A Brooklyn woman desperately ill with the coronavirus is breathing easy this Mother’s Day thanks to a novel treatment her medical-student son helped provide.
Josephine Bruzzese, who is 48 and otherwise healthy, woke up on March 22 with a fever, body aches, dry cough and trouble breathing. She lost the ability to smell or taste. Her family rushed her to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn in Sunset Park.
“She was so short of breath she couldn’t speak” said her 23-year-old son, James.
The hospital diagnosed the mom of four with pneumonia, but with no coronavirus tests available, it sent her home as a suspected COVID-19 case.
Some symptoms improved when Bruzzese, who works in banking, was given the antibiotic azithromycin and the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — but she still couldn’t breathe.
“We were very worried because she couldn’t stand up without almost passing out from shortness of breath,” her son said. “Her respiratory symptoms were very severe.”
James, who lives with his parents and three siblings in Bath Beach, is in his second year at the CUNY School of Medicine in a special program that combines a bachelor’s and medical degrees.
He began his undergraduate studies in the seven-year program before another family member fell ill, his 16-year-old sister Julia, who was struck by a mystery ailment in 2015 that left her unable to walk. She was later diagnosed with Lyme disease and still uses a wheelchair.
The family, who has used non-traditional therapies for Julia’s care, tried some on Josephine in a desperate bid to improve her breathing. But nothing was working.
So James sprang into action, placing a call to a key ally — Dr. Richard Horowitz, a Lyme disease specialist in the Hudson Valley who had treated Julia and for whom James has interned.
“I gave him the entire run down like I would do on rounds,” he said.
Horowitz had an idea. He suggested trying glutathione, an anti-oxidant produced by the liver that has been used to reduce inflammation in those suffering from the tick-borne illness.
“When you get a viral infection with a huge amount of inflammation you don’t have enough glutathione to be able to protect your very sensitive lung tissue,” Horowitz said.
James did not hesitate to give his mom the nutritional supplement, which they had in the house for Julia. After one 2,000-milligram dose, the family witnessed a miracle.
“Within an hour my breathing got better. It was amazing. I sat up, I got up,” Josephine Bruzzese recalled. She even started to make her bed. “I went and I took a shower.”
She took the pills for five days and had no relapse, her son said.
James wrote up his mother’s case for a study he and Horowitz coauthored on treating her and another patient, a Manhattan man in his 50s. It was published online in the journal “Respiratory Medicine Case Reports.”
The second patient told The Post he felt better after getting an intravenous infusion of the glutathione.
“Within half hour it helped with the breathing symptoms in particular,” he said.
James said he’s been spreading the word about the promising treatment by posting the study on social media and emailing it to his professors, some of whom are working on the front lines.
Doctors are already using high doses of vitamin C to treat those with the bug after it showed promise in treating coronavirus patients in China.
Dr. Purvi Parikh, an infectious disease, allergy and immunology specialist at NYU Langone Hospital, said glutathione may help in calming the immune system’s overreaction to the coronavirus known as a “cytokine storm,” but that more study was needed.
“Any insight into this novel illness is helpful, though, in looking for potential treatments,” she said.
Horowitz said he was working to design a more extensive clinical trial of glutathione to prove what he thinks will be its use as “an easy treatment that is not expensive.”
“It’s not something new. It’s not something dangerous,” he said. “This may provide a very simple therapy, but again we are going to need the studies.”
As for Josephine Bruzzese, she had one word to describe her son — “amazing.”
“James is definitely going to be a one-of-a-kind doctor and definitely make a difference in this world, for sure,” the proud mom said.
James said he and his siblings had prepared homemade gifts for their mom for Mother’s Day and would wake up early Sunday to make a special breakfast.
He said he would let her know that she was “one of his rocks” and that “I will always be there to take care of you.”
This content was originally published here.