Daniel Pilder, 70, was sent home from Jewish Hospital - Mercy Health on Friday, May 1 to the applause of hospital personnel lining the corridors and gathered around the exit. He was the first COVID-19 patient admitted to Jewish Hospital on Sunday, Mar. 15, 2020, and his battle with COVID-19 had lasted over a month and a half. Pilder is well known in the Jewish community of Cincinnati from his role as a kosher butcher at the former Pilder’s Kosher Foods grocery.
Extraordinary equipment, permission to use experimental medicines, and the devotion of the Jewish Hospital staff saved his life.
Pilder’s symptoms followed the classic progression of COVID-19: in the first week of March, he had symptoms like a cold, that progressed until they resembled a flu. Although he tested negative for both flu and pneumonia, he could not be tested for COVID-19 during a visit to his primary care physician because he did not fit the criteria then in place for risk or exposure. His condition temporarily improved in mid-March, but declined so precipitously on Sunday, Mar. 15 that he was taken to Jewish Hospital by paramedics.
Pilder’s children, Andy and Erin, credit Dr. Mudher Al-Shathir, with saving his life on his first night in the hospital; Dr. Al-Shathir stayed with Pilder, manually changing his position to help him oxygenate (proning) until he could be intubated and put on a ventilator. Pilder was on a ventilator for twenty-seven days, and on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine for nineteen days. The ECMO machine pumps and oxygenates the patient’s blood, allowing the patient’s heart and lungs to recover.
In addition, Pilder was given an experimental drug, Remdesivir, which is currently in trials for efficacy and safety against both severe and moderate symptoms of COVID-19.
Pilder spent his seventieth birthday in the hospital. The ICU team sang “Happy Birthday” to him at midnight, although he was sedated; when he was alert, they sang “Happy Birthday” again and brought him balloons and cupcakes, and arranged for him to FaceTime with his family, who could not be with him on his landmark birthday.
The Jewish Hospital’s Chief Nursing Officer Vanessa Vonderhaar said that ICU nurse Jessica Jewell formed a particularly strong bond with Pilder; when she learned from his family that they shared tastes in music, she played that music for him during her shift.
After Pilder had left the hospital, his son described his forty-eight day hospital stay as “a real roller coaster” - Pilder fought off secondary infections including strep and pneumonia, heart arrhythmia, elevated liver numbers and white blood cell counts, and depressed red blood cell counts. The family thanked the nurses: “the nursing staff at Jewish Hospital saved his life, we have no doubt.”