Transplant surgeon who survived COVID runs NYC Marathon

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Tuesday, November 9, 2021
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Dr. Tom Kato ran in Sunday's New York City Marathon after struggling to survive and recover from COVID.

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan (WABC) -- Tens of thousands of people ran the New York City Marathon this weekend. We hear from a doctor who got COVID at the beginning the pandemic and fought all the way back to run on Sunday.

Dr. Tom Kato is back at work on Monday, a day after taking a 26-mile lap around the city.

"I ran a little too fast in the beginning and ended up slowing down a lot later," said Dr. Tom Kato a transplant surgeon at New York Presbyterian/Columbia University. "But I really felt good, I liked it."

The 58-year-old finished the New York City Marathon in 5 hours and 38 minutes -- a race that's really the last leg of a journey that took the world-renowned transplant surgeon close to death.

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"You heard about this white light coming and surrounding you, I had that, I really thought this is the death, in my mind I thought this is how people die," Kato said.

Dr. Kato caught COVID early and became a patient at New York Presbyterian Columbia, the very hospital where he practices.

He was on a ventilator for four weeks and an ECMO machine, and even when he turned the corner, he struggled.

"I wasn't able to raise my arm for a while, I had to do a lot of physical therapy for it ," Kato said.

Two months after he was admitted to the hospital he was finally released. Three months after that he was back to doing surgeries but getting back to running, his hobby, took a little longer.

"The first time I tried to run I couldn't even run 30 feet," he said. "Oh there's not going to be any marathon."

But for Dr. Kato, it wasn't just about proving to himself he'd overcome COVID, it was a way to say thanks to those who helped him get there.

"I owed it to everyone at this hospital. They saved my life, they saved my life," he said. The medal yesterday was big too, so big and heavy I was so proud to be able to do that."

This was Dr. Kato's 8th New York City marathon. And no doubt the most meaningful.

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