After 22 days in the hospital, fighting for his life, Mark Frilot is going home.
A 45-year-old Louisianian with no underlying health conditions, he tested positive for coronavirus on March 14, after a week of body aches, hallucination-inducing fevers, and a misdiagnosis of flu. For much of his time in the hospital, he relied entirely on a ventilator. On March 27, he was able to take his first breaths without it.
By Thursday, doctors informed Mr. Frilot’s wife, Heaven, that he was ready to be discharged. His final test for coronavirus had come back negative, they said — and he was free to finish his physical therapy at home with his family.
For the past three weeks, Ms. Frilot (pronounced FREE-low) has been quarantined at home with the couple’s 10-year-old son, Ethan. As her husband was in the hospital, Ms. Frilot found herself serving as something of an interpreter for her conservative community in Kenner, La., about the severity of the illness. Some, citing right-wing media figures like Rush Limbaugh, had waved the virus off as unserious. Friends and strangers alike who heard of her story, whether via Facebook or media reports, sent food, toys for Ethan, and messages saying that Mr. Frilot’s diagnosis had opened their eyes to the reality of the pandemic.
Mr. Frilot was East Jefferson General Hospital’s first positive case of the coronavirus. Louisiana has rapidly become an epicenter of the virus, with the Louisiana Department of Health reporting 10,297 confirmed cases on Friday; Jefferson Parish, where the Frilots live, accounts for 2,495 of those cases. State officials have blamed the federal government for not directing them to shut down Mardi Gras festivities, which most likely fueled the outbreak in New Orleans and surrounding cities.
Ms. Frilot will probably never know where her husband contracted the virus, but she noted that the family had briefly attended a Mardi Gras parade in Kenner in the week before his symptoms began.
On Friday afternoon, Ms. Frilot drove to the hospital to see her husband for the first time since she took him to the emergency room three weeks ago. She planned to sit in on his final physical and occupational therapy session so she could learn how to help him continue his recovery at home.
Mr. Frilot was equally eager for her to arrive, she said in a text message. “Mark’s been calling me every hour saying, ‘Are you on your way yet?’” She sent a happy-face emoji.