‘This is a dreadfully serious illness’: Tidelands Health doctor continues recovery after contracting COVID-19

Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus (May 2020)

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WMBF) – A Grand Strand area doctor has been on both sides of the COVID-19 pandemic – fighting on the front lines, and being a patient.

Dr. James Principe, who works for Tidelands Health, developed a low-grade fever on July 3 and was “worn out,” according to information from the healthcare provider.

Principe, who has cared for dozens of hospitalized COVID-19 patients since March, had his own test come back positive for the novel coronavirus, a press release stated.

For more than a week, he rested at home and was nursed through a cycle of fever, body aches and sweats by his wife, Beth, according to Tidelands Health officials.

On July 9, the 61-year-old Principe used a home pulse oximeter to check his oxygen saturation level. A 95% reading is considered normal for most healthy individuals, the release stated. His reading was 89%, indicating he was mildly hypoxic, a condition where the body becomes starved of oxygen.

Beth rushed her husband to the hospital, where he received a transfusion of convalescent plasma, a blood product rich in COVID-19 antibodies that was donated by someone who had recovered from the virus, the release stated. Principe was also placed on remdesivir and dexamethasone, two medications that have shown promise in treating the coronavirus, Tidelands Health staff said.

“Very quickly, I began to feel a difference,” Principe said. “I was still completely exhausted, but the fever and body aches stopped.”

After three nights at Tidelands Waccamaw, Principe was discharged on July 12, according to the press release. He continues to recover at home in his wife’s care.

He hopes to return to the hospital to once again care for COVID-19 patients within a couple of weeks.

Principe told Tidelands Health officials he believes an ill family member exposed him to the virus, instead of at the hospital. He pleaded with the community to wear a mask, wash their hands and practice social distancing.

“This is a dreadfully serious illness,” Dr. Principe says. “If people would just heed the warnings, just wear a mask, we could get this thing under control. We have to get it under control.”

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