An experimental drug treatment might have saved a healthcare worker's life who nearly died from the coronavirus

Per the local CBS affiliate, Dr. Ryann Padgett—an emergency room employee at Evergreen Health in Kirkland, Washington—was hospitalized last month after contracting COVID-19. He was extremely sick and spent 24 days in the hospital. During this time, he was transferred to Seattle's Swedish Medical Center, where his condition worsened. 

"In matter of 24 hours he went from breathing on oxygen to requiring a ventilator and some advanced therapies. From there he continued to get worse," Dr. Matt Hartman of Swedish First Hill campus said. 

Padgett's lungs and kidneys started to fail him. After exhausting all options, doctors decided to try an experimental treatment with the medicine tocilizumab. Tocilizumab (brand name Actemra) is currently approved by the FDA to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Although they were trying several experimental treatments at the time, doctors believe the tocilizumab stopped Padgett's body from overreacting to the virus, which allowed him to stabilize himself. 

"The medicine blocks one of the messengers that could be leading to this overreactive immune system response to the virus," Swedish Cancer Institute's Dr. Krish Patel explained. "So it may be helping by preventing the immune system from overreacting."

Doctors started to see improvements in Padgett's condition in four to five days. He was then taken off the machines and able to return home. "He had a really rapid improvement," Hartman said. "It was wonderful to see—the team is ecstatic."

On Friday Dr. Padgett and his family released a statement expressing their gratitude to the hospital. 

"When the need is the greatest, we’re also the most appreciative. As an emergency room physician, my family and I knew how sick I was with coronavirus. We also knew I was receiving the very best care from the very best team. We’re forever grateful for the EvergreenHealth community that has supported my recovery and marvel at the care that makes it possible for me to be at home today. Special thank you also to Swedish Medical Center for the exceptional care and kindness they, too, provided to me. I thank you for all you have done for us and for respecting our privacy as our family continues to recover."

Swedish Medical Center will be joining a global randomized clinical trial that will study the effectiveness of tocilizumab on COVID-19. This study could begin as early as next week.  

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