How does a doctor deal with a COVID-19 diagnosis? With research, of course.
The trauma surgeon Dr. Buck Parker, MD recently made a video describing how he dealt with his COVID-19 diagnosis and how concerned the disease might be.
“This is one of the things I was thinking about when I got COVID. For example, “Oh shit, will I die from it?” Says Dr. Parker in the video.
Of course, those who had COVID likely had a similar thought process when they first noticed symptoms or received a diagnosis. Dr. Parker was however aware of an article from Johns Hopkins University that carefully and scientifically examined the disease progression in people with COVID-1
Parker says he first noticed symptoms in early October, which progressed to fever and chills for about a week and a persistent headache (“like I was hangover”) for several days. He also had chest discomfort and a hoarse voice, as his video shows. But the doctor says he has no shortness of breath or sore throat.
Because of his work, he was given a rapid test the day after he showed symptoms, which came back positive. Dr. Parker, who took the video on day 10 of his COVID-19 quarantine, says his symptoms are almost gone.
Dr. Parker added, “At no point did I have difficulty breathing and thought I was going to die.” And Johns Hopkins research gave him some confidence.
What research has shown
Parker refers to a September 2020 paper that collected data from 832 consecutive COVID-19 patients in five Johns Hopkins hospitals during the early pandemic. Of these hospitalized patients, 171 (20 percent) had severe symptoms while 523 (63 percent) had mild to moderate symptoms. Among the patients studied, 694 were discharged (83 percent) and 131 died (16 percent).
Individual risk factors and outcomes were examined to create a model – the COVID-19 Inpatient Risk Calculator – that predicts who would experience severe COVID symptoms or even death. Age and physiology, as well as pre-existing conditions, are defining factors in determining a patient’s likely experience with COVID-19. Some of the determinants used in the model are age, dormitory, existing chronic or serious medical conditions, obesity, respiratory ailments and rates, fever, white blood cell count, and others.
Taking these specific COVID-19 risk factors into account, the model is said to be 85 percent accurate in the first two days and 80 percent accurate in the first week.
“There is a very specific cohort of people who are poor with COVID and we should pay attention to them,” he says. “If we put more resources into protecting these patients than we put into all of the resources protecting everyone, you can focus your resources on the right patients. I think this is a smarter way. “
It’s worth noting that remarkably healthy patients have had severe COVID-19 and some have died. While the model is considered to be a fairly accurate predictor, admittedly 20 percent of the time it falls short of accurately predicting the results.
Separately, Dr. Parker said it was easier to approach your diagnosis with knowledge from the model and comparison to your own risk factors (he explains that he has a relatively low risk of a severe outcome).
“To say, ‘Holy crap, everyone is going to die from COVID’ is irresponsible,” Parker says, closing his video. “But it’s also irresponsible to say that it should be ignored because it’s a bullshit and a joke.”
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