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Pulmonary Doctor Shares His Experience Of Surviving COVID-19

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

As the coronavirus crisis wears on, we have been hearing occasionally from essential workers - today, a physician in New Orleans who's also a father-to-be. His wife is pregnant with their first child.

JAY MILLER: My name is Jay Miller, and I'm an intensive care doctor in New Orleans. March 20, I'm realizing now that the patient load is so heavy, and it's all COVID-19. I'm beginning to be quite concerned that I am certainly going to be infected with COVID-19 and want to avoid infecting my wife at all cost. I send her to Baton Rouge to quarantine with her mother.

As the week of March 23 progressed, I can recall a lady - COVID-19, on the ventilator. As the day progressed, her oxygen requirements went higher and higher. Her blood pressure went lower and lower. And I can see the writing on the wall that this patient's not going to live overnight.

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MILLER: So I called the son. The son was in his late 20s. I'm prepared for any sort of grief reaction I might get, but his was anger - anger bordering on rage, anger mixed with contempt. He repeated several times on the phone, what the [expletive] you talking about? She had a cough two days ago. What the [expletive] are you talking about? And I literally had to say, I'm sorry; I'm going to hang the phone up now - and hang the phone up. And she died that night.

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MILLER: April 6 - at work today, I'm feeling pretty run-down. I leave work a little early - around 5 p.m. - to come home and try to take it easy. I brush my teeth, and I notice the toothpaste taste completely different. I know that this is my taste leaving me. A couple hours later, I check my temperature, and it's 104.1.

April 9, I'm admitted into the ICU of a hospital that I trained at and have many friends and colleagues amongst the doctors and nurses there. I had the disadvantage of knowing all of the possible outcomes. I asked the ICU nurse to come into the room. I explained to her that I am hallucinating that there's people in the hallway and there's people in my room that I know aren't actually there.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MILLER: Easter Sunday, I'm feeling back to somewhat myself. I'm discharged from the hospital, walk out the doors, catch an Uber home. I think I gave that driver a $20 tip.

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MILLER: April 24, I hop in my car, off to work for the first day.

First day back from the hospital since April 6 - was the last time I was here. Hey, hey.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey. How you feeling?

MILLER: I'm all right.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Any symptoms?

MILLER: No, ma'am. I'm alive.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Saying he alive - guess it's a lot to say.

MILLER: I'm going to go to the ED to see whichever pace is down there.

I was thinking I was close to a hundred percent recovered, but going up and down the stairs definitely feels different than it used to at this point - felt a little bit short of breath, but not too bad.

This is a car wreck that's going on for months. It's numbing, disheartening for sure. Behold, COVID-19, the humbler of mankind.

KELLY: That's pulmonary doctor Jay Miller of New Orleans with his essential worker diary.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.