Texas teen who survived COVID-19 after double lung transplant asks others to get COVID vaccine

17-year-old spent 5 months in hospitals across Texas, including ones in San Antonio, Houston

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Saturday, June 12, 2021
Teen who survived COVID after lung transplant encourages shot
If he meets any teens hesitant about getting vaccinated, he said, "I always show them my scar."

BROWNSVILLE, Texas -- A southern Texas teen is back home after spending five months in hospitals because of COVID-19. Now, the 17-year-old, who had to get a double lung transplant, wants other teens to get the vaccine.

Jose Luis Chavez remembers some of the challenges he faced while battling COVID, KRGV reported.

"I was taking really shallow breaths; I couldn't take a deep breath," he said. "I was surprised because I play the saxophone, and I use my lungs a lot."

Chavez's family all tested positive for the virus in September. Everyone else started to recover, but the 17-year-old wasn't getting much better.

RELATED: First 'COVID-to COVID' double lung transplant recipient ready to be 'fun uncle' again

"I had a fever of 104; that's the highest that it would go, and it would not go down, Tylenol, ibuprofen, nothing would help."

Less than a week after his positive result, Chavez was admitted to the hospital. At one point, his oxygen levels dropped, forcing doctors to intubate him. Shortly after, Chavez was transferred to a San Antonio hospital for "ECMO" treatment -- a type of treatment used to support critically ill patients with COVID.

"The doctor would tell us, this is a thing, day by day. The lungs are very bad, we don't know if he's going to make it or he's not," his mother Ana Chavez said.

The teen spent two months in a San Antonio hospital before being transferred to Houston for additional therapy. At this point, doctors told his mother that a double lung transplant may be needed.

RELATED: Northwestern Medicine performing double-lung transplants on sickest COVID-19 patients

"They would tell me, 'his lungs are like rocks, I mean his lungs are not working, anything,'" she said. "He's alive because of the ECMO machine."

And although Jose Luis Chavez remembers some days during these five months, most are a blur. But he'll never forget how he felt after his double lung transplant in late January.

"After the transplant, the first thing I did was I took a deep breath in and was like 'wow, I can finally breathe again,'" he said.

Chavez's doctors said his new lungs are working just fine. And although he'll always have to take medications to make sure his body doesn't reject the lungs, Chavez is grateful he's alive and able to do the things he loves again, like play the saxophone and spend time with his family.

And if he meets any teens hesitant about getting vaccinated, he said, "I always show them my scar."