Creighton Bluejays fan James Faylor, MD, and his son went to New York City to watch their favorite team play in the Big East Tournament in early March.
The United States was just starting to grapple with the fast-spreading new coronavirus. Like many Americans, Dr. Faylor was aware of what was happening, but had only heard of one smaller outbreak on the East Coast involving a woman who had recently traveled to Iran.
“The Bluejays only got to play half of their game and then it all got canceled and everyone went home,” he says.
That was on March 12. By the following Monday, March 16, Dr. Faylor had developed a cough. He called the health department hotline to inquire about a test. Within seven days of testing positive for COVID-19, Dr. Faylor was laying in the intensive care unit at Nebraska Medicine, intubated and fighting for his life.
Daniel Lemos, an auto repair shop manager, had been feeling a bit feverish when he inquired about getting tested. His father was hospitalized with COVID-19, and he suspected that his increasing shortness of breath and fevers were related.
Lemos drove to the testing site at Fonner Park in Grand Island on the morning of Good Friday, April 10. By that evening he could barely drive to the hospital. The following day he was life-flighted to Nebraska Medicine, where he was put on a heart-lung machine to keep him alive.
Both Dr. Faylor and Lemos would spend weeks in the hospital. Much of that time was spent sedated, as doctors and nurses did all they could to keep them alive while their bodies fought the virus.
Both families were approached and asked if they would consent to their loved one taking part in a new clinical trial. The clinical trial was only available to hospitalized patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The clinical trial testing Remdesivir versus a placebo was on the fast track as a potential drug therapy for COVID-19. Their families agreed to their participation in the study, not knowing if their loved one would get the drug or not.
As it turns out, Dr. Faylor received the medication, something he credits for saving his life.
Lemos did not, but is glad his family was willing to enroll him in the trial.
“Clinical trials are a way to help everybody, and even though I didn’t get the medication, I would still participate if given the opportunity,” Lemos says.
Dr. Faylor agrees.
“I’m sure Remdesivir helped me, and if the shoe was on the other foot, I would do the same for my family member,” he said.
“The medications used in clinical trials are usually studied for years before being tested in humans,” said Andre Kalil, MD, Nebraska Medicine infectious diseases physician and the primary investigator for the clinical trial. “The fact we were able to complete this large trial in less than two months is a major advance in the discovery of new treatments.”