains to Efe, who explained that Rodrigo suffered a septic shock. “The infection passed into the blood, into the bloodstream, and he began to have faults, not only pulmonary because he He had chronic pneumonia, he also had kidney failure, liver enzymes were very high, “says the relative, who remembers that his cousin received hydroxychloroquine.
The ex-military’s first week was critical to the point that the doctors decided to transfer him, at the risk that he would not survive, to the Inova Hospital in Fairfax, where he was connected to a machine that provided him with extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known in English as ECMO.
“I sometimes read the reports and they said that he could die at any time,” says Julián, for whom each phone call “was like a scare.”
Perhaps his worst moment was when he had to contact his cousin’s mother, to warn him that he would probably need her authorization if the worst-case scenario were to come true.
– The last option –
Without any apparent improvement and with time almost exhausted to withdraw Rodrigo treatment with hydroxychloroquine Due to its side effects, doctors considered using a recovered patient’s plasma as a last resort.
“What I thought is that they had the plasma in the next room, in the fridge, ready to put it on and it turned out not,” says Julián, who decided to take the initiative and ask for help in his Facebook, where the response was immediate, although he did not know where to donate and the requirements.
Anyone cannot be a donor, as it is required that they have survived the virus, are already recovered and are willing to donate blood.
In the end, the plasma of an unknown person brought Rodrigo back to life, who has already tested negative for coronavirus, but still suffers its aftermath.
– The world changed –
Disconnected from ECMO and awaiting procedures that will allow him to regain his normality, Rodrigo, who turned 31 while in intensive care, recognizes from the hospital room that the world has changed and will never be the same.
“You never really think, you don’t know who is going to catch it (the virus) and you can really be a person who loves you very much,” he recalled of the dinner and describing his friends as people who love him very much.
Now he considers that the trance has allowed him to see that his purpose is to show “people that there really is a God”.
And it is not for less: while he was in a coma he dreamed that he should read Psalm 30, at the same time that his family became a “religious army” -as Julián calls it-, since in addition to masses and rosaries, they organized a chain of 24-hour prayer, which now welcomes among its requests the recovery of four more patients with coronavirus in USA and two in Colombia.
“I was the first case in which they tested the plasma and here I am alive, it worked,” says Rodrigo, who was grateful that “God put in the minds” of his doctors what he considered “was the last option.”
“I have heard a lot of news, I have seen many things where they speak that do not serve people, it is that Latinos … I am the faithful example that they treated me as they should be (…), they did not skimp on expenses to save me life, “he added, thanking the team led by the doctor Erick osborn and to all the staff -from the cleaning person to the manager- of the hospital.