Ewa Beach resident Lee-Jacob “Coby” Torda is fighting for his life after contracting the coronavirus.
The 37-year-old Waikiki bartender is on life support at Kaiser Permanente’s Moanalua Medical Center.
“He’s pretty much the same. He’s not back sliding but it’s very slow,” his mother, Peggy Torda-Saballa, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The family suspects the bartender contracted COVID-19 while working among tourists at a Waikiki bar in the heart of state’s largest tourist hub.
“The tourist customers there are foreign people, people that he doesn’t normally mingle with,” she said.
Torda started feeling sick on March 9. After coming home from work, he immediately wanted to rest because he had been coughing and developed a headache, his mother said.
His symptoms progressed, with fevers as high as 104 degrees, and he went to the Queen’s Medical Center to get a coronavirus test on March 15.
While awaiting the test results, he was directed to stay home and treat the fever, drink lots of fluids and rest. By March 20, his spouse noticed he was having a hard time breathing and the fever would not break, she said.
“It would go down to 100 to 101 for an hour and a half (with medicine) and shoot right back up to 103 sometimes close to 104,” she said.
Torda-Saballa said her son told her: “I can kick this mom. Don’t worry.”
On March 21, his family took him to the hospital and doctors told them that “he’s really, really sick” and would need to be intubated. His positive COVID-19 test result was confirmed Sunday.
“We wanted to make sure that Coby was aware of what was gonna happen to him. You don’t like to hear that they’re going to intubate someone. You know the severity of it when that is the plan,” she said. “By that time when they took him in he was already isolated. They didn’t want anyone coming in the room already because they were sure that he had it.”
Doctors haven’t given the family a prognosis for Torda, who lives with his mother, father and spouse. The rest of the family is so far asymptomatic.
“We’ve all been home, confined and quarantined ourselves and thus far … nobody has been showing any signs of illness,” Torda-Saballa said. “We are fortunate.”
Hawaii Health Director Bruce Anderson said Thursday that there was at least one coronavirus patient still in the hospital, but didn’t mention the severity of the case. When asked how many COVID-19 patients have recovered, Anderson said: “Virtually everyone’s recovered so far. At least we haven’t had any deaths here in Hawaii.”
The state Department of Health earlier misreported a death early this week, but later said that the individual in fact did not have the disease, and that the incorrect positive result was because of a testing error.
“We have a 100 percent recovery rate as far as we know at this point in time,” Anderson said at a news conference. “That’s not to say we aren’t gonna have some deaths. Often you have a situation where someone is very fragile — whether they have the flu or COVID-19 — it just takes a little to tip them over the edge. I would expect we’re gonna see some in the not-too-distant future.”
But in Torda’s case, his mother said he was healthy, active and had no pre-existing medical conditions.
“He’s a vibrant young man, goes to the gym, plays volleyball, is very active, goes to the beach, he was living his life,” she said. “It’s just that he’s so healthy, takes vitamins, goes to the gym, does sports and everything, yet it hits him the hardest. It doesn’t care who it affects … it can hit anyone. It all depends on how the virus reacts to the individual.”
She added: “There are some people who are very non-compliant about the rules that the government has set for us. They really, really need to take it seriously because you don’t know how agonizing it is until it’s your family member. If you love life and care for your family, friends and the community, you comply.”