SAN ANTONIO – Nathan Martinez was a healthy 30-year-old man with no pre-existing conditions, yet COVID-19 almost killed him.
The San Antonio man was hospitalized in early July after a cough and fever persisted for days.
“I just remember the first two or three days I was there,” Martinez said.
What he didn’t remember was the full 94-day stay in three different hospitals, as he unknowingly fought to survive.
Martinez was at Baptist Hospital in downtown San Antonio for about a month on a ventilator.
“They couldn’t do anything else. They had me on the max amount of oxygen they could,” he said.
As a last ditch effort to safe his life, doctors transferred him to BAMC, one of two local hospitals with an ECMO machine.
“They put in two large tubes into your body. They’re the size of water hoses. They usually put it in the groin area in both legs,” Martinez explained.
The tube allows for a patient’s blood to flow into an oxygenator, or an artificial lung. It’s a treatment that is showing promise for the most severe COVID patients, but a patient must qualify. Many people don’t, but Martinez did.
He was on the ECMO machine for almost two weeks and then was eventually transferred to a Baptist recovery unit.
“I was a week, week and a half in and I noticed I couldn’t see on my right peripheral,” Martinez said.
After many tests, doctors told him he’d had a minor stroke and that his eye sight on his right side may never come back. If it doesn’t, he was told he would not be allowed to drive ever again.
“The stroke thing is something doctors are now realizing happens because of COVID, too, and blood clots. It’s such a new virus that nobody knows what could happen. One new thing comes up after another,” he said.
He wants people to know his road to recovery is far from over
“I can’t feel my right foot because of nerve damage. My left arm I can’t fully lift it up all the way. I have high blood pressure now, a high heart rate,” he said.
Despite the lasting effects, after 94 days in the hospital, he was allowed to go home to his fiancé and family, who was not allowed to visit him in the hospital due to COVID-19 safety regulations.
When asked how it is to finally be home Martinez, filled with joy, said, “It’s so great. So great. The food is better too!”
Laughs aside, Martinez said he is living proof that being young and healthy does not prevent you from getting the deadly virus and he want’s people to take it seriously.
“It’s not a hoax,” he said. “Wear a mask, social distance, be careful because like I said, we didn’t expect this to happen to us. It completely changes your life.”
Although forever altered, it’s a life he is grateful to have.