On Thursday, Edwin Luna was vaccinated against the disease that almost killed him and reunited with those who helped save his life.
"There are no words to describe giving me a second chance at life," he told the staff of Maimonides Medical Center. "l love you all."
It was thanks to the determined team that Luna is back with his loved ones.
"It's great for his family, getting him back," Dr. Paul Saunders said. "To get dad back home, which for a long time, (we) weren't sure was going happen."
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Dr. Saunders is a cardiothoracic surgeon who first saw Luna back in April of 2020 in the ER, where the young father was critically ill with COVID-19.
"I just wanted to go home, go peacefully at home," Luna said. "Die at home, basically."
He ended up on a vent and then extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a form of life support so his lungs could rest.
The ECMO machine is similar to the heart-lung bypass machine used in open heart surgery, pumping and oxygenating a patient's blood outside the body.
Luna was on the machine for close to nine months, and only a handful of COVID patients in the world have received this therapy for that long.
But it's not forever, and Luna needed a lung transplant -- and then, there was another roadblock.
"No one had experience with doing transplants on patient who had COVID," Dr. Saunders said.
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Luna got word that NYU was considering taking his case, and the next week, he was on his way. He got his new lung in January.
Back at Maimonides for his final COVID vaccine, Luna recalled waking up five months after being sedated last April.
"Told them the day, and they said, 'No, it's September,'" he said. "I was in shock. I just arrived yesterday."
Luna said that while in the hospital, there was one specific moment when he knew he had to keep fighting and get home. His wife was visiting and had just bought new pants for their daughter.
"And I'm like, 'That's long,'" he said. "She's like, 'Your daughter is not small anymore.' I hadn't seen my daughter in a long time. That's when it hit me."
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