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24-year-old coronavirus "miracle patient" who was "close to death" leaves hospital after 79 days

Texas hospital overwhelmed by virus patients
An inside look at a Texas hospital overwhelmed by coronavirus patients 02:20

A 24-year-old in Texas was hospitalized due to the coronavirus at the end of April. She finally went home this week – after 79 days. The hospital said Paola Castillo was "close to death" during her stay. 

Castillo arrived in the emergency room on April 27 with difficulty breathing, a cough and a fever, according to a press release issued by the hospital, Medical City North Hills in Texas. She had been experiencing symptoms for six days before going.

"After testing positive for coronavirus, she was unable to manage on her own and sought emergency care," reads the release. "Her symptoms worsened rapidly and she was placed on a ventilator within the first 24 hours at Medical City North Hills."

Castillo didn't get off the ventilator for more than a month. Her husband and mother were told it was "touch and go," and she recalls seeing only a few interactions with staff. 

"I saw a light," Castillo said while recuperating, according to the hospital. "That light was God telling me it was time to wake up." 

After 67 days inside the hospital, Castillo was helped outside so she could feel rain. She had to regain the ability to talk, swallow and walk after coming off the ventilator, and took her first steps since being admitted on July 3.

Castillo has since tested negative for the coronavirus, but her road to recovery is "far from over after discharge," said the hospital. Its staff are nonetheless "celebrating her fighting spirit and remarkable recovery against dismal odds."

Castillo said it never crossed her mind she could get the virus, CBS DFW reports.

"Maybe if I would have just listened and worn a mask, just a simple thing, I would have avoided all this," she said.  "I work at a bank — I'm always around people — but I was like I'm fine, I'm fine. Never did I think I'd catch it."

Castillo came down with COVID-19 before cases exploded across Texas in recent weeks. The number of infections there is now surging. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, more than 282,000 cases have been reported in the state, including 10,791 new cases reported on Wednesday. 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott did not encourage the use of face masks until recently. He issued an executive order earlier this month requiring masks in public, but a growing number of the state's sheriffs have said they will refuse to enforce it

Dr. Hetal Rana, a physician at Medical City North Hills, told CBS DFW they're seeing more and more young patients, like Castillo, contract the virus. The COVID-19 unit at the hospital has been nearly full for over a month. 

"We have seen so much negativity," Rana said. "We've seen a lot of patients die in our hospital that were in her situation."

Rana said staff at the hospital are exhausted, but that Castillo's recovery has given them hope. 

"It just kind of re-energizes you and gives you that sense of what it means to save someone's life and to help someone overcome such a severe illness like this," he said.

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