In April, Juan Duran, 49, started to feel tired while working in the morning, which he said was highly unusual.
The symptoms progressed into fever, redness on his feet and losing his sense of taste. In early May, he started having trouble breathing, which is when his wife took him to the emergency room.
“I started to feel sick very fast and honestly did not believe this would get out of hand so fast,” said Duran, of Vineland. “I did not believe my medical condition was serious at all. I have never been sick in my life or ever had any surgeries or even been admitted to the hospital. I never once believed I would get this sick. I didn’t even think I would be admitted when I first walked in the hospital.”
He ended up in the hospital battling COVID-19 for 48 days.
While the average hospital stay due to the coronavirus varies depending on the individual, Evelyn Balogun, medical director for urgent care and occupational health at Inspira Health, said patients typically stay anywhere from a few days to two to three weeks, based on data she’s seen from other hospitals.
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And while New Jersey is one of the few states where positive cases are going down, Gov. Phil Murphy has urged residents on a daily basis to remain vigilant.
“This is among us folks,” Murphy said at his Monday COVID-19 briefing. “Any of us who think we can just put our feet up and relax and let this take its course is not paying attention.”
With sports slowly resuming, people enjoying their summer and back-to-school season fast approaching, health officials say Duran is a cautionary tale, and warn that it’s no time to let up on keeping safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19.
Balogun’s concern going forward is the start of flu season, which begins in October.
“If we lose ground heading into flu season, that could negatively impact our community,” she said. “The success that we’ve seen in New Jersey is really indicative to how well we adhere to the public health guidance, like social distancing and using masks. While we’re in a better situation, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
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Even as Americans, particularly young Americans, are eager to get back to their social lives, it is very important to protect their own health and the health of their friends and family, Balogun said.
“There’s a lot that we did not know when this pandemic first started. At that time, much of what was put out did suggest that this is more an infection for older people, 65 and older,” she said. “Unfortunately, when we look at all the demographics, there is no age or demographic that has been spared. While younger people are still thought to be at less risk for becoming infected, they are not immune.”
Duran is unsure how he contracted the virus, saying he and his family took every precaution to keep themselves safe. He didn’t have any underlying health conditions, other than high cholesterol.
For those who experience prolonged hospital stays, while they no longer may be infectious, they may have other lingering complications, such as respiratory disease, Balogun said. If not monitored, those complications could lead to secondary complications, such as blood clots, pulmonary embolism or stroke.
It all depends on the person and their comorbidities — whether they have two or more chronic diseases simultaneously, she said.
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While he was never on a ventilator, Duran was on oxygen and received a plasma transfusion. The transfusion is part of a Mayo Clinic-led study Inspira is participating in that takes blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and uses it to treat patients with severe or worsening COVID-19 symptoms. The antibodies in the plasma are thought to help the sick patient better fight the virus, said Paul Simon, spokesman for Inspira.
“There are no words that could ever describe how I felt,” Duran said of his hospital stay. “I did feel scared, but not for me. I felt scared for my family and leaving them alone.”
He maintained contact with his family through video chat, socialized with the staff and watched television and movies on his phone.
“I tried to keep my mind busy so I would not think the worst,” he said.
He also grew close with the staff.
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“They took care of me well, and always felt heard when I had a concern or my daughter had a question,” he said. “I loved all the staff, and they definitely made my stay so much easier and pleasant despite my medical concerns.”
Duran was released on Father’s Day to go home to his wife, four kids and his cat and dog. Even though he’s not fully recovered, he’s happy to be in his own bed. His family cleans and sanitizes his room and keeps a distance from him if they feel sick.
“I was told by doctors my recovery will be long,” he said. “Overall, there is no place like home. I am very blessed to have a second chance at life.”