Doctor hopes his scary COVID story convinces people to get vaccinated

Memorial Healthcare among hospitals seeing a preventable spike of patients

The Chief of Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine for Memorial Healthcare in Broward County is sharing his story with Local 10 News as the hospital sees a frightening rise in COVID-19 cases among people who have not gotten vaccinated.

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – As concern rises about a swift and steady jump in COVID-19 patients being treated in the Memorial Healthcare System, one prominent doctor shares the scary experience his family had with the coronavirus.

Dr. Daniel Chan, the Chief of Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine for Memorial Healthcare in Broward County, says his entire family caught COVID in mid-December.

He tested positive right when vaccines were just being rolled out to healthcare workers.

“My vaccine appointment was the very day I tested positive and had to remove myself from work and start quarantining,” Chan recalled. “Our 2-year-old daughter had contracted it through her daycare and the daycare was shut down. We didn’t think much of it. At this point, we were very deep into the pandemic. I was going to work every day and wearing PPE and so far had been fine, so we thought this would be nothing.

“Ended up that we, the entire family — my wife, my three children, our nanny — we all ended up testing positive. I had to leave work, the adults started getting progressively sick. It got to the point we had difficulty breathing.”

[ALSO SEE: How many COVID-19 patients in South Florida were vaccinated?]

His wife Eun Chan spent five days in the intensive care unit.

On Christmas Day, as Daniel Chan was on his way to Joe DiMaggio Children’s hospital to get his three kids (ages 8, 5 and 2) tested, he nearly collapsed in the emergency room and had to be whisked across the street into an ICU.

He was in ICU for 12 days, and with both parents hospitalized, a family friend cared for the kids.

“When we should have been opening presents,” said Chan, who had no preexisting medical conditions.

“Even after that my wife and I had a pretty prolonged course of physical recovery,” he added. “It was definitely an eye-opening experience for the entire family.”

Chan tells his story as a way to convince others to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.

“I think the vaccine has a good track record,” he said. “With the current trends we are seeing across the state with the Delta variant and the fact the vast majority who are getting sick now are unvaccinated, I think that is very compelling evidence. I was healthy and still was able to contract and getting very sick from COVID. Hopefully, that helps sway some minds out there who are on the fence or maybe skeptics about the vaccine.

“In light of current events with COVID making a resurgence, and its skewing toward younger patients like myself. I was working out at Orangetheory three times a week at 5 a.m., so I was probably one of the least likely people that people would have assumed would have gotten COVID badly. So if we can convince people that vaccination is a good idea, that COVID is probably here to stay for a while ... we really want to avoid the hospitals get overrun again and everything shutting down again.”

[ALSO SEE: Experts say vaccine hesitancy to blame as COVID numbers rise again in Miami-Dade, Broward]

Memorial Regional’s Chief Nursing Officer Leslie Pollart points out a 125% increase in COVID-19 cases at their facilities since July 1 “and what is really concerning is that 98% of those are in the unvaccinated community.”

“The surge was starting to decline, the numbers were starting to go down and this is at a time when all the staff is tired from working so hard and they were all looking forward to family vacations, time-off, a bit of a reprieve,” Pollart said. “And now it is surging again.

“Please get vaccinated. I know there is a lot of disinformation, please talk to our doctor. While there is information that getting vaccinated may not completely prevent you from getting COVID, we do know it will keep you from getting severely sick.”

Pollart added that at this stage, the COVID patients are younger, with about 60% of them under age 60.

“It is a younger patient population and when they are unvaccinated they have a higher severity of illness,” she said. “Help our community stay safe. Let’s get this surge to decline so that we all can go back to somewhat of a normal life.”

The hospital workers say that it has been such a long fight on the front lines that there’s a certain anguish to witnessing so many sick people at a time of ample vaccine supply.

“It can be frustrating,” Pollart said. “Seeing people so sick and having a younger demographic and knowing a simple vaccine could potentially get all these folks from being in the hospital.”

Chan said that “adds insult to injury at this point,” especially for someone like him, who at one point worried his kids might have to grow up without him.

And the rise of COVID cases can also have an effect on patients with other ailments.

“If the trends continue and we are forced to shut down elective procedures or elective surgeries in the next several weeks, that is going to mean cancer patients who won’t be able to have cancer treatments, it is going to me who are debilated with hip and knee arthritis can’t get their hip or knee replacement done,” Chan said. “As hospitals continue to get full there may be some people who are wary of going to the hospital at all and people dying at home with heart attacks because they don’t want to hospital, so there are downstream effects to COVID continuing to linger in our community.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."