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‘Miracle’ COVID-19 patient recovers despite grim diagnosis

A 51-year-old coronavirus patient who was expected to die from the global pandemic is being hailed as a miracle man after getting back on his feet.

Mario Castillo Tamayo, the first coronavirus patient admitted to Toronto’s Humber River Hospital’s intensive care unit in March, had oxygen levels so low that doctors were convinced he would die, or spend the rest of his life on a ventilator if he survived, the Toronto Star reported.

Doctors at the Canadian hospital tried having Castillo Tamayo lie on his stomach, pumped him with muscle relaxant, and even performed a tracheostomy in a desperate attempt to get him more oxygen — but the prognosis wasn’t good.

“One of his doctors called and said my husband is getting worse, and we don’t know if he will make it,” the patient’s wife, Maricar Pagulayan said.

But Castillo Tamayo somehow pulled through and left the hospital Thursday after nine weeks — and has tested negative for COVID-19 several times.

“None of us expected him to survive,” Dr. Jamie Spiegelman, his doctor, told the Star. “He’s been one of our biggest success stories, and I’m glad for him and his family.”

“The fact that he recovered after a tracheostomy and all the feeding tubes… is a little bit of a miracle, I think,” Spiegelman added.

Castillo Tamayo, a mechanic who is originally from Merida in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, was working on March 18 when he came down with a fever and was sent home, the report said. With his symptoms worsening, he went to the hospital on March 24 and was diagnosed with the virus.

Mario Castillo Tamayo
Mario Castillo TamayoHumber River Hospital

“It gave me a scare,” he said. “I thought my life was finished.”

He was admitted into the intensive care unit on March 26, when his medical nightmare began in earnest. In April, he was put on life support.

“His lungs at the time, based on X-rays, were damaged,” Spiegelman said. “We weren’t sure we would be able to get him off the ventilator because of how much lung damage he had from COVID.”

But in May, his condition began to improve and he was weaned off the ventilator. He left the intensive care unit on June 7.

“I opened my eyes,” Castillo Tamayo recalled. “I saw many people around me at the hospital. I didn’t know who they were or where I was. For two months I didn’t see my wife, my stepdaughter.”

He’s not entirely out of the woods. After leaving Humber River last week Castillo Tamayo was admitted to St. John’s Rehab at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center across town, where he’ll have to remain for three to five weeks.

But doctors said he’s now expected to make a full recovery.

“We don’t fully understand why,” Spiegelman said. “Genetics, co-morbidities, fitness level. We don’t understand it completely at this point.”

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