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Fighting for His Life: Rare Access Into Covid Unit at Broward Health North

Our cameras got a behind-the-scenes look at the Critical Care Unit at Broward Health North and the story of one man's battle for his life against COVID-19.

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Noe Perez is known as a hard-working family man, lover of Cumbia music and a local electrician. 

His family says the 56-year-old has never been hospitalized in his life — until June 21, the day his battle with COVID-19 began.

“I took him here to Broward North. I was filling out the form for him," Jasmine Perez, Noe's daughter, said. “When he did tell me what symptoms he had, I was writing it down, and he said chest pain, and I was like, 'oh,' in my head. I didn’t realize he had chest pain.”

He’s now intubated and fighting for his life at Broward Health North. 

Our cameras got a behind-the-scenes look at the Critical Care Unit at Broward Health North and the story of one man's battle for his life against COVID-19.

“We thought he was going to be good because they told us he was going to come back home," said Librada Garcia, Noe's wife. "They sent us the oxygen at home, but we never got him until one day they called us and told us he had to go to ICU.”

Noe’s wife and two daughters also tested positive for COVID-19 in June. 

Only one of them — his daughter, Lisette — was vaccinated at the time. Family members say her symptoms were the mildest of their family of four.

“Our family is passing through a lot of bad things," Garcia said. "We don’t want him suffering.”

Noe is one of several critically ill people being treated for COVID-19 at Broward Health North.

COVID-19 patients' rooms are behind sliding glass doors to minimize the spread. Their vital signs are closely monitored by a team of nurses wearing proper protective equipment.

"If we were all vaccinated it would be hard to spread COVID. But so many of us are not." Dr. Lynn Goldman from George Washington University talks about low vaccination rates - they're like kindling on a fire. That is contributing to a rise in cases of COVID and the Delta variant, and the return of mask mandates in some areas.

With the permission of Noe’s family, NBC 6 went into Noe’s hospital room to witness his battle with COVID-19 firsthand. 

The NBC 6 crew had to put on full PPE to stand in the room.

“He unfortunately got pretty sick, pretty quick,” Dr. Wael Tamim said.

Dr. Tamim says Noe underwent a tracheostomy. 

“A number of procedures were done to essentially fight for him," Dr. Tamim said. "One of them is called the tracheostomy, which is moving the tube from the mouth to the trachea, which is here in the throat. This tracheostomy allows us to ventilate the patient better, give him more oxygen clear up his lungs more. All, of course, in a way of trying to help him and support him to fight the disease.”

Dr. Tamim says hospitals are better equipped to treat COVID-19 patients than in 2020.

“I think there’s a number of medications and ways of treatment that was not as available going back a year and a half ago,” Tamim said.

NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone spoke with an epidemiologist as numbers spike in the state amid political battle over requirements and guidance.

As COVID-19 numbers rise and doctors grapple with the more transmissible Delta variant, Noe’s family is pleading with the community to get vaccinated. 

“We don’t want nobody to keep suffering this, Noe's wife said. "Please, get vaccinated. Please! I’m begging you to go, to get vaccinated. Don’t listen to the people. They don’t know. They don’t know anything."

Noe's daughter Jasmine says that Noe didn't want to get vaccinated, a decision she respected at first.

“But now, obviously our family wishes that all would have all pushed each other to get vaccinated," Jasmine said. "That’s no longer an option for us, but it is an option for the public, for the community to go ahead and make that decision for themselves.”

As of Thursday, 217 COVID-19 patients were in the Broward Health system. At least 94% of them are unvaccinated. 

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