In a matter of days, Joseph Martin went from the picture of health to another COVID-19 patient with pneumonia, gasping for his next breath.
“I pretty much was suffocating,” he recalls. “They were doing a great job keeping the oxygen flowing, but it was very traumatic. I was having panic attacks.”
Martin began feeling sick after returning from vacation in Florida.
He thought it was a cold and muscle aches. But things got worse, fast.
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Martin was rushed to a hospital in Dallas and then Medical City Plano where doctors diagnosed him with COVID-19 and pneumonia.
“I had pneumonia, severe pneumonia, in both lungs. Both lungs were completely white in the x-ray panel,” he said. “I was deteriorating very quickly.”
Martin said he was hooked up to an ECMO machine, which pumps blood from the patient’s body to an artificial lung that adds oxygen and removes carbon monoxide.
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COVID-19 nearly cost the 34-year-old father his life.
“I almost died, yeah,” he said. “And I’m still recovering.”
He's recovering and now regretting not getting the COVID-19 vaccine in the first place.
Martin says he works out six days a week, eats healthy and leads a healthy lifestyle.
“I felt like my immune system was very strong,” said Martin. “And another thing, I probably just procrastinated just simply at my age, just going through life. It didn’t seem like a priority.”
He admits he made a mistake.
“I definitely should have done that [get vaccinated] to protect myself and also my daughter as well because she’s not 12 years so she’s not able to get it,” he said.
Perla Sanchez Perez is an ICU/Covid-19 nurse at Parkland Hospital. She was the first employee to be vaccinated against the virus late last year.
Parkland Hospital is reporting 69 COVID-19 patients are being treated as of today, up from seven patients two weeks ago.
That is more than an 800% jump.
“It is those 30 and 40-year-olds that are coming through,” she said.
At least 70% are Hispanic and nearly every COVID patient is unvaccinated.
“As we’re getting ready to intubate them, you see the fear in their eyes,” she said. “They reach for your hand and they say, 'Can you please vaccinate me?’ Well, unfortunately, at that time it’s too late.”
There is a GoFundMe set up to help Martin, who is a single father and a Dallas hairstylist.
He has lost 25 pounds since his bout with coronavirus and is still too weak to return to work.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone, to all the doctors and nurses,” he said.
He urges everyone who is able to get vaccinated, to not wait.
“For me to get this virus and to deteriorate to this point, especially at my age, you wouldn’t think it would happen. But it absolutely did."