The lobby was filled with cheers as a patient walked out of the hospital for the first time since he tested positive for COVID-19 more than a month prior.
Wilifredo (Willy) Merlin-Montoya, 25, was discharged after spending 42 days at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth – the hospital's longest stay so far for a COVID-19 patient.
"He was one of our first COVID-19 patients," said Joseph DeLeon, president of Texas Health Fort Worth. "It's miraculous to see how far he's come with the help of our care teams."
Willy went to the ER on March 18 with symptoms of COVID-19, including shortness of breath and a high fever. He was taken to the Medical Surgical Progressive Care Unit (MSPCU) where a care team had to perform an emergency intubation.
"We were surprised how quickly he went from speaking with us to needing life-saving care," said Kelli Long, M.S.N., R.N., CNML, manager of the MSPCU at Texas Health Fort Worth.
Willy was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and remained intubated for 23 days. Long said he received convalescent plasma therapy, a treatment for people with severe respiratory damage caused by COVID-19. The treatment, also known as a blood plasma transfusion, is only offered at a limited number of hospitals across the country.
"He was very sick for a long time," said Stuart McDonald, M.D., a pulmonologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth. "We were hopeful that this treatment would stop or slow down a rapidly deteriorating clinical course."
And it did. After spending more than a month in the hospital, Willy was finally able to go home and be reunited with his brother and girlfriend. His care team organized a special dismissal parade in the lobby of the hospital to celebrate his progress and recovery.
"We've seen a lot of sick patients, and to see a successful outcome like this is very emotional and encouraging," Long said.
His celebratory send-off was captured on cell phone video.