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COVID-19 Florida man claims drug touted by Trump brought him back to life

07:51 | 24/03/2020

Rio Giardinieri, 52, who was positive for COVID-19 and sent home by hospital, claims he was saved from certain death after taking hydroxychloroquine - an anti-malarial drug touted as a possible treatment by President Trump.  

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covid 19 florida man claims drug touted by trump brought him back to life
Rio Giardinieri (Photo: New York Post)

Rio was diagnosed with the coronavirus and pneumonia after five days struggling with horrendous back pain, headaches, cough and fatigue. Doctors at the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in South Florida then put him on oxygen in the ICU.

After more than a week, doctors told him there was nothing more they could do and, on Friday evening, Giardinieri said goodbye to his wife and three children.

“I was at the point where I was barely able to speak and breathing was very challenging,” Giardinieri said. “I really thought my end was there.”

Then a friend sent him a recent article about hydroxychloroquine, a prescription drug that’s been used to treat malaria for decades and auto-immune diseases like lupus, which is touted as a promising treatment for COVID-19 but is yet to get health officials improvement.

Trump last week said he was instructing the FDA to fast-track testing of hydroxychloroquine and a related drug, chloroquine, as treatment for COVID-19.

Rio said he contacted an infectious disease doctor about the drug.

“He gave me all the reasons why I would probably not want to try it because there are no trials, there’s no testing, it was not something that was approved,” said Rio.

“And I said, ‘Look, I don’t know if I’m going to make it until the morning,’ because at that point I really thought I was coming to the end because I couldn’t breathe anymore,” Rio continued.

“He agreed and authorized the use of it and 30 minutes later the nurse gave it to me.”

After about an hour on an IV with the medicine, Rio said, it felt like his heart was beating out of his chest and, about two hours later, he had another episode where he couldn’t breathe.

He says he was given Benadryl and some other drugs and that when he woke up around 4:45 a.m., it was “like nothing ever happened.”

He’s since had no fever or pain and can breathe again. Rio said doctors believe the episodes he experienced were not a reaction to the medicine but his body fighting off the virus.

Rio, the vice president of a company that manufactures cooking equipment for high-end restaurants in Los Angeles, said he had three doses of the medicine Saturday and is hoping to be discharged from the hospital in five days.

“To me, there was no doubt in mind that I wouldn’t make it until morning,” said Rio. “So to me, the drug saved my life.”

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