A Broward man says he was near death from the coronavirus, but an anti-malaria drug touted as a possible treatment by President Trump saved his life.
Rio Giardinieri, 52, says that he struggled with horrendous back pain, headaches, cough and fatigue for five days after catching COVID-19, possibly at a conference in New York.
Doctors at the Memorial Regional Hospital in Broward diagnosed him with the coronavirus and pneumonia and put him on oxygen in the ICU.
After more than a week, doctors told him there was nothing more they could do and, on Friday evening, Giardinieri said goodbye to his wife and three children.
Then a friend sent him a recent article about hydroxychloroquine, a prescription drug that’s been used to treat malaria for decades and auto-immune diseases like lupus.
Overseas studies have found it to be promising as a treatment for COVID-19, though it hasn’t been approved by health officials.
Trump last week said he was instructing the FDA to fast-track testing of hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, as treatment for COVID-19.
Giardinieri said he contacted an infectious disease doctor about the drug.
“He gave me all the reasons why I would probably not want to try it because there are no trials, there’s no testing, it was not something that was approved,” said Giardinieri.
“And I said, ‘Look, I don’t know if I’m going to make it until the morning,’ because at that point I really thought I was coming to the end because I couldn’t breathe anymore,” Giardinieri continued.
“He agreed and authorized the use of it and 30 minutes later the nurse gave it to me.”
After about an hour after taking the pills, Giardinieri said, it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest and, about two hours later, he had another episode where he couldn’t breathe.
He says he was given Benadryl and some other drugs and that when he woke up around 4:45 a.m., it was “like nothing ever happened.”
“To me, there was no doubt in mind that I wouldn’t make it until morning,” said Giardinieri. “So to me, the drug saved my life.”
Also, steps are being taken to reduce wait times at a coronavirus test site in Broward County. Memorial Healthcare System set up a hotline for people to pre-register for their test. The hotline was set up after long lines forced them to close a test site at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines. You can find the hotline’s number and criteria for testing at MHS.net.