- A 24-year-old who was unvaccinated contracted COVID-19 and needed a double lung transplant.
- Blake Bargatze told his family he was worried about side effects, but that he regretted not getting the shot.
- Now he and his family are encouraging others to get vaccinated.
- See more stories on Insider's business page.
The family of a 24-year-old man who underwent a double lung transplant after getting sick with COVID-19 said he regretted not getting the shot. Now they're urging others to get vaccinated.
Blake Bargatze, a 24-year-old from Georgia, was not vaccinated when he attended an indoor concert in Florida in April, his family told WSB. They believe he contracted the virus at the concert. Three months and two transplants later, he remains hospitalized in an intensive care unit.
His mother, Cheryl Nuclo, said her son vaped but had no preexisting conditions. She said he wanted to wait to get the vaccine because he was worried about side effects.
"He wanted to wait until it was out like 10 years or so, kind of like a lot of the population wants it to be out longer," she told WXIA, adding she hopes her son's story might persuade others who are hesitant. "I just don't want anyone else to go through this. It's horrific."
After contracting the virus, Bargatze was transferred to several different hospitals as his condition worsened. He was put on an ECMO machine, a device that oxygenates a person's blood outside their body, allowing their heart and lungs to rest. He got on a lung transplant donor list and was able to have the surgery in June.
Bargatze got the COVID-19 vaccine a few days before his transplant, and has also convinced some hesitant family members to get vaccinated, WXIA reported. His family said he wants to use his experience to educate and encourage others to get vaccinated.
A 25-year-old chef from Toledo, Ohio, is going through a similar situation. Marcus Hartford, who was unvaccinated, got COVID-19 at work and has been hospitalized for three months, his mom, Janelle Janatowski, told NBC News. He has had part of his right lung removed, and may also need a double lung transplant.
Janatowski said her son had no preexisting medical conditions and that he didn't drink or smoke. She said his age group only became eligible to get the vaccine days before he got COVID-19. She told NBC she was hesitant about getting vaccinated, but that her son's experience has caused her to reconsider.
"I still feel like this is surreal," she said. "Like I'm living in a dream."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week that 99.5% of COVID-19 deaths in the US are now among unvaccinated people. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are up in counties with low vaccination rates. Public health officials continue to recommend that Americans get vaccinated, especially as the Delta variant spreads rapidly.
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