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Doctor who contracted coronavirus goes home after 4 months in hospital

Dr. Vladimir Laroche first patient treated with dornase alfa at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center
Posted at 3:53 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 18:50:33-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — After nearly four months in a hospital combatting COVID-19, a South Florida doctor has finally gone home to his family. FoundCare Dr. Vladimir Laroche, who had been treating patients at the time, initially went to the hospital with COVID-19 symptoms.

After a few days at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Laroche started to develop some serious complications and required intubation and mechanical ventilation.

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Infectious disease specialist Dr. Leslie Diaz worked with a team to help find Laroche convalescent plasma. A donor in Miami, Basil Binns II, stepped up and donated.

"Within 48 hours, I would have to say, he started showing improvement," said Diaz.

But Laroche developed other complications.

Dr. Vladimir Laroche in hospital
Dr. Vladimir Laroche poses for a photograph from his hospital bed with a medical professional wearing personal protective equipment.

"After a period of time, his condition actually worsened and we could not provide him with life support with conventional means of ventilation," said Dr. Ribal Darwish, medical director for critical care at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center.

At Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, Laroche was the first coronavirus patient who was treated with dornase alfa, a medication used for patients with cystic fibrosis. Darwish believes it made all the difference.

"The 60 patients (who) have received this treatment all survived and most of them have left the hospital, so we have no mortalities at all with patients who have been treated with dornase alfa," added Darwish.

Darwish said his staff is in the process of publishing a study so it may help other physicians and hospitals.

"Over the last three months at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center, we've only had one patient on the ventilator, as opposed to other hospitals, where they have 15 to 20 patients on the ventilator," said Darwish. "So this is a very significant difference."

Dr. Vladimir Laroche at work for FoundCare
Dr. Vladimir Laroche was working for FoundCare when he began experiencing coronavirus symptoms.

Diaz said it took a solid team to manage Laroche's case every step of the way.

"I would have to tell you, about six weeks after he initially got there, he was still testing positive [for COVID-19] and he was one of my very first one that I scratched my head with, saying, 'I just don't understand this,'" said Diaz.

Laroche was in the intensive care unit for 80 days. When he was out of the woods and came out of a medically induced coma, he was weak.

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"Other than your bone and skin, there was nothing else," said Laroche from his rehabilitation room at St. Mary's Medical Center, where he will be discharged Friday. "I couldn't move. I could not do anything."

His voice still raspy, but his motivation is strong. Laroche said when he awoke from his coma, he thought he had only been under for a few days.

"When I turned my head and I saw the calendar, I said, 'What is that?'" said Laroche.

After spending a few weeks in rehabilitation, he is ready to go home. His brother, Paul Laroche, whose birthday is Saturday, said it's the best gift he could have imagined.

Doctor released from hospital after 4-month battle with COVID-19

"This is the day I've been playing over and over in my head, what that day is going to look like," said Paul Laroche.

When asked what his first meal will be after going home, Laroche said, "Tonight when I go home, I'm going to have Churrasco steak, skirt steak."

Laroche knows he has a long journey ahead and plans to work hard to get his strength back.

He had some advice to other patients fighting COVID-19: "Take a deep breath. Leave everything to God."