Washington Post

Washington Post 31 Mar 2020

A desperate search for coronavirus treatment: One family's fight to save their brother


Habeeb Ahmad, a New York ophthalmologist, is fighting for his life in the ICU after contracting the coronavirus. His family is struggling to get him experimental drug, remdesivir, as a last hope to save his life.

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… show captions ↓
-My brother's name is Habeeb Ahmad.
He is an ophthalmologist.
He lives in Long Island.
He is married.
He has three beautiful children.
He works for New York University as an ophthalmologist.
He's a good doctor and a teacher and a mentor there.
-When did you brother start to feel sick?
-My brother began feeling sick a few days
before his hospitalization on the 18th of March.
He was fatigued.
He had a gradually progressive increase
in cough and shortness of breath
that prompted him to seek medical attention.
He went to a local urgent care center who COVID-19,
and because of his symptoms at the time,
they told him to go back home and rest it out.
But unfortunately, his situations deteriorated more as
he became more short of breath.
He was taken to North shore University in Manhasset
on Thursday, and he was admitted.
But soon thereafter, continued to gradually worsen.
It was just a terrible experience, honestly.
I did have a conversation with him when he first was admitted.
He just was in shock, in total shock about
how he could have contracted this,
and he was so in fear
not knowing if he was going to live or die.
-And what happened within the 24-hour period after that.
-He continued to show signs
of deterioration in his breathing.
He could not maintain an adequate blood pressure.
He needed to be transferred to an intensive care unit
within the hospital.
And through the night, we had an call,
an emergent call that came to us.
Those moment before he was intubated was the last time
we had reach him by phone and communication,
and the last words from him to me was,
"Please take care of my kids."
-Dr. Ahmad, tell me what happened
in terms of his treatment.
Take me through the treatment options
that doctors have given him.
-Of course we had done our homework as well by Googling
and through the Internet, as well as listening
to the White House briefings by President Trump.
And there was mention of a drug made by a company,
a drug company called Gilead, which is situated in California.
The drug's name is called remdesivir.
This drug has had anecdotal examples of therapeutic benefits
that were cited by physicians from University of California.
The infectious disease doctor filled an application
to the drug company on behalf of my brother,
both in compassionate arm
and through it's investigational arm.
Unfortunately by Saturday,
within 24 hours Saturday morning,
the response did come back as a rejection.
-Did you speak to his doctors today?
What did they tell you about his condition?
-His condition continues to be critical in the ICU.
He continues to be on dialysis and on a ventilator
and on pressure medication.
We do not have any other hope or other medication.
Everything is investigational.
We have no further course of action that we can do.
The infectious disease doctor did call
in an emergency access line to Gilead to, again,
try and get that drug, the remdesivir for him.
He basically had a response from the drug company
stating that they don't even have the capacity
to make the drug available to everyone
and he must be enrolled in an investigative trial
that they are carrying out.
But of course, each of those trials comes with
exclusionary criteria
that have denied my brother access to this drug,
and it denied other healthcare workers
and other patients in the same situation.

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