'I win': Darien man's battle with COVID-19 brought him close to death

Photo of Sandra Diamond Fox

Seventy-year-old Jean Clode Maignan’s life recently took on that of a modern-day Rip Van Winkle.

The Darien resident went into Stamford Hospital battling the coronavirus on March 31, was intubated and placed on a ventilator, and the next thing he remembers is waking up April 24 — nearly one month later.

For the past 13 years, Jean, who came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1985, has also worked at Stamford Hospital, as a transporter, bringing patients to and from tests. Now, he was experiencing the hospital from the other side — as a patient.

“Non-stop coughing”

In mid-March, Jean went on a two-week vacation to Texas to visit his grandson.

“When I came back on March 19, I wasn’t feeling good,” he said.

While he had no fever, he began “coughing nonstop,” said Jean, a father of six and a grandfather of three.

Suspecting he had the virus, he told his wife, Caroline, that he should go to the emergency room.

When he went in on the 31st, his oxygen level was low. He tested positive for the coronavirus, was intubated, and was put on a ventilator.

From that point on, he said, “I didn’t remember anything until 25 days later.”

His family began receiving daily updates from the hospital about his condition.

“They called them family nurse navigators,” said Jean’s daughter-in-law Wisenite.

“Every morning from April 1, we started talking with one of the nurses,” Caroline said. “They explained what’s going on. My daughter-in-law was my right hand.”

They also provided FaceTime with the family — some nurses were providing it about twice a week.

“A roller coaster”

During that time, Jean’s life became “a roller coaster,” Wisenite said.

He was given hydroxychloroquine, a medication used to prevent and treat malaria.

“That was a critical period, to see how he responded to the drug,” she said. “The COVID has taken over his lungs.”

Hospital staff had to prone him in order to get oxygen throughout his lungs. This is a procedure where the patient is turned on his stomach for 16 hours.

Jean was then given another antiviral medication, called remdesivir.

“That was all the medication they could give,” Wisenite said. “They told us it was now a waiting game to see if he can come off the vent on his own.”

On April 10, the doctor told Jean’s family that his heart rhythm was irregular and they didn’t think he was going to make it.

“The doctor said his heartbeat was doing some ‘funky stuff,’ and if his heart stopped, that was it. They can’t do anything,” Wisenite said.


Jean’s family began to pray.

“We believed in our faith,” Wisenite said. “We were reading our Bible and praying that he would come through it.”

They participated in an online mass.

“The nurse at the hospital the following day held Jean’s hand and we prayed over the phone with him,” she said.

On April 20, they had to reprone him since he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.

“It was very difficult because we were all isolated,” Wisenite said.

All they had was the phone and video chat. Each time they received an update on Jean’s condition, the family would send a text to update other members.

They soon learned Jean was a candidate for convalescent plasma. However, to receive the treatment, he still needed a good kidney and heart rate, according to Wisenite.

“He still needed to be functioning at stable levels,” she said. “He was on top of the list to have it, we kept praying that he hung on.”

On April 15, Jean received a five-hour-course of plasma.

“The nurse on the night shift called and said he responded well to that,” Wisenite said.

When Jean finally woke up, he was confused and began fighting against the ventilator and pulling the tubes, according to what the nurses told Wisenite.

“They had to give him medication to sedate him again,” Wisenite said.

That weekend, they moved him out of ICU 1 to ICU 2 — which meant he was slowly improving, according to Wisenite.

The family was then told he would be getting a tracheotomy inserted.

Off the ventilator

Friday, April 24, was a turning point for Jean — in a positive direction. That was the day he got off the ventilator and started making the progress on his own,

His family learned he wouldn’t we didn’t need the tracheotomy after all.

“I said ‘Thank you, God,’” Caroline said. “I started crying. It was good tears. I was happy, calling all his family and friends — everyone who was supporting me through the ordeal.”

Wisenite said she finally felt confident at that point that Jean would make it through.

Two days later, the family was told to bring Jean his cell phone.

“I woke up and I felt no pain, but I couldn’t walk,” Jean said.

The doctors told Jean and his family that he’s expected to make a full recovery.

“The mayor”

Because Jean works at Stamford Hospital, he knows the entire hospital staff and is always very friendly to everyone, according to Wisenite.

“They call me the mayor of the hospital,” Jean said.

Jean is also known among the hospital staff for giving candy to the employees, according to Wisenite.

So, as a get well gift, the staff created an autograph board made entirely of Starbursts, which is what Jean always gives out to fellow staff members during his shifts.

The emergency department staff signed the autograph board.

Moving forward

Jean came home from the hospital on May 16.

A nurse has been making home visits to give Jean physical therapy.

“She was shocked he has come so far,” Caroline said

While the stairs were initially hard for him, he has since conquered them.

He said he now looks forward to driving again.

When the pandemic subsides, Jean said he has plans to travel and visit his mother in Haiti, who is 89.

“I would like to thank everybody at Stamford Hospital. They were amazing,” Wisenite said, adding the staff did a great job at taking care of “one of their own.”

According to Wisenite, many factors helped Jean gain the strength to survive the coronavirus.

“He is very spiritual, strong mentally and physically and a fighter overall. We knew he would pull through,” she said.

“No joke”

Jean said he has lost many friends and close family members to COVID-19.

“That virus is not a joke,” Jean said. “God gave me the power to beat that virus. It was really a miracle. I win.”