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Coronavirus Survivor: Our Patient’s Story

For John Fischer, 61, of Dover, COVID-19 is something he never saw coming and because he never experienced typical COVID-19 symptoms, he honestly thought he was doing just fine. He had no idea he would soon become a coronavirus survivor.

John’s COVID-19 journey began in early April, after he found out that he was likely exposed to COVID-19. The State’s COVID hotline told him to self-monitor and self-quarantine because he didn’t have shortness of breath, headaches, sore throat, or the other “normal” symptoms.

About one week later, John felt a little off and thought something was wrong. His son, Kevin, drove him to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital. John was tested at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital’s temporary Respiratory Illness Clinic but was sent home after an examination because he didn’t have a fever and was otherwise asymptomatic. John was told to self-quarantine and self-monitor while he waited for his test results.

While at home, John’s energy lagged and he spent most of his time on the couch. A few days later he was pretty much incoherent. His son drove him to Wentworth-Douglass again where he was diagnosed with not only acute COVID-19, but also acute hypoxemic respiratory failure, acute hypertension, acute sleep apnea, and acute respiratory distress. John never felt short of breath, but when he arrived at Wentworth-Douglass his oxygen levels were very low.

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, common COVID-19 symptoms include fever or chills, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle aches, and a sore throat. Because we are still learning about COVID-19, new research is coming out every second. Something John mentioned about this new research is findings suggesting that some people can contract COVID-19 and the symptoms slowly sneak up on them.

John’s COVID-19 case was complicated by a “cytokine storm” meaning that his body was attacking itself instead of only attacking the virus. His immune system went out of control and caused him chronic inflammation which was calmed down after he received a course of Actemra medication. John is working with immunologist, Dr. Robert Hickey, to learn more about his cytokine storm as they can be caused by a genetic defect.

John was at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital for almost two weeks and was discharged to Northeast Rehab Hospital. While he was waiting to be discharged from Northeast Rehab Hospital, he unfortunately suffered a collapsed lung due to COVID-19 damage and was rushed to Holy Family Hospital to have his lung repaired (a very painful four-hour surgery) where he stayed for two weeks to recover. In total, John spent 36 days admitted in COVID-19 isolation and nine days on a ventilator.

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During his stay at Wentworth-Douglass, John especially connected with ICU nurse John Maynard as they both served in the Marine Corps. John wanted to make sure he shared a vial of sand from Iwo Jima with Maynard (their greeting is pictured above). He is grateful to his entire care team for helping him “make it back to tell the tale,” and is giving back in many ways, including purchasing lunch for the CCU team at Wentworth-Douglass. Additionally, John is regularly donating plasma to help other COVID-19 positive patients through the American Red Cross in Portland, Maine. One plasma donation can help up to four different patients.

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As a new coronavirus survivor, Now John now feels back to normal and is gradually resuming normal activities. Thinking about life after COVID-19 while in his hospital bed, John said to himself, “If I survive this, one of the first things I am going to do is take my sports car out for a spin!” So, John did just that! He now enjoys driving around town in his Shelby Mustang (white with blue stripes) and is planning a trip to see his brother in Boulder, Colorado, when it is safe to do so.



Stay up to date on all COVID-19 information by visiting our COVID-19 updates page.


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