LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – After spending more than 147 days in the hospital battling the coronavirus, a New Mexico man is getting a second chance at life, after undergoing a procedure that had only been performed two other times in the entire country. “I think I’m a walking miracle,” Arthur Sanchez says.
The 52-year-old tested positive for COVID-19 back in April.” I looked at the virus like, it’s not that big of a deal. It was more going to be like the common flu,” Sanchez says.
Things took a turn for the worse for the Las Cruces resident. The father of two was eventually transferred to UNM Hospital in Albuquerque, where he spent three months on a life support machine called ECMO. “Your story and your length of time on ECMO is our longest ECMO run at the University of New Mexico to date at 93 days,” says Jon Marinaro, MD, Co-Chief of the Center for Adult Critical Care.
Doctors determined that his lungs were so damaged, that a double lung transplant was the only way to save his life. “The inflammation from the COVID had progressed beyond the inflammatory stage to scarring stage and those changes would not reverse,” says Rajat Walia, MD, pulmonologist and Medical Director of the Lung Transplant Program at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute.
Sanchez was transferred to St.Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix for the procedure. It was the third double lung transplant done in the nation to treat a COVID patient. “He was the perfect candidate for it since he had the grit and the fortitude to go through this,” says Samad Hashimi, MD, thoracic surgeon and Director of the ECMO program at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Norton Thoracic Institute
Sanchez says his near-death experience has given him a new perspective and he hopes his story will do the same for others. “I’m a prime reason, why not to take this thing too lightly,” Sanchez says.
Sanchez will return to New Mexico on Saturday and he says he’s grateful for a second chance at life. “I’m looking forward to my future with my family and getting back home to green and red chile,” Sanchez says. He also says his mother, sister, and brother-in-law also tested positive for COVID-19 around the same time he did; His brother-in-law did not survive, he was 50-years-old.