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San Diego COVID-19 patient suffers kidney, organ damage

Posted at 4:01 PM, Apr 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 13:19:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - For a Mira Mesa man stricken with coronavirus, the virus is ravaging not only his lungs, but other organs.

"His first symptoms were chills and a fever," said Clarissa Punzal.

After five days of those symptoms, Rey Punzal, 56, was diagnosed with pneumonia March 23. He was discharged, but breathing problems sent him back to the ER two days later.

"Just such a scary time," said Clarissa Punzal.

Clarissa say her father was intubated and put on a ventilator, before testing positive for COVID-19. His situation grew more dire every day.

Six days after he was admitted, doctors told us to prepare for the worst," she said.

His family leaned on their faith and prayers. Like other loved ones in the pandemic, they were unable to visit him.

"That was the hardest part. Couldn't tell him he's going to be okay, that we're here for him," said Clarissa.

The family waited for news - and dreading it.

"Doctors called us and said his kidneys started failing, and his liver and other organs," said Clarissa.

Punzal was placed on dialysis, his ordeal part of a surge in coronavirus cases where kidneys are shutting down. According to the New York Times, doctors in New York and other cities - not San Diego - are now warning of strained supplies of dialysis machines, to go with the shortage of ventilators. It's not known if the kidneys are a target of the virus or a casualty of a ravaged body.

As for Punzal's battle, doctors believe he's turned a corner. Clarissa says his condition, from his breathing to his kidney function, is improving. That is welcome news she credits in part to his fighting spirit.

"He's such a stubborn man. it's shows even now. He's not going down easy," said Clarissa.

Estimates place the number of COVID-19 ICU patients needing emergency dialysis at between 20% and 40%.

A GoFundMe campaign has been set up for his family.