An 87-Year-Old Veteran Fully Recovered From COVID-19

Image via Mayagüez Medical Center

By Cristy Marrero

March 26, 2020

Frank Eller, a California resident filled Puerto Rican doctors and citizens with hope, by defeating the novel virus amid an array of pre-existing conditions.

The U.S. Marine veteran was able to return yesterday to his home in San Diego, after spending one week hospitalized at Mayagüez Medical Center—located on the western side of Puerto Rico. He was diagnosed with coronavirus while visiting the island.

Eller was on vacation on a cruise ship with his wife, when he started to experience shortness in his breathing and coughing. When the cruise ship was near Puerto Rico’s coast, the captain decided to evacuate him, so the U.S. Coast Guard transferred him to Mayagüez. After all the tests were done he was confirmed as the fourth positive case of the island. Yesterday, Eller was able to fly back home.

“The team of doctors who had the case works in constant communication. The patient responded excellently well to the treatment. The combination of these factors allowed us to see positive results and rapid improvement in the patient. Since his arrival at our institution, the entire team of health professionals has acted as if it was a positive case for COVID-19. That is why the isolation measures were taken immediately and the protection protocols for all personnel were activated”, said Ramón Ramírez Ronda, doctor of infectious diseases at the hospital.

This is a story of success, considering reports that the elderly are amongst the most vulnerable people to this novel virus.

Fortunately, Mr. Eller’s story is different from the two other tourists that came to the island. The first confirmed case was a 68-year-old Italian woman that disembarked from Costa Luminosa’s cruise ship, feeling bad. She died last Saturday, becoming also the first coronavirus death in Puerto Rico. Her husband, a 70-year-old man named Milani Bruno, is still hospitalized, but has recovered well. The government is making arrangements to repatriate him to Italy.

“In Italy, we are paying with many, many human lives. I personally lost my wife here in San Juan. Unfortunately, my wife was weak in the lungs and could not resist. Overnight, she died. I am very sorry in my heart because we had a 50-year marriage. Unfortunately, this is life. The virus left me but took my wife. The important thing is to isolate ourselves because the coronavirus walks with us. Whoever stays home is saved”, said Bruno on a video published on the Facebook page of the Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital.

Last Sunday, a resident of New York, who came to Puerto Rico on vacation with his wife, died. He was a 73-year-old retired principal that ran the NYC marathon 38 consecutive years, until 2018. He was the second death of coronavirus on the Island.

New Cases and More Blows to the Economy

As of today, there are 51 cases in Puerto Rico and 108 cases pending results. Among the new positive cases are people between 26 and 80 years old. Most of them are in the metropolitan area, but Mayagüez has reported three new cases.

Yesterday, Dr. Segundo Rodríguez, leader of the medical task force created to deal with COVID-19 on the island, said that as the statistics show, for every positive case there are between five to ten additional unidentified cases lingering in the community. 

“These people have the ability to infect others exponentially. Therefore, we ask you to stay home. The goal of everyone in Puerto Rico should be to reduce the spread of this virus to the minimum possible. We all have to unite in this effort”, said Dr. Rodriguez.

It is expected that more cases will begin to be reported. So far the Department of Health was in charge of all the testing on the island. A private laboratory, with several branches, began testing yesterday.

Three of the recent positive cases have represented an additional burden to the local economy, in particular to some of the biggest Puerto Rican companies.

A 78-year-old patient turned out to be a cook at Hato Rey’s Metropol, a franchise of local restaurants, which recently opened another location in Florida. For that reason, on Monday the restaurant management announced the temporary closing of its 11 locations around the island.

Banco Popular—the biggest bank on the island—also announced that one of its employees at the San Patricio branch in Guaynabo was diagnosed positive. This resulted in the closing of another two main branches in San Juan.

CVS Pharmacy also announced that an employee of their Hato Rey store had tested positive to COVID-19. So far the company reported that it cleaned the store in question, and took additional measures to protect his employees and clientele, but has not yet announced a total closure.

On the other hand, the hotel industry announced yesterday the temporary layoff of a total of 2,000 employees that work in different regions of the island.

Dr. Rodríguez anticipated that they will have a clearer idea of the behavior of the curve spread today—and depending on that— they will advise Governor Wanda Vázquez to extend the curfew imposed two weeks ago further.

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