June 18, 2021 -- A Texas man who declined the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year contracted the coronavirus and needed a double lung transplant to survive. Now he’s speaking up and encouraging others to learn from his experience by getting vaccinated.
Joshua Garza, 43, of Sugarland, decided not to get vaccinated in January because he didn’t think he needed it. Later that month, he tested positive and became severely ill.
“COVID ended up attacking my lungs,” he told ABC News. “It was quick, it was within 3 weeks, the lungs were already shot.”
In early February, Garza fell down while trying to walk in his house, and his wife called for an ambulance to take him to the hospital. He was transferred to Houston Methodist and placed on a machine to pump his blood.
“They’re telling you your lungs are failing, so you don’t know if you’re going to go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow,” he said.
Garza was put on the lung transplant list and was able to undergo surgery in mid-April. He spent several weeks in recovery and was released from the hospital on May 27.
Lung transplants are rare for COVID-19 patients but sometimes necessary for those who don’t have any other options, ABC News reported. Houston Methodist has performed eight double lung transplants on COVID-19 patients and has several patients who are waiting for a transplant right now while on life support.
“These people are still fighting for their lives,” Howard Huang, MD, Houston Methodist’s medical director of lung transplantation and one of the doctors who treated Garza, told the news outlet.
Huang said it was “almost miraculous” that Garza was able to match with a donor during the peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. this winter. Houston Methodist continues to treat severe COVID-19 patients, including many who haven’t yet been vaccinated, he said.
“The data that’s now coming out suggests that the vaccines are very good at preventing severe illness,” Huang said. “Even if [Garza] had ended up in a hospital, maybe it wouldn’t have progressed all the way to complete lung failure that couldn’t be salvaged without a lung transplant.”
Garza told ABC News that he’s sharing his story to help others and prevent them from experiencing what he did.
“If I knew what I know now, I would have definitely went through with the vaccination,” he said.