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San Diego man who was treated with remdesivir fully recovers

Posted at 8:03 AM, May 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-02 11:03:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — A San Diego man is crediting the antiviral drug remdesivir with possibly saving his life.

Seeing his wife's face 17 days after being hospitalized with COVID-19 meant so much to 66-year-old Rich Pickett, because he had doubts the moment would come.

"Last thing she remembers is me waving to her from the wheelchair," Pickett explained. "When I went into the ER, I felt so bad, that I pretty much resigned myself that I wouldn't make it."

His wife, Jane, rushed him to the hospital on April first. Once in the emergency room, things escalated quickly.

Pickett was positive for COVID-19, he had a high fever, pneumonia and low blood oxygen.

Fearing the worst, Pickett made sure his family would be financially secured, sent some text messages to his loved ones, and turned off his phone.

"I signed a 'do not resuscitate', they made me comfortable laying down and pretty much I passed out," he said.

He was put then put on a ventilator.

"Initially his body was mounting an immense immune response called a cytokine storm," he explained.

He said that's when doctors from Kaiser Permanente contacted his wife to let her know he was qualified for a 10-day clinical trial using the drug remdesivir, made by Gilead Sciences.

Within days of being treated with the antiviral drug, he was improving. Five days after the removal of the ventilator he was out of the hospital and feeling great.

"I responded very well to the remdesivir," he said. "I think it had a dramatic impact."

The drug possibly gave the husband, father, and grandpa, a second chance to be with his family and do what he loves.

"They just wanted to make sure I was still alive and still in their life," he said speaking of his grandchildren.

Pickett has lived a life full of adventure and experience.

"My graduate degree is in pharmacy and pharmacology, then I switched careers over time to become a police detective, and ABC weather man in Oregon, self-taught myself to be a computer science professor, was the chief information officer at San Diego State." he said. "I've been very fortunate."

About seven years ago he retired early to do more volunteer work with Angel Flight West.

"It's an organization that pairs patients who need to go for medical care with pilots who volunteer to take those patients around the country,"

He's looking forward to getting back to his volunteer work and also focusing Personal Wings, an aviation school he runs.

"I teach pilots around the country in usually high performance aircraft," he explained.

Friday, less than three works of being released from the hospital, Rich and his wife were able to get in their aircraft and up in the air again.

"I feel great," he said. "I’m still down 25 or 26 pounds from when I went in. Some of my friends are jealous they say you lost all that weight while you slept," he said.

He hopes the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emegency Use Authorization of remdesivir in treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients will possibly be an answer that so many people have been searching for.

"To have this and to be able to go in and possibly get people the care before they get into the situation I was, maybe 5 days, is amazing, it's a game changer," he said.