Despite Donald Trump’s plans to rip off his shirt and reveal a Superman logo after recovering from Covid-19, a new book claims senior White House leadership was "consumed with fear" the ex-president would die from the virus.
Former chief of staff Mark Meadows expressed serious doubt the ex-president would survive and make it out of Walter Reed hospital alive, according to a new excerpt of Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Change History published in The Washington Post.
Quoting "at least two briefed on Mr Trump’s medical condition", authors Yasmeen Abultaeb and Damian Paletta claim he was "gravely ill" and more serious than acknowledged at the time.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield spent the weekend praying the president would recover.
The prospect of death caught the White House so unprepared they had no plan to brief Mike Pence or his team on plans to swear in the vice president if Mr Trump became incapacitated, the book excerpt said.
Publicly, Mr Trump tweeted, did a drive-by of supporters outside Walter Reed Medical Centre, and staged a comeback helicopter flight on Marine One to White House.
The New York Times reported his first public appearance almost included a stunt where the president emerged frail before revealing the Superman logo as a show of strength, kind of like the introduction of Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Behind the scenes, however, there was a mad scramble during the five-day stretch in October to get Mr Trump life-saving drugs while most White House aides were kept in the dark about how "terribly ill" he had become.
"His fever spiked, and his blood oxygen level fell below 94 per cent, at one point dipping into the 80s. Sean Conley, the White House physician, attended the president at his bedside. Trump was given oxygen in an effort to stabilize him," the book said.
"As one aide waited in line for a coronavirus test, she saw Conley sprint out of his office with a panicked look. That’s strange, the aide thought," another excerpt read.
The book outlines how the White House pressured FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn for compassionate-use-authorization for experimental monoclonal antibody Regeneron. "For God’s sake", Mr Hahn thought after later learning it was for the president.
Doctors gave Mr Trump an eight-gram dose of two monoclonal antibodies through an intravenous tube, plus the first dose of antiviral drug Remdesivir.
On that Saturday morning, Mr Trump’s was given the steroid dexamethasone as his condition worsened
And blood oxygen levels dropped to 93 per cent.
"It was unclear if one of the medications, or their combination, helped, but by Saturday afternoon Trump’s condition began improving. One of the people familiar with Trump’s medical information was convinced the monoclonal antibodies were responsible for the president’s quick recovery," the book said.
As he began to improve, Mr Trump began calling aides on Saturday afternoon to see how his hospitalization was being received by the public, reportedly telling Stephen Miller his recovery was "like a miracle".
“I’m not going to lie. I wasn’t feeling that great,” Mr Trump reportedly said.