AURORA, Colo. — Bryan Raymond's journey started late last year.
"It’s been a long road but I’m getting stronger each day," Raymond said.
On Dec. 9, he went into the emergency room after experiencing trouble breathing. That night in the emergency room, he was flown to Billings Clinic in Montana. Days earlier, Raymond found out he was positive for COVID-19. The man from Malta, Mont., spent the next month in Billings, missing Christmas with his four children.
"It was tough. Trinity FaceTime'd in so I could watch the kids opening presents but it was tough," Raymond said of his wife.
His wife, Trinity, wasn't allowed to see him during most of his care.
"That was hard, to not be able to see him and be with him," said Trinity Raymond.
By early January, the virus had nearly destroyed Bryan's lungs. That's when he was moved to the University of Colorado Hospital.
"There were times when we just didn't if he was going to make it. So, just wondering every day if he’s going to live and just knowing that my kids are two states away," Trinity said.
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When the ventilator was no longer working, Dr. Mark Steele and his team placed Bryan on an ECMO machine.
"What happens is as the lungs become so bad, the ventilator can’t oxygenate them, so it’s not enough. The ECMO circuit does a lot the ventilator wouldn't," said Dr. Steele.
Not long after Bryan's arrival, Dr. Steele and his team realized Bryan's lungs wouldn't make it much longer but given his extensive bout with COVID, the risks were there.
"We had a criteria that he had to be able to stand and walk and it took another two or three weeks to basically bring him out of a drug-induced coma," explains Dr. Steele.
The doctors saw enough to sign off on the first COVID-19-related lung transplant in Colorado. For Trinity Raymond, seeing her husband walk was a moment of hope.
"I think it just opened his eyes that he was going to be able to walk again," Trinity said.
On March 6, Bryan Raymond received two new lungs.
"I couldn't have got through it without prayer and without God on my side," said Bryan.
Bryan must once again learn how to walk and on top of that, bills are mounting.
"He doesn’t get a paycheck right now and like I said, the rest of the world doesn’t stop even when your world stops," said Trinity Raymond.
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