HEALTH: Haunted by Hantavirus – A Profile on George Huang

In the aftermath of his near-death experience, George Huang returns to his old lifestyle and finds peace in playing the piano, one of his old hobbies.
In the aftermath of his near-death experience, George Huang returns to his old lifestyle and finds peace in playing the piano, one of his old hobbies.

By Krystal Lau,

HUB Correspondent–

            Nestled in the picturesque Yosemite Valley, a quiet charming cluster of white tents known as Curry Village attracted many eager campers this summer, including Davis resident George Huang. However, appearances can be deceiving, and staying in one of these tents could be deadly, as some were infested with the urine and feces of deer mice and other rodents- the causes of Hantavirus.

When George’s sister-in-law and her daughter flew to the United States from China to visit, the Huang family’s itinerary included hiking in Niagara Falls, seeing famous sites in Yellowstone, and visiting Yosemite for two days. Out of a group of five, George was the only one who contracted the virus.

An extremely athletic person before contracting the virus, he would go the gym every day and ride his bike to work four times a week.

But on the drive home from his trip, he started to feel sick as his temperature went up to 104.6 degrees. When he hurried to the hospital, the doctor couldn’t find anything wrong with him so he was sent home. The next morning, seeing his purple skin and blue lips, his wife rushed him to the Sutter Davis emergency room, where he was diagnosed with pneumonia at first. By 4 p.m. they had to sedate him on the ventilator.

“I felt like the sky was falling because I wasn’t prepared,” George’s wife Aiping Huang said. “I tried to be calm. I had kids, I had to say ‘oh, things are going to be fine’ but in my mind I was like, ‘can I do this?’”

George pulls down his shirt to expose three dark holes in the right side of his chest, scars from the tubes once stuck in his body. He recalls dreaming strange thoughts of a conspiracy theory, or being in Europe with his wife.

“I couldn’t calm down, flashes of images when I close my eyes- I was flying in the sky, I was in Europe… the medicine was so powerful,” George said.

Little did he know that he teetered on the verge of death. In the five days he slept, his worried family often huddled around his bed, believing he was dead. When his wife saw him, she assumed the worst.

“Every time I went back to the hospital he looked worse. I had a feeling I was losing him,” Aiping said.  “I was hoping for him but I wasn’t counting on it. I checked online for Hantavirus- there was no medicine cure for that. You just know it’s in God’s hands.”

This dream state George existed in for a week allowed him only to be awake for short intervals. He remembered reflecting on still wanting to see his oldest daughter Joan get married and see his children grow up.

“Your life is not only for you, it’s for your family. You’re not suffering if you pass away, it’s your family that suffers,” George said.

On Saturday morning, five days after he had been put to sleep, George finally began to show signs of recovery. The recovery happened so fast Aiping wouldn’t even believe it until four days later when he went home.

Although he isn’t as strong as before, his mental persona hasn’t changed.

“If you’re afraid of death, then what can you do? You cannot ride or bike or walk. Sometimes you’re unlucky, but that’s just the way of life. If you’re driving and someone hits you, you’d die. If you’re scared, you can’t just never drive again for the rest of your life,” George said.

Hantavirus kills 36 percent of the people it infects. Of the eight confirmed cases, three have died.

“Plan all you want, but ultimately, life is random. Accidents happen, important events fail to happen, and that’s just how things are,” George’s daughter Joan said. “Appreciate the people in your life. Spend time with people you love. Tell them that you love them.”



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