The effects of COVID-19 can last much longer than the illness itself. One Fort Worth man will have to deal with those effects for years to come.
28-year-old Elson Perez was in a coma and on a ventilator for two weeks before finally turning the corner.
He spent a total of a month at JPS Hospital in Fort Worth before being discharged.
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But after a month at home, Perez said he began having problems breathing, barely able to catch his breath.
That's when doctors found damage from being on a ventilator caused his airway to shrink.
They said it was only a matter of time, before it would completely shut and kill him.
"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here," said Perez.
Perez suffered bronchial stenosis, the narrowing of the bronchial tubes that affect his breathing.
Once 20mm in diameter, bronchial tubes were only 3mm just a few weeks after he got to go home.
JPS interventional pulmonologist Dr. Paras Patel said he had to act fast.
He performed a pair of complicated procedures called a laser ablation and a balloon dilatation to open back up Perez's airways.
The procedures, which are rare, will likely become much more common as patients have to sometimes endure long times on ventilators to survive COVID-19, according to Patel.
"During the COVID-19 surge, we are seeing more and more patients requiring ventilators for a long period of time. This will lead to more tracheal stenosis. I think that's what we will see, but time will tell," said Patel.
The procedures keep the airway open for only months at a time.
Patel said the success rate is 60-80% depending on type of stenosis.
This success rate is achieved after one to two years of repeated procedures every four to six months.
Perez's journey is far from over but it's a journey he hopes no one else has to go through.
"It's a nasty experience, something I don't wish anyone would have to go through," said Perez.
*Map locations are approximate, central locations for the city and are not meant to indicate where actual infected people live.
**County totals below include all 32 North Texas counties, not just Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant.