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Published on July 03, 2020

James LucasYou’ve Got a Darn Good Crew at Green Valley

Why James Lucas wears a mask and thinks you should too.

With the chirping of birds in the background, James Lucas enjoys an early summer morning on his back porch. His voice is strong. Not bad for a guy just back from Green Valley campus—Cone Health’s COVID-19-only hospital.

“It pretty much put me in the grave,” a suddenly somber Lucas recalls. His grueling bout with COVID-19 began after Father’s Day. Lucas didn’t feel well and had a fever. The symptoms were mild, but he knew it was COVID-19. His doctor agreed and they agreed Lucas would ride it out. That seemed to work, despite 5-6 days of 103-104-degree fevers. But by Wednesday, Lucas began having trouble breathing. So, the usually healthy 54-year-old headed to the Wesley Long Hospital Emergency Department. After a COVID-19 test confirmed suspicions, he was moved to Green Valley campus. James Lucas in Hospital

Dr. Prashant Singh quickly sized him up. “James was in respiratory distress. The virus was attacking his lungs,” says Singh. “We like to move quickly, because some of our treatments work better when given sooner. If you have COVID-19 and are short of breath, immediately seek help and treatment. Most of the damage in COVID-19 pneumonia happens from delay in care, either by the patient or by the doctor. COVID-19 can make you very sick, very quickly.”

Singh noticed certain markers in Lucas’ blood were extremely elevated and he was visibly short of breath, needing large amounts of oxygen. Singh recommended immediate use of intravenous steroids; intravenous Remdesivir, an antiviral drug; and intravenous Actemra, a powerful anti-inflammatory medication frequently used for rheumatoid arthritis.

After a couple of days of care and treatment by the team at Green Valley campus, Lucas started turning the corner. He asked about his treatment, how did they know what medications to give and when? Doctors at Cone Health’s Green Valley campus and other places looked at how the disease was ravaging people in New York, Italy and other early hot spots. They realized that COVID-19 related respiratory problems were largely due to intense inflammation. “If you suppress the inflammation early enough you can prevent the development of acute respiratory distress in the patient,” says Singh. “We stuck to this line of treatment and our thought process was finally vindicated by a large trial recently out of the UK. It showed that steroids help in patients with COVID-19. Now this idea has become the standard of care.”

“They have a lot of experience over there. You’ve got a darn good crew at Green Valley,” Lucas notes.

After 5 days at Green Valley campus, Lucas went home able to breathe on his own without supplemental oxygen. And he uses his breath as a man with a message, “Wear your mask. I wasn’t 100%. I’m a lot more diligent,” says Lucas, who had never spent a night in a hospital until this. And his friends, who didn’t always wear them before, “They are wearing them now. You don’t know who it will take down. By wearing masks, we can all protect each other,” Lucas adds.

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