He's a Marine, retired postal worker and former boxing club director. Now he's a coronavirus survivor too: "This stuff is more vicious than what people think."By Dr. Maria Simbra

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Marine, retired postal worker and former boxing club director Michael Bayens thought he was invincible.

“If if hits you, it ain’t gonna tap you, it’s gonna try to knock you out,” he says.

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He was in the ICU and needed a ventilator, and now he’s sharing his story of survival.

“I never figured I would get it,” he says.

His symptoms at the end of June were mild at first, and he didn’t think much of it.

“I kind of lost appetite, but I wasn’t feeling bad,” he says, “I had no fever. I didn’t have shortness of breath or anything.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Then July 5, he played darts with buddies at the VFW.

“And when I was up there, I started getting lightheaded, kind of dizzy,” he says.

His wife made him go to the doctor, and his oxygen levels were low. He went by ambulance to the hospital, where he tested positive for coronavirus.

“The way his chest X-ray looked, I knew he was probably going to have to have the ventilator the next day or so, but I wanted to give him every chance not to have it,” says St. Clair Hospital critical care specialist Dr. Gregory Fino. “The next day is when the bottom kind of fell out.”

The doctors put him on a breathing machine, and he was in the ICU for a week.

“When I was on the ventilator, I would wake up with these hallucinations and things,” Michael recalls. “It was like being in a horror film. I could see flames. I could see things flying around me. It scared me.”

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Dr. Fino explains Michael’s treatment.

“He received dexamethasone, a steroid, the antiviral drug, Remdesivir, and he also had convalescent plasma,” Dr. Fino says. “The Decadron, we’ve been using that for decades. We’ll have enough of that. Remdesivir is a scarce drug.”

“I had my kidneys shut down, liver shut down. The way my body was shutting down, I was near death,” says Michael.

But he got off the ventilator, and went home five days later.

Dexamethasone, or Decadron, is a steroid and a powerful anti-inflammatory medicine. It wasn’t used as much early on in the pandemic. But in this case, his doctor believes it made the difference.

“I think everything we gave him medication-wise was helpful. I am most impressed with Decadron,” says Dr. Fino.

Once Michael gets off his blood thinner, he will donate convalescent plasma.

“If it can help one person, I’m all for it,” he says.

He has left-sided weakness and a tremor — new since his illness. The doctors tell him this is temporary.

“I don’t know what the after effects are going to be,” Michael says, “This stuff is more vicious than what people think.”

He expects a long road to full recovery.

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