For the media

Critically ill COVID-19 patient beats the disease

By The Health News Team | May 4, 2020
Critically ill COVID-19 patient beats the disease

Daniel Padilla running the 2019 Big Sur International Marathon. He hopes to get back to marathon training after fully recovering from COVID-19.

"I no longer take things for granted. I speak to my family and friends on a daily basis and make sure I tell them that I love them," says Daniel Padilla. "I also take note of little things now - my kids smiling, my wife laughing, a walk around the block - it's all important."

For Daniel, a 43-year-old former Marine, life changed in March 2020. Earlier in the month, he attended a conference in Colton, California, and upon returning home, learned that several attendees had tested positive for COVID-19.

"At the time, I was aware of the virus distantly, but it wasn't a major concern or a big deal here yet," he says.

Daniel lives with his wife and two boys, ages 14 and 12, in Brawley, California, a community some 110 miles east of
Sharp Grossmont Hospital. When he found out he was exposed to the virus, he self-isolated right away.

No preexisting conditions
Active and fit, Daniel had no significant past medical history. He recently had been training for a marathon, running 14 miles just a week prior to attending the conference.

"I started feeling symptoms, aches and pains about a week later," he says. "So, I stayed home and rested."

When his symptoms worsened, he made an appointment to see his primary care doctor and was tested for COVID-19. The results came back negative.

A few days later, he had shortness of breath, a high fever and uncontrollable coughing.

"I couldn't catch my breath and couldn't breathe," he says.

Daniel's wife immediately took him to an urgent care close to home, where he received oxygen. But his health continued to decline.

He was sent by ambulance to nearby Pioneers Memorial Hospital, where he was tested again for COVID-19. This time, the test was positive.

In just a few short hours, the disease escalated so rapidly that Daniel had to be intubated and placed on a ventilator.

"I was initially worried, but really got concerned when they decided to intubate me," he says. "I called my wife, I called my mother, I texted my brother. I told everyone I loved them, just in case."

"If there was a time when I was scared, that was it. I cried when I talked to my wife and my mother," he says.

Treatment and support at Sharp Grossmont Hospital
Because Daniel needed immediate specialized care, he was transferred from Pioneers to
Sharp Grossmont Hospital and admitted on March 19. He was Sharp Grossmont's first patient who tested positive for coronavirus.

Recognizing Daniel's serious medical status, a team of intensivists immediately began treating him.
Dr. Ashish Agrawal, who is board certified in both critical care medicine and pulmonology, was assigned to his case.

"I'm honest with my COVID-19 patients and their loved ones that because this condition is new and the medical community has been gathering, analyzing and disseminating medical information nearly on a daily basis, their plans of care may change accordingly," says Dr. Agrawal.

"New treatment options may be considered, and some previously planned or ongoing ones may be discontinued. I also explain why we may not be considering certain therapies they may have read or heard about in the media."

Because this is a new type of coronavirus, no specific antiviral medication exists yet to treat or cure it. Instead, multiple therapies are used to treat patients, with supportive care being the foundation.

Turning the corner to recovery
Daniel's prognosis was poor. He remained sedated on a ventilator with multiple medical therapies being used. But after several days, he slowly began to show signs of progress.

"Daniel's wife, Michelle, never gave up hope. I called her every day to update her on Daniel's condition, and there was never a day when I sensed a waver to her optimism, even in the face of daily disheartening news about the disease from around the world. And she never stopped trusting us either," says Dr. Agrawal.

More than a week after Daniel was admitted, he had improved enough that Dr. Agrawal successfully weaned him from his ventilator. Eventually, he was moved out of the intensive care unit.

After being at Sharp Grossmont for 12 nights, he was well enough to go home on March 31.

Gratitude and making a difference
Since going home, Daniel continues to grow stronger and stronger every day. He hopes to start training again for his marathon. And he's deeply grateful for the care he received at Sharp Grossmont.

"Dr. Agrawal visited me every day. He was fantastic! We still talk, he calls me every once in a while, just to see how I'm doing," says Daniel. "Everybody - the nurses, the doctors - were super kind. They were top-notch."

Daniel's wife, Michelle, also expressed her sincere appreciation for the compassionate care her husband received from the nurses, Dr. Agrawal and the entire staff.

"No matter what role you play in health care - nurse, therapist, housekeeper or physician - knowing that you're making a difference is what keeps us all going," says Dr. Agrawal.

"We always live with the fact that we can't assure a happy outcome for everyone. We've seen so much sadness and tragedy during this pandemic. But each patient is unique and often we're able to make a world of difference in the life of a person and their families."

For the news media: To talk with Dr. Ashish Agrawal about COVID-19 for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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