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  • Writer's picturegordonjcampbell

Ingenuity by necessity - how my brother survived COVID-19

My 59-year-old brother Glenn runs a resort and scuba diving operation with his wife, Alla, on Pemba Island. It’s a lush part of the Zanzibar Archipelago off the coast of East Africa in the Indian Ocean.

It’s beautiful. Photos sent to me attest to it being a pristine destination for water sports. Visitors are enticed by the combination of coastal lagoons, beaches, and scuba diving friendly coral reefs.

The idyllic setting became less enchanting when Alla contracted the coronavirus and suffered a scratchy throat, cough, and fever. After five days, she recovered well enough to witness Glenn fall dramatically ill.

My brother started coughing and was unusually fatigued. He went to bed early, where his cough worsened, and muscles cramped in his thighs, deltoids, forearms, and calves. Alla took his temperature in the morning and discovered he was running a mild fever.

Two days later, it had risen, but the concern shifted to his shortness of breath caused by pulmonary edema.

A trip to a Pemba medical clinic would have subjected Glenn and Alla to an undesired government quarantine. They elected to ride out the course of the infectious disease at home.

We didn’t receive notice of their predicament until Glenn’s breathing became a painful challenge, and his body felt on fire. My brothers and sisters are scattered around the globe and could do little more than send positive wishes and pray for Glenn and Alla.

I posted pictures of the two of us as young children. (It didn’t look promising.)

Did I mention how my brother and his wife run a scuba diving facility?

Somehow while under the stress and distraction of the coronavirus symptoms, Glenn and Alla rigged up a system comprised of a D.A.N. remote oxygen kit and Scuba apparatus to deliver mixtures of oxygen and nitrogen. The unit was tweaked to positive pressure, meaning it pushed oxygen into Glenn’s lungs at slightly higher than ambient. The flow was adjusted to flush o2 through his lungs while avoiding over expansion and possible injury.

It made the difference.

Two days ago, my brother awoke slightly stronger. Breathing was less a challenge, and his body temperature began to normalize.

We received a call from Alla while Glenn was sipping a coffee and not yet strong enough to speak. (Alla sounded exhausted, but her voice had an inspiring tone.) It was a relief, and it looks like we’ll have the guy around for a while longer.

How did they get the virus?

Two of the resorts last twelve guests tested positive when they returned home to Switzerland and Germany. Ironically the last group also included an epidemiologist from Dar Es Salaam. Go figure.

Not everyone in Africa has crucial access to medical care or their own supply of oxygen. Let’s pray for what’s on its way to the population of the “Mother Continent.”

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