A Florida man who contracted the coronavirus is crediting his survival with the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.
Rio Giardinieri told KTTV-TV that doctors gave the drug to him Friday while he was in critical condition diagnosed with coronavirus and pneumonia at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Florida.
Giardinieri, who is 52, recalled falling so ill that he said goodbye to his family, as doctors put him on oxygen and told him there was nothing more they could do for him as he battled the virus.
“I was at the point where I was barely able to speak and breathing was very challenging. I really thought my end was there. I had been through nine days of solid pain and for me, the end was there. So I made some calls to say in my own way goodbye to my friends and family,” he said.
As a last resort, Giardinieri said, he contacted an infectious disease doctor after a friend sent him an article detailing how anti-malaria drugs such as hydroxychloroquine had worked for COVID-19 patients overseas.
Giardinieri said doctors cautioned him against using drugs such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine that are untested as cures for COVID-19, but he had little to lose as he felt he was near death.
Doctors administered several doses of hydroxychloroquine, which at first seemed to react badly with Giardinieri, KTTV reported.
“After being given the drug, I couldn’t breathe and my heart was pounding again so they gave me some Benadryl through the system and something else,” Giardinieri said.
“It allowed me to go to sleep and when I woke up at exactly 4:45 in the morning, I woke up like nothing ever happened,” he said.
Giardinieri told KTTV that doctors later believed the extreme symptoms were not the drug but rather the virus moving through his body.
“To me, there was no doubt in mind that I wouldn’t make it until morning,” he said. “So to me, the drug saved my life.”
Giardinieri is now able to sit up and speak, and hopes to return to his home by the end of the week.
Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are among nearly 70 drugs being investigating as possible treatments for coronavirus, The New York Times reported.
President Donald Trump said at Thursday’s White House news briefing that chloroquine could potentially be a “game-changer” if it is proven to be successful during COVID-19 trials.
“This is beyond right-to-try,” Trump said. “If treatments known to be safe in Europe, Japan or other nations are known to be effective against a virus, we’ll use that information to protect the health and safety of American people.”
“Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus,” he added.
Despite reported cases of success in using drugs such as chloroquine to combat COVID-19, Trump has been criticized for being optimistic about their potential.
NBC News reporter Peter Alexander went as far as to accuse Trump of giving “false hope” to the country during the Thursday briefing.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who announced his state will begin trials on the drug Tuesday, has not faced the same criticism.
Forbes reported New York, which is a hotspot for U.S. cases of coronavirus, has acquired 750,000 doses of chloroquine, 70,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine and 10,000 doses of the antibiotic Zithromax.
“The president is optimistic about these drugs, and we are all optimistic that it could work,” Cuomo said of the upcoming drug trials.
WATCH: NY Gov. Cuomo: “I’m requesting today from the federal government that the Army Corp. immediately proceed to erect temporary hospitals.” pic.twitter.com/ykJHk4nE1o
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 22, 2020
As of Monday, New York reported a total of 16,900 actives cases of coronavirus, with 150 total deaths.
The U.S. has nearly 41,000 total cases with 485 fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins.
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