FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - A 23-year-old man with Down syndrome who overcame the coronavirus after 56 days, 41 of which were spent on a ventilator, is back home.
Luis Pamones was rushed to the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth on May 1 after testing positive for COVID-19.
According to John Hollingsworth, M.D., a pulmonologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth, Pamones was in critical condition from admission. Having already experienced severe respiratory distress for several days before he arrived, Pamones was immediately transferred to the ICU and intubated within hours of arriving at the hospital.
Fighting to Survive
Luis' battle with COVID-19 came as a shock to his parents, Ana and Constantine Hernandez. This was the first time they were ever separated from their son, uncertain of the severity of his condition and when they would see him again.
"Being completely cut off from loved ones while being treated for COVID-19 would be difficult for anyone, but it was an especially vulnerable situation for Luis as a special-needs patient," said Emily Gabehart-Weuste, M.Div. BCC, chaplain at Texas Health Fort Worth, who met regularly with Luis's parents for support.
On June 14, finally able to breathe on his own, he was extubated and transferred to the cardiac unit for the remainder of his recovery.
According to the Global Down Syndrome Foundation, children and adults with Down syndrome are known to have several co-occurring conditions, that if are untreated or active, may put them at higher risk for COVID-19. These conditions can include ongoing heart defects (heart disease). Individuals who have heart failure or heart disease should consult with their health care provider about additional precautions that may be needed, especially if additional co-occurring conditions associated with Down syndrome also exist such as:
• Hypertension (high blood pressure)
• Pulmonary hypertension
• Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
• Kidney disease
"We're always on the lookout for complications, but with a patient like Luis who may be more vulnerable, we're extra diligent in monitoring for signs of complications, especially when the immune system is severely compromised," said Dr. Hollingsworth.
Luis's mother said Luis' case highlights the impact the virus can have on people with special needs, but the most important thing she wants to do is raise awareness within the Latino community, reminding others to take every safety precaution possible.
"The danger still exists, it's still very real, and it's not going away without our help," she said.
Celebrating Recovery Together
Although he was unable to communicate for most of his time in the hospital, Gabehart-Weuste said it was Pamones' kind heart and positive spirit that inspired everyone he met to be a voice on his behalf to raise awareness about the dangers of the disease.
In spite of any future obstacles that lie ahead for Pamones, Ana says that nothing will ever compare to what he has been able to overcome in the past two months.
"I was never scared the whole time, not even once," he said, adding that he is most excited about spending recovery playing with his German shepherd and watching wrestling on TV.
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