Chandler doctor recovers from virus after 55 days in the hospital

May 18, 2020, 4:25 AM | Updated: 4:15 pm

PHOENIX — After spending 55 days in the hospital fighting for his life, a doctor in the Valley who contracted the coronavirus is now home following an extraordinary recovery.

“I have no past medical conditions, and this virus nearly killed me,” said Karl Viddal.

The 46-year-old is a family physician in Chandler who almost died from the coronavirus, which he likely contracted while on a trip abroad. He survived thanks to a treatment called extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO.

He was released from Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center on Friday.

“I’m so thankful for everything that they’ve done for me,” Viddal said, referring to the team of doctors and nurses who treated him. “They gave me a second chance to be a father, a husband.”

The father of three spent 34 days on a ventilator, 28 days in a medically induced coma and 16 days on ECMO.

According to Dignity Health doctors, the ECMO treatment has been used to save the lives of 32 coronavirus patients in the United States. This is the second time it has been used successfully in Arizona.

The treatment removes blood from a patient’s body. It then pumps oxygen into the blood and pumps it back in, helping to relieve strain on damaged lungs and heart.

“Karl had developed such a severe infection that without the support of the ECMO, he was facing a nearly 100 percent mortality within 24 to 48 hours,” said Dr. Raed Suyyagh, medical director of the ECMO program at St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute.

Suyyagh said the ECMO treatment allowed Viddal a chance to rest his lungs and get better.

But while he was on ECMO, he developed multiple complications, including blood clots, bleeding in his lungs and air leaking from his lungs. These complications required additional procedures that increased the risk of COVID-19 exposure for doctors and nurses.

Viddal was also given a medication called tocilizumab that’s typically used to treat arthritis patients.

After he was taken off of ECMO, he went to in-patient rehab where Suyyagh said he “made a remarkable recovery.”

“In spite of being down for so long, he was able to walk independently in less than two weeks,”Suyyagh said. “It is really incredible to see such outcomes in a time when hope is easily lost.”

Viddal said it was “almost doubtful” whether or not he would fully recover. But he noted x-rays taken recently showed his lungs have nearly recovered from damage caused by the coronavirus.

“I’m optimistic now that I’ll make a full recovery,” he said.

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Chandler doctor recovers from virus after 55 days in the hospital