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'Hi, Dad': Nebraska's first coronavirus patient removed from ventilator, talking to family

'Hi, Dad': Nebraska's first coronavirus patient removed from ventilator, talking to family


Nebraska’s first coronavirus patient has been removed from a ventilator and has spoken her first words since being hospitalized on March 5.

Her first words? “Hi, Dad,” in a deep, husky voice, according to her father.

“I was talking to my neighbors today that three weeks ago, we didn’t know if she was going to live or die. And today she asked me what I was going to put in her Easter basket,” the father said on Wednesday.

“When she starts saying things like that, I know she’s better,” he said.

The 36-year-old first patient, who is developmentally disabled and has suffered from lifelong respiratory problems, is suspected to have contracted the virus during a trip to London with her father.

After she returned to Nebraska, she played in a Special Olympics basketball tournament on Feb. 29 in Fremont. Her father said that because she frequently coughs and has a runny nose due to her respiratory issues, he had no suspicion that she may have contracted the coronavirus.

She was diagnosed on March 5 after going to several emergency rooms during that week for what was suspected to be migraine headaches caused by a bump during the basketball tournament. She had been on a ventilator until Tuesday at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The World-Herald has refrained from identifying the patient as well as her father to protect their privacy and avoid what was initially a harsh reaction to the family on social media. The father said he’s received many expressions of support and offers of help since the paper ran a story about her and published an essay he penned.

The father, who was recently released from self-quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus, said his daughter is still wearing an oxygen mask to help her breathing and a feeding tube to avoid any respiratory infections. He said she is undergoing another round of tests to determine whether she can move to a hospital room where she could have visitors.

“She fought through it,” the father said. “It’s just amazing what (the medical professionals) can do.”

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Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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