Rick Bressler is part of an exclusive club and he has the scars on his body to prove it. But this is a club he would rather not be a member of – the COVID-19 lung transplant members.
In mid March, just four days before he was scheduled to get his COVID-19 vaccine, Bressler tested positive for the virus that has swept the globe. At first, he was just a bit under the weather, but soon breathing became difficult and then there were multiple trips to the emergency room.
What Bressler didn’t realize was that he and his family were about to endure the most difficult year of their lives.
The relatively healthy man in his 40s was about to be told his lungs were failing and he would need to be placed on a ventilator.
Bressler and his wife Jamie Bressler couldn’t have known how difficult the next nine months were going to be. He doesn’t remember much after choosing to start the ventilator. It would be roughly three months later that Bressler remembered waking to find 95 stitches along his chest as well as many other scars from where BLANK tubes had to be placed to circulate and oxygenate his blood.
During those three months Bressler’s lungs rapidly declined and he was placed on a lung transplant list as an emergent case. It was only two weeks until a set of lungs were available and on May 28, 2021, Bressler received his second chance at life.
“My body was going through quite a beating,” he said. “It was miraculous that lungs got to me when they did.”
This was just the beginning of Bressler’s long journey of recovery. After months of being bed-ridden as the virus and his failing organs weakened his body, Bressler had lost much of his muscle mass, making walking impossible.
It would take two months of physical therapy before Bressler was able to walk across a room without assistance.
“The best words that have ever been said to me so far have been from my wife,” Bressler said. “And she said, “You’ve been the exception so far so why be the rule now.’”
Since his surgery Bressler has recovered enough to go hiking, and complete a Thanksgiving 5K.
The question of his own mortality is never far from Bressler’s mind, but it’s something he tries not to dwell on. He may never get back to the health he had before the COVID-19 diagnosis, but Bressler still has hope for the future.
He will always carry the scars with him and will need to be careful when leaving his house, wearing a mask whenever he is around other people to prevent an infection in his lungs.
Bressler urged others who haven’t taken the vaccine to do so and to wear masks in public to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“I would much rather go through any side effects from the vaccine than what I went through physically and emotionally this past year,” Dressler said. “There can’t be something worse from that vaccine than what I went through.”