gofundme Colby Vondenstein and family
At age 24 and with no pre-existing conditions, Colby Vondenstein should have been at low risk for a severe case of COVID-19. But after contracting the virus, like so many Americans this year, at a family Christmas celebration, the father of three ended up spending months in the hospital on life support and needed a double lung transplant and a kidney transplant to survive.
Vondenstein, his wife Tori, and their three children celebrated Christmas with their extended family. A few days later, Colby “started feeling bad,” she told Fox9, and took a drug, thinking it was just “a common cold.” But soon, other family members felt similar symptoms appear and all the adults at the holiday celebration tested positive for COVID-19, including 28-year-old Tori and one of her three children.
At first, Colby was able to control her symptoms at her home in Crosby, Texas, and they hoped to simply “let it [the virus] runs its course, “said Tori Today. But as she quickly recovered, Colby continued to deteriorate to the point where he couldn’t get up to go to the bathroom, and on January 5 they had to call an ambulance to take him to the local hospital, where he was “fighting.” for his life, “he said.
gofundme Colby Vondenstein and family at Christmas
“They were giving him steroids to try to help the lungs, but they couldn’t do much because the kidneys were failing,” he said. “They said … that he wouldn’t make it.”
Colby developed pneumonia, her lungs collapsed, and her kidneys failed. He started on kidney dialysis and was put on a ventilator. But with such a serious case, Colby needed more help and was transferred to Houston Methodist Hospital on January 11.
“I didn’t really freak out until I woke up, and they had all these tubes inside me, and I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. Today.
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Tori told Fox9 that seeing him hooked up to all the machines was “pretty excruciating.”
“It was difficult to see my best friend, the love of my life, fight for his life.”
Dr. Howard Huang, Colby’s pulmonologist at Houston Methodist, said his severe COVID-19 illness was a “head scratcher” considering he had no pre-existing conditions, and they had to give him “particularly aggressive” treatment.
“He came in and he already had kidney failure, he already had severe respiratory distress, he progressed very quickly to need mechanical ventilation,” Huang said. Today.
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They put him on an ECMO, a life support machine, to keep his lungs and heart working.
“He became completely dependent on ECMO and initially required very strong sedation,” Huang added. “The problem then became that you have a person who is now stuck in the ECMO machine with no really viable solution to get out.”
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After two months on ECMO, Huang began to consider putting Colby on the transplant list for a new set of lungs and a new kidney, because “he really didn’t have much more time with these devices.” And at his younger age, “I had a reasonable chance of being able to get through this.”
But it took time to find a donor, and the doctors and nurses “were still doing everything they could to keep him alive,” Tori said. “On February 27, I arrived that morning, and the doctor stopped me in the hallway and told me that it was getting more and more difficult and that we were running out of time, like days.”
“Seeing him go through this and seeing him literally struggle to live, I can’t even describe it,” he said. “It is the worst pain I think I have ever felt. I can simply describe it as watching someone be tortured.”
That night, they found a donor and Colby had a double lung transplant and a kidney transplant the next day.
Colby is now recovering in the hospital, and four weeks after the surgery she was able to take her first steps again, an “enormously rewarding” moment for Huang, who said Colby is well ahead of typical recovery time.
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The family, which is raising money for her medical bills on GoFundMe, hopes she will spend two more weeks in the hospital before she can finally go home and see her children for the first time in months. They also want the youngest and healthiest people to understand that they too can be seriously affected by COVID-19.
“Even if you get sick, be more careful about your signs and symptoms, know when to seek help or seek doctors,” Tori said. “You don’t realize it until it happens to someone who loves how deadly the virus can be.”
And Colby thanked her donor and her family for their “selflessness,” adding that she doesn’t “wish this on anyone.”