LOS ANGELES - Rio Giardinieri, 52, who is vice-president of a company that manufactures cooking equipment at high-end restaurants in LA and around the world, thinks he contracted COVID-19 at a conference in New York. He had a fever for five days, horrendous back pain, headache, cough, and tiredness. He was sleeping about 15 hours a day when he’s used to getting five hours a night.
He says his doctors did not want to see him so he drove to Joe DiMaggio hospital in South Florida, near his home, and nearly passed out waiting to get tested. Doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia and coronavirus. They put him on oxygen in the ICU but he says he was still unable to breathe. After more than a week, he says doctors told him there was really nothing more they could do. Friday evening, he said goodbye to his wife and three children.
“I was at the point where I was barely able to speak and breathing was very challenging. I really thought my end was there. I had been through nine days of solid pain and for me, the end was there. So I made some calls to say in my own way goodbye to my friends and family.” A dear friend immediately sent him a recent article about hydroxychloroquine, an old anti-malaria medicine proven successful to treat COVID-19 patients overseas, and insisted he take the drug.
So, Giardinieri reached out to an infectious disease doctor. “He gave me all the reasons why I would probably not want to try it because there are no trials, there’s no testing, it was not something that was approved. And I said look I don’t know if I’m going to make it until the morning because at that point I really thought I was coming to the end because I couldn’t breathe anymore. He agreed and authorized the use of it and 30 minutes later the nurse gave it to me.
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”An hour after an IV with the medicine, he says his heart felt like it was beating out of his chest. “They had to come in and get me calmed down and take care of me. I had another episode about two hours later where I just got to the point where I couldn’t breathe and my heart was pounding again so they gave me some Benadryl through the system and something else. I’m not sure what it was. It allowed me to go to sleep and when I woke up at exactly 4:45 in the morning, I woke up like nothing ever happened.”Miraculously, he’s since had no fever or pain, feels fine and he’s able to breathe again.
Giardinieri says doctors now believe those episodes were not a reaction to the medicine but the virus progressing in his body. “To me, there was no doubt in mind that I wouldn’t make it until morning,” says Giardinieri. “So to me the drug saved my life.”
On FOX 11’s “The Issue Is,” this week, Oncologist Dr. Paul Song says while using hydroxycloroquine to treat COVID-19 is still preliminary, it’s extremely compelling and hopeful with such an infectious virus.“A lot of people are walking around shedding viruses unknowingly and if you can’t eliminate this from the body in such a short period of time, then the potential to infect others is greatly diminished,” says Dr. Song.
“Not to mention the recovery period for patients,” Giardinieri says, for him, it was life-saving.
“I just want everyone to know there’s an option. You don’t have to just sit there and hydrate. There’s a medicine that’s working.”He had three doses of the medicine Saturday. Doctors now have to wait to make sure coronavirus is knocked out of his system so he doesn’t infect anyone else. He’s hoping to go home to his family in about five days.