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Toronto doctor shares the grim details of young COVID-19 patient

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 11:47 am EDT

File photo of a hospital room. GETTY IMAGES/Thomas Northcut

“The first patient with COVID I admitted to the ICU was 23-years-old. He died.”

Those are the words of Shankar Sivananthan, a critical care doctor with the William Osler Health System.

Sivananthan took to Twitter this week to share the details of one of his early COVID-19 patients back in April. And though the story is a tragic one, it may be one that young people in this province need to hear.

The recent increase in cases in Ontario is being attributed to a variety of factors, and a big one is that we are seeing a lot more cases among young adults.

Now there are also a variety of factors as to why that trend exists. But if any healthy young person isn’t taking the pandemic as serious as they could or should be, the details of Sivananthan’s first patient can serve as a cautionary tale.

In fact the Toronto doctor’s first patient was just that, a healthy young person. A healthy 23-year-old who worked at a grocery store.

In Sivananthan’s first interaction with the patient, he needed to be rushed to the ICU. He badly needed oxygen and was struggling to breathe. He was put on a ventilator and given a breathing tube.

After staying on the ventilator and being heavily sedated for more than two weeks, the patients condition finally started to improve. The breathing tube came out. He was able to come off the ventilator. He got better.

“At 23, he’s supposed to get better,” said Sivananthan on Twitter. “And he did.”

His condition improved to the point where he regained the ability to properly walk and communicate. He began watching Netflix videos on his tablet while in the ICU.

The first COVID-19 patient that Shankar Sivananthan admitted to the ICU. He was eventually discharged from the ICU and relocated within the hospital. A rare victory in the early stages of the pandemic. The patient had become one of the few ICU survival stories up to that point.

“At 23, he’s supposed to be,” reiterated Sivananthan.

A few days later a Code Blue was called, meaning a patient had gone into arrest and needed resuscitation. Sivanathan responded to the call and found the same young that was discharged only days earlier.

The doctor helped perform CPR for 30 minutes. They weren’t able to get him back.

The first person with COVID-19 that Dr. Sivananthan admitted to the ICU was a healthy young adult.

He died.

Sivananthan notes that two straight weeks of sedation and ventilation can make a person at any age weak and delirious. It can leave them prone to serious complications. In this case the complications were fatal.

In this case they cost a 23-year-old his life.

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