Nurse on Life Support, in Coma after Patient Coughs on Him, Family Says

A Sydney, Australia nurse is in a coma and on life support after being coughed on by a seriously ill patient in a hospital emergency department, the man’s family said.

The family of Russell Marsh, 39, said their father is suffering from a mysterious virus after a Fairfield Hospital patient he was treating continued coughing on him. According to the GoFundMe set up by Marsh’s sister-in-law, Jasmine Nguyen, the “hard working and extremely dedicated” emergency registered nurse complained about a sick patient repeatedly coughing on him during a February 12 incident.

"He came home from work and said to me, 'Oh you know, I had a sick patient and they were coughing all over me,' and he just didn't understand why they couldn't cover up, it was directly in his face," Marsh’s wife Helen told "We don't know for sure, but he was fine and healthy before then and we just came to think that he caught the flu or the bug off the patient who coughed on him."

coma A nurse fell into a coma and is on life support after being coughed on by a seriously ill patient in a hospital emergency department, the man’s family says. Screenshot: GoFundMe Marsh Family Support

Within two days, Marsh began suffering chills, shortness of breath and coughing so relentlessly that he asked for time off work to recuperate. His condition deteriorated so quickly in the next four days that he drove himself to Fairfield Hospital and was soon placed on life support with acute respiratory and kidney failure. Doctors conducted several tests but were unable to diagnosis the virus taking hold on Marsh’s body before transferring him to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s High Dependency Unit in the Camperdown area of Sydney.

He has now spent the past two weeks at RPA Hospital but doctors have been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of his acute sickness.

"They think it's some sort of virus but they don't know and they said there is a possibly they may never know," Helen Marsh told "Every time we visit him we need to be gowned up, so he is in isolation, basically."

The family’s GoFundMe is looking to raise money for Marsh’s treatment as the father of one remains on life support “caused by possible pneumonia,” Nguyen wrote. She added that the extroporeal life support system providing prolonged respiratory and cardiac support is not a feasible long term solution for keeping him alive.

"They are starting to slow that machine down just to see how his body starts to react. They can't leave him on the machine long term," said Helen. "He is on a dialysis machine also, so they will start to remove him from that machine too to see if his kidneys start to function. If not, then they will put him back on that."

The GoFundMe has raised more than $17,000 of its initial $10,000 goal since the online charity page was set up on February 22.

“We are praying he makes it through this, and although he may suffer ongoing neurological issues and require ongoing mobility rehabilitation,” wrote Nguyen. “We all want him to recover and be able to spend many more precious years with his wife and son who mean the world to him.”

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