KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A local man proudly walked out of a Kansas City hospital Tuesday after a four month battle with COVID-19.
Doctors believe he survived thanks to a newer treatment used at Research Medical Center. Initial studies show it might help save lives of some of the sickest COVID-19 patients, like Toan Nguyen.
Family cheered after not seeing him for four months — that’s how long the 38-year-old was at Research Medical Center fighting for his life.
“I feel like I give birth again,” his mom Tien Nguyen said. “I lost my son in September; now he reborn.”
Tien has worked as a charge nurse at Research for 25 years.
Her son tested positive for COVID-19 in September. It was an uphill battle to get to this point with many bleak moments in between.
“This is about as bad as it gets,” Dr. Aaron Doonan said.
After two weeks in the hospital, Toan was intubated and put on a ventilator.
That same day doctors said his left left lung collapsed and he needed to be put on ECMO, a therapy that adds oxygen to the blood and pumps it through the body, like a heart. This process is done outside the body.
“ECMO was his last resort, and if he hadn’t been able to get that technology, he wouldn’t have survived,” Doonan said.
For 20 days, there was no progress. Doonan said about half of people on ECMO die in the hospital.
“He had about every catastrophe he can have while you’re on ECMO and still able to survive,” Doonan said.
Still, he encouraged Tien to have hope. She said that got her family through the hard times.
“I almost give up,” Tien said, “and he looked in my eye. He say, ‘No you’re not. Your son too young. We’re going to fight.’ And he did.”
Toan was on ECMO for 59 days and in the hospital since September. In 2021, he came out on the other side.
“People pray for me,” Tien said. “I believe miracle does happen.”
Staff became a second family, making Tuesday’s goodbye bittersweet, but Toan was happy to go home.
Now, he has a warning to others: wear your mask, social distance and take the virus seriously.
“We don’t want things to get worse,” Toan said, “And what I went through, I don’t want anyone else to go through it. But for me, there is hope for survival.”
Toan’s father tested positive for COVID-19 the same time he did. Why the 66-year-old didn’t have as many complications as his 38-year-old son remains unknown.
That’s why it’s important to continue to follow the guidelines — at any age.