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Father returns home after 158 days in hospital with COVID-19

Published: Dec. 6, 2021 at 3:37 AM CST
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KUSA) - A father of three is home with his family following a months-long battle with COVID-19 that, at one point, left him with no better than a 50-50 shot at survival, doctors say.

On Thursday, Nate McWilliams left Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado, 158 days after he was first admitted. His lungs have mostly healed from his battle with COVID-19.

“I’m glad to be alive,” McWilliams said. “I still have a long ways to go, but I’m ready for it.”

He knows he’s one of the lucky ones, as do the doctors and nurses who cared for him.

Dr. Luciano Lemos decided to put McWilliams on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machine. The ECMO acts as an artificial lung, taking blood out of the body rich with carbon dioxide and returning it to the body rich with oxygen.

Lemos says McWilliams’ odds of survival, even with the machine, stood no better than 50-50. The average length of ECMO use for a COVID patient is close to 14 days. McWilliams needed one for 91 days.

“It was minute-to-minute, probably hour-to-hour for a long time. It got to the point where I was even planning a funeral,” said McWilliams’ wife, Brenda Bailey.

Two months in, things started to turn for the better.

Now, McWilliams’ discharge represents a wonderful success story for Lemos and the dozens of others who joined together to cheer the father on as he left the hospital for the first time since late June.

“For them to get better, it makes it all worth it,” said Madison Babb, a registered nurse. “It’s incredible.”

“It’s why we do it,” Lemos said. “We’re so happy for him.”

McWilliams was blunt as he waited for his ride home. When he and his wife came down with COVID-19, he was unvaccinated. He wasn’t against getting the vaccine, but he kept putting it off. He now says that was a mistake and urges people who are still on the fence to get vaccinated.

“People have just got to get the shot,” he said.

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