Murrells Inlet doctor describes time hospitalized with COVID-19

Grand Strand

MURRELLS INLET, S.C. (WBTW) – A South Strand doctor was recently released from the hospital after being treated for COVID-19.

Dr. James Principe is the associate chief medical officer at Tidelands Health. He’s worked for the healthcare system for 28 years, including through the coronavirus pandemic. On July 3, after having little energy throughout the work day, he found he had a fever of almost 101 degrees at home.

A COVID-19 test at the hospital the next day confirmed what he thought.

“I found out I was positive and I wasn’t surprised,” said Dr. Principe. “I was kind of surprised about how I contracted it because I’ve been taking care of people for months and I always felt safer at the hospital.”

Dr. Principe says he believes he got the virus from a family member, and after a week without improving, he had his wife check his oxygen level.

“My wife was 98% and I was 89%, so that concerned me a little bit,” Dr. Principe said.

With the low oxygen level, Dr. Principe returned to his hospital, but this time as a patient for four days.

“Shortly after my first dose of remdesivir, my fever really dissipated and my body just got better,” he said.

Dr. Principe also received convalescent plasma and has been recovering at home since he was discharged a little more than a week ago. He’s warning everyone about how serious the illness can be and that people need to take precautions spreading COVID-19.

This comes as several Grand Strand hospitals are dealing with a surge of patients, especially Tidelands Health. On Tuesday, it reported its two hospitals were at 96% capacity.

The ICUs were actually over capacity at 113%. Of the patients hospitalized, 52 had COVID-19 and 14 more were awaiting results. There were also 12 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and seven were on a ventilator.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina National Guard will also begin helping out Tidelands Health and four other Grand Strand hospitals to handle the surge in patients. About 40 medics will provide clinical support.

Dr. Principe says this will be important for people with elective procedures as well.

“Just by lack of bed space and personnel to care for people in the hospital, those folks are sort of having to wait a turn,” he said. “You’re sort of prioritizing, it’s like a triage situation, you prioritize the sickest people.”

Dr. Principe says he hopes to return to the hospital to work soon.

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