Jeffrey Ghazarian's sister is pleading with Americans to "do your part to lower the curve"

By Joelle Goldstein
March 19, 2020

A 34-year-old California man has died from COVID-19 two weeks after visiting Orlando, Florida theme parks with his friends, his family announced.

Jeffrey Ghazarian died Thursday morning, less than a week after he was first hospitalized during a severe battle with coronavirus, according to a post written by his family on his Facebook page. (TMZ was the first to report the story.)

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“Our sweet, loving, fun Jeffrey went to be with Jesus this morning. He suffered a lot and put up a good fight. We will miss our Jeff everyday but we are thankful for all the fun happy memories of the times we had together,” the post read. “Thank you to everyone who has been praying. We love you all.”

The Glendora resident beat testicular cancer in 2016 and had a history of asthma and frequent bronchitis as a child — both of which he had overcome, his family said.

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Ghazarian first learned that he had tested positive for the contagious virus on March 13, according to his sister Lauren.

Just one day later, Lauren said Jeff was admitted into the intensive care unit of a hospital once a CT scan confirmed 60-70 percent of his lungs were blocked with pneumonia.

“They’ve decided the best path forward is to intubate,” she wrote on Facebook at the time. “Please pray for him, for God to protect him/keep him safe, for a complete healing so that he comes back home to us soon. Every prayer counts, God hears our prayers!”

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Lauren explained that Jeff’s diagnosis came after her brother had traveled from Los Angeles to Orlando at the beginning of the month. His trip included stops at Disney World and Universal Studios.

“Jeff flew to Orlando out of LAX for a work conference on 3/2,” she wrote. “When he left us he was healthy. He extended his trip two days to visit DisneyWorld and Universal Studios with good friends. On 3/7 he developed a cough and on 3/8 he coughed up blood.”

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On March 9, Jeff returned home and went straight to the emergency room with symptoms of a high fever, Lauren said.

“A chest X-ray confirmed pneumonia. They tested him for COVID-19, gave him fluids, and a dose of IV antibiotics,” she explained. “They discharged him home with antibiotics, told him to keep on top of the fevers, to self-quarantine until results came back and told him if he felt worse to come back.”

But Jeff wasn’t home for long. On March 13, he learned he had tested positive for coronavirus, according to Lauren. Later that evening, Jeff was transported to the hospital via ambulance, where he would ultimately remain until his death less than a week later, his sister said.

Between that time, Jeff’s health fluctuated as his sister continued to give daily updates on his Facebook.

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Part of those updates explained how Jeff was put on a RotoProne therapy bed — which would rotate him from his stomach to his back in order to break up the fluid in his lungs and increase oxygen flow — and that he started an antiviral medication trial.

In the last update before his death, Lauren said Jeff appeared to be in stable condition and “hanging in there,” despite dealing with fluctuating oxygen levels on his therapy bed.

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“When they have to turn Jeff from his belly to his back in the rotoprone bed he seems to get agitated and try to fight it,” she wrote. “When agitated like this his lungs cannot oxygenate the flood efficiently and any gains he’s made with using less of the ventilator then go back to him having to use the ventilator 100%.”

“This constant 100% oxygen from the ventilator can actually damage his lungs,” she added. “So they have decided to try moving him from side to side now instead of belly to back and hopefully he will tolerate the movements and comply with less oxygen needs from the ventilator.”

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Doctors also told his family that they would consider moving him to an ECMO machine to prevent Jeff’s lungs from suffering damage while they waited for the anti-viral medication to start working within the next three to five days, Lauren explained.

Unfortunately, Jeff wouldn’t make it that long.

As of Thursday afternoon, there have been at least 10,822 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 168 deaths in the U.S., according to the New York Times. In California alone, there are at least 876 reported cases and 17 deaths, the Times reported.

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In one of her first posts, Lauren urged others to take the virus seriously and take preventative measures such as social distancing.

“Please if anyone has a cough and fever -please go get tested and fight for care,” she wrote. “Please continue to wash your hands, practice social distancing, only go out for essentials -do your part to lower the curve.”

The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDCWHO, and their local public health department as resources.

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