Fort Worth man with post-effects COVID-19 recovers after ECMO treatment – Community News
Covid-19

Fort Worth man with post-effects COVID-19 recovers after ECMO treatment

Keegan Vargas survived COVID-19, but his breathing was getting worse with his asthma.

He ended up in the hospital. Doctors sedated him and gave him oxygen, but he didn’t get better. The pulmonologist who treated him at Texas Health Fort Worth came up with a life-saving plan.

Keegan has had a very difficult year. The 32-year-old Fort Worth man contracted Covid in January along with his mother, Lisa Vargas.

“I had a fever of 102 that night and it just got worse,” he said.

Keegan says he got COVID from his father, who died of the infection in February.

“My father went to the hospital and never came out,” he said.

Keegan recovered from COVID, but still had breathing problems because he also had asthma.

At the end of July, he collapsed in front of his mother, who called 911.

“He just gave me those eyes like this is it,” said Lisa.

“We both looked at each other, and then my eyes rolled back into my head and I passed out,” Keegan said.

Keegan was rushed to Texas Health, where he would be hospitalized for 25 days. Much of that time was in an artificial coma.

dr. Jonathan Besas, a pulmonologist at Texas Health Fort Worth, decided Keegan was a good candidate for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO.

“We had trouble ventilating his lungs because his lungs were so inflamed,” he explained.

dr. Besas says ECMO, which is about the size of a small suitcase, is a simplified version of a heart and lung machine. However, this process takes place outside the body and is very labor intensive.

“We can take blood out of the body, put it through an oxygenator that puts oxygen into the blood, filter CO2 out of the blood, and put it back into his body,” he explained.

Slowly, Keegan’s health began to improve and his lungs grew stronger.

“During this pandemic, we’ve had a lot of situations where patients don’t do very well,” said Dr. besas. “So it’s always good to have good results.”

Keegan, whose name means “little fiery one,” said his strong faith helped him through the terrifying ordeal. He is grateful to his medical team and father, whose spirit is with him.

“He watched over me that day and all the time I was down,” he said.

Keegan has a Harry Potter tattoo that says, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if you just remember to turn on the light.” It is a tribute to his favorite movie and battle in real life.

“He should be here,” Lisa said. “God has a plan. What that plan is, only God knows.’

Keegan says physical therapy has helped him immensely. He hopes to return to work in January. He and his mother have since received the COVID vaccine.