Couple in their 70s recovers from COVID after being part of clinical trial

VIDEO: Couple in their 70s recovers from COVID after being part of clinical trial

EVERETT, Wash. — An Everett couple in their 70s with underlying health conditions both recovered from COVID-19 after being part of a double-blind clinical drug trial to treat the virus.

George and Josie Taylor both got sick with coronavirus in March. They ended up hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in Kirkland for about 10 days and had to be put on oxygen.

The virus hit Josie first.

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“After loading the groceries, I got in the car and I could hardly breathe. I couldn’t get any air in at all,” Josie said.

Then a few days later, her husband George started showing symptoms.

“My temperature was 102. When I told her that, the doctor said get in here,” George said.

Both went to the emergency room at EvergreenHealth. They were put into isolation and hooked up to oxygen masks.

“Neither one of us I don’t think realized how sick we were,” Josie said.

Josie has Type 2 diabetes. George is a cancer survivor, has heart disease, and was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He says as a Vietnam veteran, he was also exposed to Agent Orange.

Doctors asked both the Taylors if they wanted to participate in a National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial to treat coronavirus. The drug is called remdesivir and made by Gilead Sciences, a company in California.

“I said absolutely,” Josie said. “I thought of it as a possibility -- not just a possibility for me, but a possibility for a lot of people,” she said.

The drug was designed to fight Ebola, but has shown more success in animal studies as an anti-viral for coronaviruses like SARS and MERS. The drug works by interfering with the virus’ replicating process.

Now researchers are trying to use it against COVID-19.

But neither the Taylors nor the doctors know if they got an infusion of the drug, or the placebo.

“The physicians don’t know, the patients don’t know, the researchers don’t know,” said Anhaita Jamula, the research director at EvergreenHealth.

The Kirkland hospital is just one of the dozens of sites nationwide enrolling patients.

“The unsung hero here is also the patient, who in the midst of having this crisis in their life are choosing to participate on research,” Jamula said.

While in the hospital, Josie was allowed to visit her husband at one point.

“He was a very sick man,” Josie said. “The doctor had asked him if he had his affairs in order,” she said, tearing up.

But finally, the couple started getting better. What they don’t know is if the clinical trial had something to do with it.

“We did come home when we saw people being wheeled out. That makes us wonder, did we get the real thing? And if we did, we hope it works for everybody,” George said.

They’re still recovering. Josie still needs breathing exercises and they both tire more easily. But say they’re feeling better every day.

Now they’re sharing their gratitude to be here, and for the people who cared for them.

“To the amazing health care and overall care -- right down to the people that clean the rooms. Evergreen was amazing,” Josie said.

Another person who was treated with remdesivir includes the first U.S. diagnosed with the disease -- a 35-year-old man from Everett. He wasn’t part of the study, but was treated under compassionate use.

The NIH is planning to enroll about 440 people across the country in the study. As of Wednesday, EvergreenHealth has enrolled about 26 patients.