March 10, 2021

One year later: Michigan Medicine’s first COVID-19 patient ‘living life to the fullest’ (with video)

Alone in an isolation room, Paul DeWyse turned on his TV to find reporters from every news station speculating about the unidentified COVID-19 patient — he knew they were talking about him

Paul DeWyse and his family

Paul DeWyse and his family 

Allison Weber, R.N., remembered her sixth floor charge nurse, Jen, telling her the hospital’s first COVID-19 patient may have just arrived and that there were people downstairs keeping him isolated, trying to rule him out for the contagious illness.

“I didn’t even know what it was at the time,” she recalled. “When she told me what COVID-19 was, my head started spinning. I had only been a nurse for a year and a half or two years at the time.”

And Weber wasn’t the only one with growing anxiety.

Downstairs, “Wayne County man with history of domestic travel,” Paul DeWyse, was just told his mysterious sickness wasn’t the common cold or flu.

“They told me they were going to test me for COVID-19, but ‘there was a 99.9% chance I wouldn’t have it’,” said DeWyse. “But the test came back positive and everyone was completely stumped.”

All of a sudden, the world seemed to stop spinning. He knew as a double lung transplant recipient his symptoms could very well result in mortality, since he took a cocktail of immunosuppressive meds to keep his body from rejecting his new lungs.

“It was a harrowing journey for my wife and daughters, before my donor gave me a second chance at life with my new lungs in 2018. My lungs were functioning at 15% capacity before the transplant,” said DeWyse. “Now, I’m immunocompromised and in the hospital with COVID-19, and all I knew about COVID-19 was that it was a virus that could cause illness so serious it results in death.”

He felt guilty for everything his family had to go through with him.

Alone in an isolation room on the corner of the sixth floor, DeWyse turned on his TV to find reporters from every news station offering their speculations about the unidentified COVID-19 patient.

They didn’t know they were talking about DeWyse, now 58, from Livonia. But DeWyse knew they were talking about him.