As many of us are still at home under quarantine or working under difficult conditions as an essential employee, we would like to take this time to spread a little joy and provide a story of hope and success. During times of struggle, it is often hard to find the positive so it is important to bring awareness to things that could put a smile on someone’s face and show that good things continue to occur even during these difficult times.

Recently, we were excited to be part of a very important and emotional day. As you may know, we are now doing COVID-19 clinical trials to help find a vaccine. On April 17, we had a “Code Victory” at the hospital and discharged an LAPD police officer who had COVID-19. Officer Chang is a 52 year old member of the LAPD and was one of our first COVID-19 patients in critical condition.

Officer 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 to Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica on a ventilator. Doctors said the ventilator wasn’t doing the job, with Officer Chang’s immune system fighting so hard against the infection. His lungs were failing and he needed additional treatment options.

Officer Chang’s COVID-19 Treatment

Once at Providence Saint John’s Health Center, Officer 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. Under the care of Dr. Terese C. Hammond, M.D., Medical Director ICU and Intensivist Program, Dr. Raymond C. Lee, M.D., ABTS, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, and our remarkable caregivers at Providence Saint John’s, Officer Chang’s lungs could recover.

He was then treated in a clinical trial with a drug called Sarilumab under the leadership of Dr. Steven J. O’Day, M.D., Executive Director of the Saint John’s Cancer Institute and Cancer Clinic, and Director of Providence Los Angeles Regional Research. Dr. O’Day is also the Professor of Medical Oncology, Director of Immuno-Oncology, and Director of Clinical Research at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. Sarilumab is a human monoclonal antibody against the interleukin-6 receptor which could fight off inflammation in the lungs and other organs. Originally developed for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and is now in clinical trial for possible treatment of adult patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19.

Officer Chang said he wasn’t able to see his family, except with Face-time 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 Officer Chang began turning a corner toward recovery.

Officer Chang Reunited With His Family

Thanks to the expertise of the amazing Providence Saint John’s physicians, caregivers, and the Saint John’s Cancer Institute clinical trial team, Officer Chang was discharged and reunited with his family. It was truly remarkable to watch him hug his wife and kids for the first time in weeks after being in critical condition.

Officer Chang was also greeted by his fellow LAPD officers, and Chief Michel R. Moore, who thanked all the amazing caregivers at Providence Saint John’s for looking after him during his time here. Chief Moore presented Officer Chang with the Medal of Valor, the LAPD’s highest honor, awarded to officers who distinguish themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of police service. “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. “I would truly, truly, truly want to thank the nurses and all the staff upstairs.”

LAPD Chief Michel R. Moore was also joined by Officer Kenji Inaba. Officer Inaba is also one of the top trauma surgeons in the nation and the first and only to serve as chief surgeon of the LAPD. He was excited to be there to greet Officer Chang during his release after being treated for COVID-19 at Providence Saint John’s.

Officer Chang was pushed in a wheelchair into the lobby as hospital staff lined the balconies to cheer and take pictures, as he was reunited with his family. Many members of the LAPD police department, all wearing masks, were there to salute him as well and were happy to announce his recovery on social media as well. Here is what they said in their post, “From ventilator to being discharged from the hospital. When asked what kept him going, he pointed to them—his family. To all the Providence Saint John’s Hospital staff that went the extra mile to save his life from COVID-19, the LAPD says thank you. Welcome back Officer Chang.”

As Officer Chang left the hospital he had nothing but praise for our Providence Saint John’s community. “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.” Some beautiful words of gratitude from our patient himself, Officer Chang.

Thank you to Officer Chang and all of the Los Angeles Police Department for their support and kind words. We appreciate our heroes. Much love from the entire Providence Saint John’s family!

COVID-19 Clinical Trials

Our world renowned cancer team has switched gears from cancer and thrown themselves into finding a vaccine for the novel coronavirus. We are now a designated site for clinical trials that are evaluating the two most promising drugs in treating patients and combating COVID-19.

Contact us, for more information or to participate in one of the COVID-19 clinical trials.

For more information, please contact: Phone: 310-582-7437

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About the Author

Fariba Ahdoot

Fariba Ahdoot is the Marketing Manager, Website and Digital Strategy, at the Saint John’s Cancer Institute. She interviews the physicians and researchers to provide useful content for patients, caregivers, and the community.

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