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UofL Hospital COVID patient survives after being told he had 24 hours to live

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 1:21 PM CST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A man in Louisville overcame a devastating diagnosis. 34-year-old Andy Smith was hospitalized with COVID-19 and his family was told he only had 24 hours to live.

His COVID journey began on Aug. 9, the day he was exposed to the virus.

“I was over at my parent’s house swimming in the pool, there were probably a group of 15 just family,” Smith told WAVE 3 News. “I felt pretty comfortable because all of us were wearing our masks, none of us were showing symptoms.”

Three days after his comfortable family gathering, Smith began showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

“I started feeling a little achy. I had been working from home,” Smith explained. “I told my wife I felt achy, a little feverish, so immediately at that point I thought I need to go ahead and get a COVID test.”

Smith went through a drive-thru testing site. He said his first test was negative, but as his symptoms began to worsen, he decided to go to the emergency room where they found pneumonia in his lungs.

Smith tested positive for COVID-19 after taking another test.

“They kind of reassured me that everything is still pretty good, they’re just going to admit me for precautionary reasons,” Smith added. “I would be there a day or two get me some steroids and send me home.”

In the hospital, Smith’s journey took a turn for the worse. His lungs began to collapse and his declining health led to intubation.

“That’s when they started talking to my wife about end-of-life decisions,” Smith explained.

His wife Megan described what went through her mind when she found out that her husband only had one day left to live.

“Getting the call that Saturday morning that he had 24 hours to live, that was pretty bad,” she said, “and here I am crying again, but he’s strong. He’s a fighter, and I didn’t believe his journey was over yet.”

Smith said his doctors discussed with his wife the option of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a machine used to give the lungs and heart time to rest. However, he had to be transferred to UofL Health-Jewish Hospital.

He said he was able to overcome the near-death experience under the care of Dr. Victor van Berkel, UofL Hospital’s chief of thoracic surgery, after he was transferred.

“We end up putting a couple of big cannulas in someone’s veins, drawing blood out of their body, oxygenating the blood with a machine and then giving the blood back to them oxygenated,” Berkel explained to WAVE 3 News.

Smith said his doctors initially feared he would need to stay on the ECMO machine for four weeks, but after just five days, he was off the treatment.

With the exception of being short of breath at times, Smith told WAVE 3 News he now feels healthy

Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.