By HALEY YAMADA and ROBERT HENAULT, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — Carl Werden wants to serve as a warning for others who contract COVID-19 and may not be as lucky as him.
“I never realized how terrifying it is not being able to breathe,” said the 57-year-old, who is currently recovering after a double lung transplant.
Werden developed lung fibrosis, a complication due to his battle with COVID-19, and said he was left with no other choice.
“[COVID-19] damaged my lungs so bad that I got to the point where there was no other option left but a lung transplant, because my lungs were just going to get worse,” Werden told ABC News.
Werden contracted COVID-19 earlier this year and, although he recovered from the virus itself, he became critically ill while traveling from South Carolina to Connecticut in June.
On June 26, Werden was hospitalized in Hartford, but as his condition worsened he was transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“There’s only about 120 hospitals in the country that do lung transplants so it’s a very small number of hospitals,” said Dr. Hari Mallid, program and surgical director of the lung transplant program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
“When [Carl] arrived we repeated some of the CAT scans which confirmed the diagnosis that the COVID-19 had done pretty extensive damage to his lungs and really his only treatment at that point was a lung transplant,” said Mallid.
Mallid told ABC News that the transplant was necessary if Werden was going to live.
“He would’ve ended up on a ventilator and gradually gotten worse and worse until there was basically nothing we could do to keep him alive,” said Mallid, who performed Werden’s operation on Oct. 29.
Werden is now recovering and working to gain strength in his new lungs. Mallid said that Werden is doing “remarkably well.”
“He was taken off the ventilator fairly quickly after the transplant, he’s walking around the hospital, even before he went to rehab, his appetite is coming back,” Mallid told ABC News.
Werden said he has many things to be thankful for.
“I’m thankful to the person I got the lung[s] from. I’m thankful to the doctors that did the surgery. I’m thankful for my family because they were always there for me,” said Werden, whose family has set up a GoFundMe page to help cover his medical expenses.
While Werden is doing well, he still has a long road to full recovery.
“I was a completely healthy person, nothing wrong with me, and look how [COVID-19] affected me,” said Werden. “[People] need to take it seriously because all they have to do is look at me.”
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