SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — As COVID cases surge, a patient still recovering from a five-month battle with the virus is crediting a doctor’s Uber ride with saving his life.
Photos taken in mid-December show 38-year-old Edwin Lopez and his family sledding near their home in Utah.
Less than a week later, they were in Escondido visiting family for Christmas. On the day after Christmas, the flu-like symptoms Lopez had begun feeling became unbearable.
“I was coughing and coughing. It got to a point where I couldn't even breathe. That’s when I got scared. I asked my wife to take me to the hospital,” said Lopez.
Lopez tested positive for COVID-19, diagnosed with double pneumonia. His condition deteriorated quickly. In mid-January, with lung failure imminent, Lopez was to be transferred to Scripps Memorial La Jolla, where there was an ECMO machine, which pumps and oxygenates the blood outside the body. It's considered a last-resort option.
On the day of the scheduled transfer, his condition wasn't stable enough for the move. Hours later, Scripps cardiologist Dr. John Harrington decided he could no longer wait.
He ordered an Uber. He and a nurse packed up the ECMO machine and went for a ride from La Jolla to Palomar Medical Center in Escondido.
There, Dr. Harrington hooked Lopez up to the ECMO. Later, Lopez would be transferred to Scripps La Jolla. He was recently removed from the ECMO, after more than three months.
He and his wife call the actions of the doctor a blessing.
“That's my angel right there,” said Lopez.
“So grateful for this man, because he saved my husband's life,” said his wife, Stephany Castaneda.
As Lopez, who is unvaccinated, begins a long recovery, he's urging others to protect themselves and others.
“Get vaccinated. Don't gamble your life. That’s what I did," Lopez said. "[COVID] is still here, not going anywhere."
Dr. Harrington remains part of the team caring for Lopez. Doctors are hopeful for a full recovery, but it could take upwards of a year.
A GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help Lopez with medical and other expenses.