WASHINGTON (ABC7) — The COVID-19 patient behind an eye-opening virtual reality rendering that shows exactly what the virus does to the lungs has now passed away.
The sad update comes about a week after ABC7 reported on the high-tech images built at George Washington University Hospital.
Dr. Keith Mortman, the Chief of Thoracic Surgery at George Washington University Hospital, used a CAT scan from an actual coronavirus patient to create the virtual reality rendering that shows extensive damage to both lungs.
On Wednesday, ABC7 learned that patient, a man in his late 50s, has since lost his life to the virus.
According to Mortman, the patient’s initial symptoms included fever and a non-productive cough. Mortman said the man's respiratory symptoms progressed quickly to the point where he had to be intubated and put on a ventilator.
In the virtual reality rendering, lung tissue that’s being destroyed by the virus is highlighted in yellow.
"Unfortunately, like far too many patients that we're starting to see, he did succumb to his disease," said Mortman.
ABC7 spoke to Dr. Mortman again on Wednesday, about both the patient's death and the virtual reality video that's now been seen all over the world.
"That was the main goal of doing this video, to educate people about the need for social distancing and washing your hands and proper hygiene and why we have to stay six feet apart. The response we've received has been overwhelming," he said. "People in Israel, Germany, Indonesia, the Philippines -- at this point the video has reached almost every country."
Among those who've noticed the 360-degree video being shared widely online, is the widow of the very patient whose CAT scan was used to create the virtual reality rendering. Dr. Mortman said she reached out on Wednesday afternoon.
"We communicated by email. It actually brought me to tears to read her email, just because she started by thanking us and saying how appreciative she is and how much her husband would have appreciated getting the message out. And she has seen a number of different Facebook posts, and she is now sharing the video on her Facebook feed," said Mortman. "She's a huge part of this, and we could not have done this without her permission to share that initial CAT scan."
In partnership with a company called Surgical Theater, Mortman has previously used this virtual reality technology with cancer patients. Now, he hopes the technology can continue serve as an eye-opening perspective about the dangers of COVID-19.
"So for those people out there who are still not heeding the warnings, not staying home, not taking precautions, not washing their hands - I really want them to be able to see this and understand the damage that's being done to the lungs and the severity of the disease that this is causing. And why it's so important that we all take these precautions," he said. "This is really a community problem and it's going to take a community effort to solve it."
You can view the virtual reality rendering in its entirety by clicking here.
Extended interview with the doctor can be found below:
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