A week ago, Los Angeles Police Department Detective Michael Chang was fighting for his life against the coronavirus.
But after a harrowing week that left him wondering if he would ever see his family again, Chang left Providence St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica Friday to complete his recovery at home.
Chang, 52, was pushed in a wheelchair into the hospital lobby, where he was met with cheers from the hospital staff who lined balconies to take photos as the detective was greeted by family. Outside, dozens of fellow officers — all wearing face masks — watched as their colleague made a triumphant exit.
"On behalf of 13,000 of your family members, we're glad to see you coming out of this hospital so much better than how you came in,'' LAPD Chief Michel Moore said.
Chang began showing symptoms of the virus on March 26, and his condition quickly deteriorated. He was initially hospitalized in Orange County, but he was transferred last week to St. John's on a ventilator.
Doctors said the ventilator wasn't doing the job, with Chang's immune system fighting so hard against the infection that his lungs were failing.
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So once at St. John's, Chang began a treatment known as ECMO, or Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. The process essentially removes blood from the body, infuses it with oxygen, then returns it, basically acting as an external set of lungs, so his real lungs could recover, hospital officials said.
He was then treated in a clinical trial with a drug called Sarilumab, which fights off inflammation in the lungs and other organs.
Chang said he wasn't able to see his family, except in Facetime chats on a recently acquired iPhone.
"The hardest part of the thing was, my wife and I talked about it the first time I got transported, was that you never know if it's the last time you're going to see your loved ones," he said. "And it's — you're on your own."
But the treatments worked, and Chang began turning a corner toward recovery.
"I would truly, truly, truly want to thank the nurses and all the staff upstairs," Chang said as he left the hospital. "I sat there for I don't know how many days watching them come in, and they have the greatest attitudes in the world. And they're coming here every day for people like me."
One of his doctors, Terese Hammond, said Chang still needs to go through some rehabilitation and oxygen treatments, but his prognosis is excellent.
"He is such a fighter and such a warrior that I have no doubt he will be back to his life as soon as possible," Hammond said.