Brownsville teen recovering from double lung transplant

1 year 3 months 2 weeks ago Wednesday, June 09 2021 Jun 9, 2021 June 09, 2021 6:56 PM June 09, 2021 in News - Local

A Brownsville teen is back home after spending five months in hospitals outside the Valley after catching COVID-19.

Jose Luis Chavez, 17, had to undergo a double lung transplant because of the damage caused by the virus. 

"I was taking really shallow breaths, I couldn't take a deep breath,” Chavez said of the challenges he faced while battling COVID-19. “I was surprised because I play the saxophone and I use my lungs a lot.”

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

"I had fever of 104-- that's the highest that it would go and it would not go down,” Chavez said. “Tylenol, ibuprofen, nothing would help." 

Less than a week after his positive result, Chavez was admitted to the hospital. At one point, his oxygen level dropped, forcing doctors to intubate him. 

He was later transferred to a hospital in San Antonio for ECMO treatment, which supports critically ill COVID-19 patients, but isn’t available in the Valley.

"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,’" said Ana Chavez, Jose Luis' mother. 

Jose Luis Chavez spent two months in a San Antonio hospital before being transferred to Houston for additional therapy. Doctors told his mother that a double lung transplant may be needed. 

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

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,’" Jose Luis Chavez said. 

Although Jose Luis Chavez will always have to take medications to make sure his body doesn't reject the lungs, he said he’s grateful he's alive and able to do the things he loves again - like play the saxophone and spend time with his family.

When asked what his advice is to teens or other people hesitant about getting the vaccine, Jose Luis Chavez has a reply to that.

“I always show them my scar,” Chavez said. "I would be like, 'If you don't want to go through this, then get the vaccine.'"

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