Surviving a COVID Scare
Peter Saphier and his wife Liliane were very careful. When the COVID-19 pandemic became a national crisis that would affect their Encino community, Peter and Liliane took every precaution. They quarantined at home and following the recommended provisions on wearing masks and social distancing.
The 79-year-old Saphier had a lot to protect. A veteran of the motion picture industry, Peter had spent 35 years as a studio executive for both Universal and Paramount. His achievements included acquiring Jaws for universal, co-producing Brian de Palma’s Scarface and overseeing five Clint Eastwood films, among many others. He had moved on to work as an independent producer and run a consulting firm that develops screenplays.
Peter and Liliane had been married for 55 years, and their two children lived close by. Getting infected with the coronavirus was the last thing either of them wanted.
So when a close friend invited them for brunch in early June 2020, they agreed on the understanding that it would be a socially-distanced outdoor gathering, on their host’s porch, among friends they trust. Unfortunately, weather conditions forced them all inside. Because everyone felt healthy, they all felt the risk was minimal.
Sadly, it was not. Of the five people at the brunch, four of them contracted the coronavirus. That included the brunch’s host, who was hospitalized for four days before recovering.
Peter began showing symptoms a week after the brunch. What seemed like a head cold quickly progressed to include bouts of shaking. Alarmed, Peter and Liliane went to the emergency department at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center, where Peter was quickly diagnosed with pneumonia and admitted to the hospital. His physicians suspected a COVID-19 infection, which was soon confirmed with the hospital’s rapid COVID tests.
Peter was moved to an isolation room to avoid spreading the virus to anyone else. All of his doctors and nurses wore hazmat suits before entering the pressure-sealed room, and Peter was only able to wave to family and friends through a window during visits.
Peter’s first week in the medical center was a challenging one for both him and his care team. He had a severe infection requiring aggressive treatments: antibiotics for pneumonia plus Remdesivir and steroids for the coronavirus, as well as plasma with COVID-19 antibodies and strong anti-inflammatory medication. Multiple lung x-rays and diagnostic tests showed that Peter required oxygen therapy, which became increasingly intense. He began on 60% oxygen. When that was insufficient, his doctors moved him to 70%, and eventually to 100%. Luckily, with this intensive treatment the oxygen saturation level in his blood remained strong (around 95%)
Supervising physician Dr. Delkhah would later tell Peter and his family that Peter was just one step away from being put on a ventilator, and his care team was gravely concerned about his case.
At the same time, Liliane was in the throes of her own coronavirus infection. During Peter’s first week in the hospital, she suffered from severe migraines, fever and chronic fatigue. Fortunately, she was able to recover without being hospitalized, and promptly resumed her place by Peter’s side.
Finally, during his second week in isolation care, Peter’s condition began to improve. He gradually needed less oxygen therapy, and finally none at all. After 16 days in the hospital and 12 lost pounds, Peter was discharged from Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana with a clean bill of health. His iPhone, which had stayed with him throughout his hospital stay, showed that he had only taken 18 steps in his 2+ weeks of treatment.
After leaving the hospital, Peter was happy to receive post-treatment house calls from the Providence Home Care Case Manager, who discharged him after two weeks of visits. His health was excellent. Within the first few weeks of returning home, Peter and Liliane had resumed their normal exercise routines and walked over 12 miles.
Reflecting on his experience, there were two points that resonated strongly with Peter. One was the frightening unpredictability of the coronavirus. Peter had always been in great shape and had no pre-existing conditions. But out of a group of friends of similar age, he had the worst COVID-19 infection by far. His doctors suggested that the fact that he was so healthy may have contributed to this; his immune system had never experienced anything like the coronavirus. At the same time, they cautioned that much about this virus remains unknown.
Still, what Peter felt most after recovering was gratitude for the care he received at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center. Peter was uniformly impressed with the many doctors and nurses who treated him, which included emergency clinicians, a pulmonologist, an infectious disease expert and a team of nurses who were all talented, responsive and compassionate.
“I couldn’t have hoped for better care, or for more detailed explanations about my condition and the treatments I was receiving,” Peter says. “I was also grateful that the hospital had all the medical technology I needed. And the ends truly speak for themselves. I’m well. I’m certainly not happy I got sick, but my treatment could not have been better.”
Pam Kessler: Sixteen years ago, the wonderful doctors, nurses and caregivers at Providence Tarzana Medical Center saved my son’s life.
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