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Henry Ford doctor on ventilator beats COVID-19: “approaching death”



Hospital staff celebrate the departure of Henry Ford’s health care practitioner Scott Kaatz after surviving COVID-19 and his neighbors serenade him on Queen’s air.

Detroit Free Press

Six days ago, Henry Ford’s health care practitioner, Scott Kaatz, was on a ventilator, clinging to life.

The 62-year-old doctor had COVID-19, a virus that had ravaged his lungs, but not his will.

Dr. Kaatz, who cared for some of the first coronavirus patients on the Detroit underground, returned home Sunday after nearly a month’s battle with a virus treated with experimental medical therapies. Among them: convalescent plasma, the liquid part of the blood that is taken from patients who have recovered from the infection.

Kaatz was the first Henry Ford patient to receive a convalescent plasma infusion, although he stressed that he is not sure what healed him, or whether the plasma or any of the investigational drugs made a difference. All he knows, he said, is that he “got as close to death as possible.”

“I was really, really lucky,” said Kaatz, who credits medical staff Henry Ford for helping to save his life. “As it gets worse – I know what it does with the risk of dying … but I felt very safe. I was in a large institution. “

Kaatz was also in familiar territory. He has worked with Henry Ford for a total of 31 years and was on the front line when the virus first appeared on the Detroit metro. He has treated many infected patients and participated in the fight to help as many people as possible. And he understood the risks faced by health professionals in the face of contagion.

Only this time, he was in the hospital bed. And his colleagues faced the risks.

“Whenever someone came to my room,” he said, “they were risking their lives to save mine. “

During his hospital stay, Kaatz was also treated with steroids, remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine – the antimalarial drug that the Food and Drug Administration warned about last week has serious heart risks and should only be used in hospital environment.

As a doctor and scientist, Kaatz said he understood what he was facing. He knew he was no better and that the risk of dying increased for patients who ended up on respirators. But the fear of dying has never been an issue, he said.

“I was worried about my family,” he said.

“You don’t want that”

It was Sunday, March 29, when Kaatz fell ill. He woke up with a slight fever and headache. Worried that it could be COVID-19, he called work and said he would not enter because he feared of potentially infecting patients and colleagues.

That week, his health deteriorated. Crush aches. Significant headaches. The revealing cough. He made two trips to the emergency room at Henry Ford Hospital in six days, but the chest x-rays and his oxygenation seemed OK, so he was sent home twice.

Then came shortness of breath.

Kaatz called his treating doctor – also his medical partner – who lived 1 km away and drove him to the hospital. He was admitted at that time.

“When I was out of breath, it was time to leave,” he recalls, stressing, “You don’t want it. “

Kaatz was hospitalized on April 4. His fatigue worsened and within 24 hours he would deteriorate in the ICU – leading to intubation and being placed on a ventilator on April 12.

“I knew his condition was extreme and I was terrified of losing him,” said his wife, Meg, a long-time nurse who was in Texas with her son at the time.

Meg Kaatz has medical conditions that put her at risk of contracting the virus. Her family decided early on, a few days after her husband treated her first COVID-19 patient, that she would stay with her son in Texas to avoid becoming infected if Dr. Kaatz became ill with the virus.

“I felt so bad that I couldn’t be with him at his bedside when he was terribly sick,” said Meg Kaatz.

Meg and Scott Kaatz have been together since 1975. During those years, she remembers that her husband was sick only a few times. So when she learned that he had a coronavirus, she was blind.

“It really shocked me and knocked me down,” she said.

So from Texas, she cared about him the best she could. She spoke to her nurses and doctors daily and phoned her husband who, on the eve of his admission to the hospital, joined forces to attend his wife’s birthday party – via Zoom.

“Apparently, I was not the life of the party that evening,” he joked.

Say goodbye

Until he is placed under a fan, Kaatz remembers everything. How the breath and swelling got worse. How he went from speaking to one-word responses to nodding yes or no.

He became so weak in intensive care, he recalls, that wiggling his toes exhausted him. He could move a toe. But when he moved the other, he said, it wiped him out.

“Not breathing was a challenge,” he said. “I knew the disease was getting worse, and I knew what it meant.”

As his health worsened, weighing heavily on his mind spoke to his family.

“The important thing was to have a potential farewell conversation with Meg and the kids,” said Kaatz.

On Easter Sunday, this conversation took place. The nurses lifted his phone just before putting it on ventilation so that he could facetime his wife, son Christopher, a 32-year-old music teacher and conductor, and his daughter, 29-year-old editor Beth Smith advertising. who still lives in the Detroit metro.

Behind his mask, Kaatz tried to talk to his family, but he could barely breathe.

“This last conversation was difficult,” recalls his wife. “We were trying to encourage him,” You will get through. You just need more oxygen. “There were a lot of” I love you “and a lot of tears. “

In those final moments before stepping onto the ventilator, Kaatz said that he did not feel any pain and that he was not afraid.

“I was worried about you guys,” he said to his wife later.

For her family, the ventilation process was brutal. Kaatz was flipped on his stomach for three days under sedation and on the ventilator. Doctors went through the list of experimental treatments as his oxygen levels and conditioning worsened.

But Kaatz emptied it.

On April 18, surprising his doctors and nurses, he woke up. His wife’s phone rang in Texas. It was the nurses who called me with good news.

“They were stunned and I was stunned,” recalls Meg. “I received an unexpected call saying that he had turned around drastically. “

Tears started to fall.

“It has been a really difficult week. I was crying. I was so happy, “she said.

The Kaatz family’s fight with COVID-19 is not over. Kaatz’s father, Dick Kaatz, Michigan area funeral director, is now intubated and fighting for his life at Henry Ford Hospital. Kaatz doesn’t know what treatments will work for his father.

According to Henry Ford Hospital, Kaatz’s father has not received convalescent plasma, which is rare and reserved for the sickest patients.

Dr. Kaatz says he hopes to donate plasma so that the option can be used for others.

“I will be making a donation in a few weeks; I’m already connected, “said Kaatz. “If you have had this disease, there are opportunities to help others who are desperately ill. We will follow this and get clues. “

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