COVID-19 put her in the hospital for nearly 2 weeks. A clinical-trial drug was her 'saving grace.' | News | Palo Alto Online |


COVID-19 put her in the hospital for nearly 2 weeks. A clinical-trial drug was her 'saving grace.'

Palo Alto woman on the road to recovering from the deadly coronavirus

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Palo Alto resident Monica Yeung-Arima, left, and her husband pose in front of pyramids during their trip in Egypt before returning home on March 3. Photo courtesy Monica Yeung-Arima.

It was supposed to be an adventure-filled trip to Egypt, with the Archaeological Institutes of America, visiting the ancient ruins and the pyramids. But on a cruise somewhere between Luxor and Aswan, Monica Yeung-Arima suspects she and her husband contracted the COVID-19 virus.

Yeung-Arima, who is in her 60s, and her husband were not alone. All of their other travel companions have contracted the disease, but it took a deeper hit on her, she said. Yeung-Arima has underlying health conditions that put her at high risk, she said.

"People should know and learn about the symptoms and get checked right away," she said this week while recovering at home. "The highest fever I had was 102. It was mostly 100-point-something, but it felt like when you have a very high fever. Your whole body aches." She also had a cough that became increasingly worse.

When she and her husband returned to their Palo Alto home from Egypt on March 3, she felt ill, isolated herself in a bedroom and didn't go outside.

Two days later, she sought a medical evaluation as her symptoms quickly escalated. Doctors met her in the parking lot at Palo Alto Medical Foundation's urgent care clinic and whisked her into a room for an exam. "You park and they bring you in instead of you wandering around in the facility," she said. (As of last week, PAMF started respiratory clinics in a tented exam room set up in the parking lot while patients sit in their vehicles.)

PAMF tested her for all of the other viruses she could possibly have contracted, including influenza, but initially she wasn't tested for COVID-19. After returning home, with her tests negative for other viruses, on March 6, they told her she should be tested for the disease. "But it didn't happen," she said. "The government needs to do a better job to make the test available for people."

Yeung-Arima, who has marginal asthma, wrote a letter to her doctor that Monday, March 9, and insisted they test her for the virus since she met all of the criteria. The test came back positive. X-rays had also shown she had pneumonia.

Yeung-Arima and her husband were sent to Stanford Hospital. After about six or seven hours, they were placed in isolation rooms. Yeung-Arima received another COVID-19 test, this time with Stanford Health Care's new FDA-approved test kit, which is processed at the hospital laboratory.

That test was the "saving grace," she said. "They turned it around in a very impressive 24 hours," she said.

Her husband was treated and released after three nights and continued his recovery in quarantine at home. But Yeung-Arima's condition grew worse. She was coughing all of the time, she said.

She was also very much alone. Visitors were not allowed and no one could deliver anything to her. Doctors and nurses came in only when needed to avoid unnecessary contact. Yeung-Arima said she was impressed with the level of care and the precautions they took. Her care team wore goggles, gloves, protective hazmat suits and masks. Each time they left, they took everything they'd brought in away. They disinfected every piece of equipment in a sealed chamber between her room and the hall. Doctors, nurses and staff also removed all of their protective gear in the compartment and wore new sets each time they entered her room.

Antibiotics and other treatments did not help her get better. Yeung-Arima's husband is retired from biopharmaceutical research company Gilead Sciences Inc. He learned of a small trial by the Foster City company using the antiviral drug remdesivir, which was developed to treat Ebola. Researchers were testing if remdesivir would help COVID-19 patients.

Yeung-Arima was accepted into the randomized trial. For five days, she received intravenous treatments using the medication. Three days into her treatment, she began to feel better, she said. She finished her last dose on Thursday.

When she was released from the hospital on Friday, the hallway was empty and silent. She returned home with a list of criteria to monitor. She must use a finger oximeter to measure her blood oxygen level, which must be at minimum 92% to 93%, and can't have a fever. She will remain quarantined until this Tuesday.

She still coughs. "My lungs are not going to recover in one day," she said. "I'm not recovered completely and I'm not supposed to go out, but in spirit, I'm fine," she said. The infection ruined her appetite, and during her first week at the hospital she didn't feel like eating anything. In the past two to three days, her appetite has improved, and she is looking forward to having a desire to eat again, to nourish and heal her body, she said.

"I know I will be back in business after that."

Editor's note: On March 22, Gilead Sciences issued a press release stating that "an overwhelming demand" for remdesivir has necessitated the company to work to expand emergency access to the drug, which it had previously been offering primarily through clinical trials.

"This approach will both accelerate access to remdesivir for severely ill patients and enable the collection of data from all participating patients. We recognize the urgent need and are working to implement expanded access programs as quickly as possible, with the continued support and collaboration of regulatory agencies."


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Editor's note: The initial version of this article incorrectly stated the organization Yeung-Arima joined in Egypt. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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54 people like this
Posted by pa resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Yeung-Arima was one of the lucky ones. Those who become ill due to COVID-19 as the pandemic progresses and local hospitals become overwhelmed will not receive such effective treatment.

34 people like this
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 21, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Thank You, Monica and Adrian, for sharing your experience so we all can be better prepared! As neighbors, please reach out and ask for anything we can do to assist you in continuing your safe recovery!

17 people like this
Posted by Rambutan
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 21, 2020 at 12:54 pm

I'd like to know what percent of seriously ill COVID patients are refused entry to the remdesivir trial?

9 people like this
Posted by TimR
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2020 at 2:09 pm

pa resident, this morning I jogged past both the Stanford ER, and the Hoover clinic drive-through testing site. There was barely a soul in sight, and things were as quiet as any other Saturday morning. Other places may be having capacity problems, but we clearly are not. Not yet anyway.

27 people like this
Posted by EmmaP
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2020 at 2:40 pm

If this was a randomized trial as stated and presumably blind she might have gotten the drug or she might have gotten the placebo. I'm just glad she and her husband are better. I'm also glad that Stanford just finished the new hospital wing with its improved emergency room (the old emergency room is pediatric only now) and more patient rooms though probably not enough for what is coming.

18 people like this
Posted by A chemist
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 3:14 pm

@EmmaP The NIH clinical trials website indicates that the study is unmasked, open label. It's not blinded.

10 people like this
Posted by Notdead
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2020 at 4:07 pm

[Post removed.]

17 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 21, 2020 at 4:50 pm

[Post removed.]

40 people like this
Posted by Rational
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 21, 2020 at 5:18 pm

Thank you for shutting that down quickly TrumpFired.

What we need to do now is to stop coming up with tricks and stay home and don’t whine. Italy has 800 dead today. The cough will be a lot more painful than watching Netflix while complaining.

We need to do this for our community. We need to do this in numbers. Some of us might be immune or young, but doesn’t mean we should kill others.

Not stepping out of your comfortable home (which is the case for most Americans) isn’t roughing it. Shaking and coughing in a Favela in Rio or in a line for a hospital bed in Milan is what the world is going to go through right now.

Perspective, my fellow citizens!

23 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2020 at 6:33 pm

This article is pretty short on facts, but even if it had the facts how is this not what Dr. Anthony Fauci described as being anecdotal? Is filling the "media space" with hopeful anecdotes what we need?

This comment from "Trump fired the national pandemic team a resident of Greenmeadow"
>> It takes a couple weeks from 'getting' the virus to reach ICU level. Getting it today may just drop you into 'rush hour'.

This gist of comment or meme should have been used in a national/international message that now that when we realized that we have the possibility of a large base of unknown and untested coronavirus victims unknown, that if people do not stay home, shelter in place and do what they can to end the spreading of the virus that it could be them or their loved ones that need medical care in a time of shortage. The shortage can only be reduced to manageable size by taking the precautions being broadcast..

What they instead said about flattening the curve was arcane and I think abstract for many people some of whom needed to hear it the clearest.

9 people like this
Posted by Kathy R
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2020 at 7:46 pm

My nephew is a student at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. One of his roommates has the symptoms of Covid 19 but he can't get tested. He's being refused a test. So the other roommates are staying inside, hoping that it isn't Covid 19, and (if it is) they don't get it. They're afraid to go home. I hope the hell someone has contacted this kid's parents.

59 people like this
Posted by Adrian Arima
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 21, 2020 at 8:57 pm

We asked whether my wife may have gotten a placebo and the study physician said that all seriously ill patients (I.e., getting supplemental oxygen, like my wife was) got the drug. These patients were randomized between 5 days of drug and 10 days. Patients with milder disease were randomized between drug and placebo. My understanding is that all COVID patients were going to be offered a chance to participate if they qualified. For example, to participate you had to have had a positive Coronavirus test within 4 days. My wife’s test was more than 4 days old so she had to be retested to qualify for the trial. In a grand rounds seminar (available online) a Stanford physician said they had reviewed the literature on all potential drug candidates and had decided to focus on remdesivir. The trial was approved by Stanford’s ethics committee on Thursday and the first patient dosed on Saturday which probably was some kind of world record. It’s a testament to the dedication of the Stanford physicians and administration and the drug company, Gilead, Sciences, to make it happen.

12 people like this
Posted by Fighting-A-Pandemic-Requires-All-The-Tools-In-The-Toolbox
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2020 at 10:20 pm

Here's a little about remdesivir:

Web Link

Gilead is working closely with global health authorities to respond to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak through the appropriate experimental use of the investigational compound remdesivir. Together with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and Department of Defense (DoD) - CBRN Medical; the China CDC and National Medical Product Administration (NMPA); the World Health Organization (WHO); and individual researchers and clinicians; Gilead is focused on contributing our antiviral expertise and resources to help patients and communities fighting COVID-19.

27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 22, 2020 at 1:30 am

[Post removed.]

27 people like this
Posted by Another Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2020 at 2:32 am

Agree with Resident, it’s odd that they went on a cruise when coronovirus was already publicized and Norovirus is always a possibility. I find it a self-serving, perhaps they couldn’t get a refund. There are 30 cruises at sea currently.

16 people like this
Posted by JH
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2020 at 5:49 am

Some people take this virus lightly. They think washing their hands frequently and not touching their faces will prevent them from contracting this disease. That’s why despite warnings from the CDC to avoid crowds or cruises, people still travel. Lucky for the Arimas that they recovered. Hope they will heed the warnings in the future.

27 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 22, 2020 at 9:36 am

This article takes journalistic irresponsibility to a degree I never even would have imagined. Cherry-picking one result out of a clinical trial and publishing it as an anecdote. Unbelievable. The point of that trial is to find out scientifically whether the drug actually works or not, and the existence of one person who saw improvement proves NOTHING. You can always find one person like that in every trial.

14 people like this
Posted by Jenny
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2020 at 12:17 pm

@Kathy R: CalState campuses are not closed?! How can that be when the governor placed us on lockdown?! A dorm is the worst place to be with COVID circulating. The ASU President sent everyone home for online work (he's an awesome president, the college is outstanding these days).

@Another Resident: Yes, it's ignorant to hop on a cruise with a pandemic in full force. Americans still vacation in Mexico despite the violence of drug cartel and alcohol poisoning/rapes of visitors at hotels. Americans are naive, they've had it too good here, that's why the future generations support socialism. No clue.

13 people like this
Posted by Anneke
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 22, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Monica and Adrian are respected Professorville neighbors of ours, and I am very thankful that they both are on their way back from this horrible virus.

Apparently, in emergency times, i.e. during wars, the medical organization gains a tremendous amount of knowledge as they risk new medicines and procedures.

I am thankful Monica and Adrian shared their story and the fact that the doctors used Remdesivir with Monica. I am sure that both she and her husband knew the risks of using this unproven medication.

I am joining Sandy in her comments. If we can do anything to help, please let us know.



6 people like this
Posted by michael
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2020 at 3:00 pm

[Post removed.]

13 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the national pandemic team
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 22, 2020 at 5:33 pm

> CalState campuses are not closed?!

Yes, they closed last week.

6 people like this
Posted by Rambutan
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 22, 2020 at 6:59 pm

Remdesivir no longer available for compassionate use due to increased demand? Web Link

16 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2020 at 8:26 pm

We’re not saying that the drug is working for everyone. The story is about one person’s experience with COVID-19. She took a drug and felt better. That is part of her experience. No, it doesn’t prove the efficacy of the drug.

12 people like this
Posted by Sue Dremann
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2020 at 9:21 pm

Here's the latest update from Gilead on the remdesivir trials and distribution:

Link: Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by IdPnSD
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2020 at 9:05 am

Since Placebo has cured all diseases, including stage-4 cancers, doctors should try placebo to all patients also. You never know what will work. It is not known if all medicine cure effects are nothing but placebo effect. Moreover, placebo cannot have any side effects. - It is said that the entire body is inside the mind, but no part of mind is in the body.

7 people like this
Posted by Blarryg
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2020 at 10:36 am pandemic, we have to quickly shut down all cruises, we see that people will simply keep their plans whether to lose out on fun or for refund worries (Palo Alto cruisers can lose $20K bookings w/o it making one iota of actual difference to their lives beyond "oh darn I'm mad!", I'm one of them).

These people returned home and infected an average of 4+ additional people between them, who in turn infected others. Many of those don't have the sophistication to look for and sign up for clinical trials (which in any case it's too late for now). Very likely at least one person has or will die for this particular travel.

Since people will not stop by themselves, like our quarantine, it has to be mandated.

4 people like this
Posted by Cathy
a resident of another community
on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:09 am

Cal Poly closed after finals last week, however went virtual 2 weeks ago. Students were strongly asked to leave campus and go home unless they do not have somewhere safe to go. They were proactive about spreading out students that stayed. Their initial reasoning was there were no cases in their county. As a parent I applaud their handling of the situation. My Child has a friend that going home to Seattle was riskier than staying in an on campus apartment, given she has underlying health issues.

11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:30 am

I am accepting this version of house arrest. My grandson, Ryan, is living with me and he makes sure I don't escape and wander into stores or go to crowded beaches to get away from the crowds. lol! And he and his friends that used to get together regularly for fun times in downtown PA have made a pact to stop that for now and as long as it takes for the virus to pass. I'm lucky to have a caring grandson like Ryan.

6 people like this
Posted by Rose
a resident of Los Altos
on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:31 am

She may have improved without the drug. I did. If it was administered at the same time her immune system had gotten the upper hand,it would be tempting to thank the drug. So don't go out and buy shares of Gilead just yet.

22 people like this
Posted by remdesivir
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:54 am

Remdesivir is simply a ribonucleotide analog. There are many others on the market (previously used against HIV, which also has an RNA genome) that could be potentially effective against a coronavirus.

22 people like this
Posted by Resident.
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 23, 2020 at 11:56 am

I am surprised how, since the beginning, the focus was on how much the people in cruise ships and fancy hotels were suffering. There was little attention to the people who live in small apartments, don't own a car and have no money in the bank. We went through great troubles in rescuing people from their luxury vacations while children are starving in our backyard. Our policymakers probably do not know why check-cashing services exist in our neighborhood.
It is the churches and the non-profit that feed the homeless. Now, they shut them down. Who is feeding the poor?

5 people like this
Posted by hkplant
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2020 at 1:04 pm

The fact is that this piece of journalism is irresponsible. As many others point out, there is nothing in this article to suggest that the drug might have had nothing to do with Yeung-Arima's recovery, as other suggest. "A cold will get better in two weeks if you do XYZ, and in a fortnight if you don't." It's great that she is recovering or has recovered, and it would be even better if the drug actually helped, but a random anecdotal recovery gives false hope to everyone and distracts from what we all have to do now - social distance, wash hands, etc. That remdesivir may be shown to help one day does not mean it does help. Responsible journalism is critically important to saving lives.

1 person likes this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2020 at 1:20 pm

In a TED talk on, Bill Gates discussed this very problem in 2015. He (and others)was right on.

Web Link

2 people like this
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 23, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Sorry. That link doesn't work. Search for: Bill Gates TED 2015 It should come up.

2 people like this
Posted by Dona Powers
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 23, 2020 at 2:49 pm

Let’s Calm ourselves while the storm passes.

27 people like this
Posted by Trump fired the Pandemic Team
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Mar 23, 2020 at 2:58 pm

> Bill Gates discussed this very problem in 2015

Yes - about the same time that Obama created the National Pandemic Team - the team that Trump fired a couple years ago.

Executive Malfeasance. There's half a dozen *really* bad decisions by this administration that have made our response to this pandemic much worse. They need to be examined , so we may correct them immediately, where applicable.

57 people like this
Posted by Quinn
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 23, 2020 at 3:37 pm

@ Dona Powers: “Let’s Calm ourselves while the storm passes.”

Actually, the storm is just getting started. The next 10 days will get much worse because we (USA) started distancing too late. In 10 days, if the numbers don’t start slowing significantly. Then it means our efforts have failed and Covid will sweep through the population. Just math at this point.

Efforts at spin and “calm” are not effective, except to encourage those bad citizens who are out mingling and flaunting their “belief” that youth and apparent good health makes them invincible... as they help spread the virus to the rest of the country. YOLO I gues. Gotta love the Youthen.

11 people like this
Posted by Cuhsandra
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 23, 2020 at 5:50 pm

I cannot wait to share this article online to demonstrate how there is a Corona experience for the Rich and connected.

And there is a Corona experience for the working class and under insured.

I welcome the recession. I welcome Corona if it means destroying the system which creates this dynamic.

1 person likes this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 23, 2020 at 6:33 pm

Thank you for this article, it is a beacon of hope in a sea of doom and gloom. Great to hear that promising treatments are on the horizon. We're going to get through this.

6 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 24, 2020 at 12:21 am

This account also highlights the insanity of the current state of affairs i the US. And the Bay Area is doing much better than anywhere else in the country. Imagine that. How is it that we still do not have paid-for wide scale testing? It is insane. South Korea and the US saw their first case on the same day. They have tested 30 times more per population and have the disease well under control. And considering that the country is on its knees the drugs that hold promise are being introduced and used at too slow a pace. A 70% confidence interval would do. Start manufacturing the drugs now. You cannot be so, so slow.

14 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 24, 2020 at 7:37 am

I am sorry that "an adventure-filled trip to Egypt" is ruined. It reminds me of the woman who complained about the poor service she received at the military base during their quarantine. I hope the generals were taking notes. I don't know who is more irresponsible. The teenagers parting at the beaches? Or, the small store owners trying to keep their shops alive. When the cops came to shut them down, one store owner said, "If I don't work today, my children will go hungry tonight." "And, if I don't work this week, I don't need to work any more." Now, the SJ mayor is declaring that there will be no more mercy. Citations will be given. Bernie said, "For once, let the wealth swim on their own with their stock options and 401K."

8 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 24, 2020 at 9:50 am

[Post removed.]

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