NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A man who nearly died after getting sick with COVID-19 says he regrets not getting vaccinated and is asking others to get a shot.
Steve Sechler was admitted to Centennial Hospital in Nashville on May 21. His condition deteriorated to the point where he went into a coma and had to be put on an ECMO machine, a medical pump that circulates oxygen in the blood.
He stayed on the ECMO for 66 days.
At one point, doctors discussed removing him from the machine because they weren't sure he would make it. However, he ended up pulling through.
"My main goal here is to make it so people don't end up like me," Sechler said from his hospital bed.
Speaking takes all of Sechler's energy. He's no longer on an ECMO machine or ventilator, but he's still on oxygen. He remains very weak — he can't walk and has lost much of his muscle.
Sechler wanted to share his story to encourage people to get vaccinated and wear masks.
"I didn't have preexisting conditions," he said. "[I'm] 43 years old. I'm not overweight. I know that people want their freedom. I know that there's a point of contention. But I'm telling you, do not end up like me. You will regret it."
Medical staff at Centennial Hospital said there are daily calls for people to get on ECMO machines.
"The last couple of weeks for our ECMO program have been really tough," said Jamie Jarzembowski, ECMO coordinator at Centennial Hospital. "We get upwards of six to 10 calls a day for hospitals requesting a transfer. So, people are really sick right now."
Sechler's lungs may not fully recover, and he may need to have a lung transplant.
This story was originally published by Kyle Horan on Scripps station WTVF in Nashville, Tennessee.