Oregon man returns home after 299 days in hospital with COVID

“This weekend is our anniversary,” Alex Castro’s wife Amanda said in tears. “I’m grateful he’s going home.”

Sandy, Orr. — A man is back home in Sandy after spending 299 days in hospital with COVID, just in time to celebrate his 22nd anniversary with his wife.

“This weekend is our anniversary,” said Alex Castro’s wife Amanda, wiping away tears. “I’m so grateful he’s back home.”

Alex, 43, said he wouldn’t have made it without a strong will to live, which he said was motivated by the love of his family and wife.

“I love her so much. I love her so much. You know? I love her,” Alex said as he sat on his bed in a video released by Providence.

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Alex fell ill with COVID during the Thanksgiving holiday in 2020. His three children also got sick, but while they got better, Alex wasn’t. Things got worse quickly.

By Christmas 2020, Alex was working on an ECMO device. The machine pumped his blood out of his body, filtered out the carbon dioxide, filled it with oxygen and then pumped it back into Alex’s body. It’s part of what kept him alive.

Dr. Jason Wells, Alex’s doctor, said COVID attacked his lungs, leaving them worthless.

“It directly damages the lungs to such an extent that they are unable to perform their main function of putting this oxygen into the bloodstream,” Wells said. “Because there’s a lot of stuff in the lungs, there isn’t enough room for oxygen to get in there and get into the blood.”

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In addition, Wells said, the virus creates many small blood clots in the tiny blood vessels attached to the lungs, making it difficult for the blood to get to the places it needs to take oxygen to the body.

ECMO patients typically spend two weeks or a month on the device. Alex spent 108 days – three and a half months – on an ECMO machine, the longest ever at Portland Providence Hospital.

For the first month, little has changed according to Wells. Then, slowly, Alex’s lungs began to heal. Without the machine, his doctor said, Alex would die.

“For a good part of the hundred days, if he hadn’t been on that machine he wouldn’t have been here,” Wells said.

After he was taken off the ECMO, Alex spent another six months in the hospital as his lungs, kidneys, and other organs healed.

On October 7, when Alex rode a wheelchair down the hospital hallway toward the exit, nurses, therapists, and doctors who had spent more than 10 months helping keep him alive and helping him recover, were there to bid farewell to the hero.

Dozens lined up in the hallway, clapped and cheered as Alex rolled around cheering Alex’s victory and theirs.

Providence said he doesn’t have a final bill amount he can discuss, but a Providence spokesperson said that whatever Alex’s insurance doesn’t pay, the hospital will cover it.

Do you have a comment or story idea for reporter Pat Doris? Email it here: pdooris@kgw.com

Watch: More COVID-19 stories and updates from KGW


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