Even when optimism is scarce, there is room for surprises. Such was the case of veteran NYPD officer Yvan Pierre-Louis, 59, who was discharged from hospital in mid-September after fighting COVID-19 for 168 days. His journey was an extremely tough one; he spent more than four months on ventilation, two of which he was in a coma.
At one point, his wife Isabelle and daughter Diane Latham, were even told that he’d be taken off the ventilator whether they approved or not, since his condition was unlikely to improve and they needed the device for other patients. The odds were stacked against Pierre-Louis, but as the brave fighter he is, he managed to overcome the disease.
Now recovering at home, surrounded by his family and friends, the story of this officer is a great example of why surrendering is never an option, no matter how difficult the situation is.
A daughter determined to save her father
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Pierre-Louis was assigned to courthouse duty at the Midtown Community Court in Manhattan, where prisoners showing symptoms associated with COVID-19 were sent. He believes this is where he got the virus.
Initially, he was admitted to the NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola on March 28th and immediately placed in a ventilator. He had contracted fever a few days earlier, but it was not until he collapsed as a result of his inability to breathe that his wife called 911.
One day, not long after, his daughter Diane, who is a nurse at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, had to rush from work to Long Island to say a final goodbye to her father.
According to doctors, Pierre-Louis was in his final moments. But for Diane, more could still be done; even though the officer’s lungs were badly scarred, his organs showed no sign of failure, as is the case in most of those deceased. From that moment, she began arranging her father’s transfer to the hospital in Philadelphia where she works.
Upon his arrival in early May, the officer’s condition began to gradually improve. He was briefly evaluated for a lung transplant, as it seemed to be the most favourable option, but Andrew Courtwright, the Transplant Pulmonogist at Penn who oversaw his treatment, decided to wait and see how he responded.
Then, the unexpected happened in July. Pierre-Louis came off the ventilator. He still wasn’t completely safe, though; his condition remained fragile and he had a lengthy rehabilitation process ahead. At first, he also experienced several episodes of delusion, which made him think he was in prison and it took a couple of weeks to convince him otherwise.
Swimming against the stream
Miraculously, his health continued to improve. Pierre-Louis was then transferred to the Good Shepherd Penn Partners in Center City, where he received rehabilitation. According to Natalia Sobotka, one of his therapists, he was always noted for his outstanding enthusiasm, which was never eclipsed by the acute physical pain he was continuously under.
This 29-year police veteran never feared death. As a migrant who arrived from Haiti when he was just 13, fighting for a better tomorrow has always been part of his personality. But perhaps, what’s most inspiring is the fact that he was never alone; not only was he cared for at the hospital where Diane works, but his wife and other children also rented an apartment in Philadelphia during the summer.
The big day finally arrived in September. Still needing oxygen and help to walk, Pierre-Louis was discharged from hospital and received a hero’s welcome back at his home in Hempstead. Family and friends had gathered around his house dressed in white and joyfully waving Haitian flags. Sadly, someone was missing; his 86-year-old mother had passed away from COVID-19 in May.
Giving up hope was never an option
Now that the worst has passed for Pierre-Louis and his family, his priorities have shifted; most of his time now goes to his wife, children and grandchildren. He considers himself lucky, since roughly 5,800 police officers have contracted the virus across the US, while 46 have died as of September.
Besides healthcare institutions, law enforcement is also at the frontline against the COVID-19 pandemic. Each day, thousands of courageous police officers put on their uniforms and badges determined to keep serving their community, in spite of the dangers now associated with doing so. To every single officer who always puts those around them first, we salute you.