Mom of 24-Year-Old Who Needed a Double Lung Transplant After COVID Speaks Out About the Virus: 'It's Horrific'
The mother of a 24-year-old man who recently had a double-lung transplant after contracting COVID-19 is speaking out to warn others of the dangers of the virus.
Blake Bargatze, who was not vaccinated against the virus, underwent the transplant in June after he was initially hospitalized in April, his mother Cheryl Bargatze Nuclo told NBC affiliate WXIA. Now, Nuclo is urging others to get vaccinated.
"I just don't want anyone else to go through this. It's horrific," she said. "It's not worth all the pain it's going to cause you and your family."
Bargatze contracted the virus after attending an indoor concert in Florida, Nuclo told the news outlet, noting that she had tried to convince her son to get vaccinated a few days before the show. Bargatze replied that he wanted to wait until the vaccine had been out longer, his mom said.
Four days after Bargatze went to the hospital in April, he was intubated. He was originally hospitalized in Florida, but his family had him transferred to a hospital in Atlanta, near his family's Georgia home, that had an ECMO machine. (ECMO machines pump and oxygenate a patient's blood outside the body to let the heart and lungs rest and heal.)
Still, Bargatze's health didn't improve, and his family transferred him to a hospital in Maryland that could get him on a lung transplant list. "He wanted the chance, he wanted to live, so we did whatever we could to have that happen for him," Nuclo said.
Bargatze was moved to the top of the transplant list and found a donor almost immediately. "Blake was crying. And they're asking him, 'are you afraid?' And he said, 'no, I'm so happy.' He was so happy and knew it was all going to work out. And I felt the same way," Nuclo said.
A friend of Bargatze's family documented his situation in a GoFundMe. "He and his family, especially his warrior mom, will be facing a very long road of pre- and post-transplant, recovery and rehabilitation (at least six to eight months in Baltimore, away from their home in Sugar Hill, Georgia)," the GoFundMe reads, noting that "there will be many expenses that will not be covered by Blake's insurance."
Bargatze received the COVID-19 vaccine three days before his lung transplant, and his experience inspired several of his family members to do the same, Nuclo said. Others made similar remarks in the comments of Bargatze's GoFundMe. "Thank you for sharing your story. We had the same reason for holding back but will now be vaccinated. You are saving lives. We will keep you in our hearts and prayers ❤️," one wrote.
As of May 21, US doctors have done 134 lung transplants on people whose lungs were damaged by COVID-19, according to a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) article published in June. "As of May 28, 22 patients with COVID-19–related lung failure were still on the lung transplant wait-list," stated JAMA.
An update shared on July 17 revealed that Bargatze was outside for the first time in 14 weeks. It also included a video message from Bargatze in which he said that he felt "good" and thanked people for the support. He also joked that he needed his hair washed.
Bargatze's GoFundMe has raised $34,353 so far toward its $50,000 goal.
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