From THE MACOMB DAILY
Jim Santilli of Bruce Township thought he was dying as a he lay on a hospital bed one night nearly two weeks ago.
“I didn’t think I would see the next day. I didn’t think I would make it to midnight,” he said. “I felt like I was slowly drowning.”
He arrived three days before at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township with an accelerated heartbeat and cough.
Three nights later, his breathing was getting worse, his lung partially collapsed, his heart rate was high and he had a fever.
The 38-year-old CEO of the Michigan Transportation Improvement Association had not yet been diagnosed with COVID-19 yet but he and doctors believed he had it.
An infectious disease doctor offered to give him Hydroxychloroquine and Azithromycin, a drug combination that some people have said works against the coronavirus.
“At that point, it was, what do you have to lose?” he said.
Within hours, he was feeling better. He wept as he explained to his wife, Patricia, over Facetime how he was improving.
“It was amazing,” he said. “I knew I had my strength back and my life back to beat this thing.”
He was diagnosed with COVID-19 the next day, March 22.
“March 23rd brought a significant improvement,” he said. “I continued to recover and was miraculously able to go home on March 24th to continue the treatment.”
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Debate has surrounded the use of Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, used with Azithromycin, an anti-bacterial drug, as a COVID-19 treatment that has been touted by President Trump.
Santilli was critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a social-media post about his experience. The post went viral, with 17,000 likes and 8,300 retweets.
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs last Thursday warned physicians and pharmacists that they could suffer “professional consequences” if they prescribe or dispense hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients.
But Sunday night, the FDA issued an emergency authorization for the experimental coronavirus treatments.
Michigan State Rep. Jeff Yaroch, R-Richmond, said Tuesday lawmakers want LARA to end confusion over the drug’s use.
“Legislators I’ve spoken with have gotten a lot of feedback across the state on this issue, where people read it and think they wouldn’t have access to this medication if they felt it was a medical necessity,” Yaroch said. “We have encouraged LARA to clearly communicate directives to physicians that the state supports the FDA guidelines for the use of these potentially life-saving drugs.”
Dr. Dr. Joel Fishbain of Beaumont Health said Monday the drug combination can be useful in limited situations but that the jury is still out on its effectiveness. He said the drugs are among those that need to be studied more for the effect on COVID-19.
“Is it working? We don’t have a clue,” Fishbain said. “I can’t tell you if an individual is going to get better without it.”
He mentioned two others drugs – one FDA approved and one that may be approved – may work on COVID-19 in limited instances. Steroids can help during certain stages of the disease, he added.
“This is an infection that in most cases people will do just fine,” he said. “We don’t know the exact efficacy of treatment, but we will treat the patients the best we can with the knowledge we have.”
He said it potentially can harm a patient who has a heart condition.
Meanwhile, Santilli remains in quarantine, still visiting Patricia, a teacher at Chippewa Valley Schools, via Facetime. Patricia has not shown any symptoms of COVID-19, he said.
Santilli doesn’t know how he was exposed to COVID-19. He speculated it may have happened at a Troy building where he learned someone contracted the virus previously.
Tuesday he said he may have overreacted in his criticism of Whitmer and support of Trump in his post. He emphasized the response to COVID-19 is not partisan.
“The coronavirus isn’t Democratic or Republican,” he said. “It doesn’t have a political party, and we need to unite to defeat this thing.”